Throughout our chicken raising adventures we have been through three chicken tractors, three different brooder setups and two chicken coops. As we learn something new or acquire more chickens their housing gets modified. Our chicken adventures began with twelve laying hens and a Bantam rooster in 2007. Much like my other animal tales, we didn't intend on raising [insert type of animal here - cats, dog, ferrets, lizards], but sometimes they just show up and you make a home for them.
Coop #1 was four plywood walls, salvaged from a shed which was torn down) around four cedar fence posts with a plywood top and hay bales for insulation from the winter cold. It was about 3' x 3' x 3' and had one row of three nest boxes. The following spring we purchased our first pullets from the local farm store and brooded them in a cardboard box in the workshop before building our first tractor out of salvaged pallet wood and left over chicken wire from a farm project long past. Our next coop came very quickly when we realized it was impossible to house sixteen chickens in a 27 cubic foot coop. My father used a saw-z-all and cut a hole in the side of the garage where we built a 6' x 8' x 8' coop with two rows of nesters and a couple of roosting poles. Attached to that is a fenced in yard allowing the chickens access to the outdoors, but remain safely inside a fence away from predators or trucks who are zooming around the farm. During the day we let the chickens run amuck, but there are times when they need a little extra protection for their own good. The roof is starting to leak and the mice have done a number on the floor so we are hoping to make some modifications (and expansions) to it this fall which will include waterproofing and removal of the floor.
Brooder #2 was a recycled ferret cage inside a spare bedroom - DON'T EVER DO THIS - unless you like vacuuming three times a day and dusting twice that much. Chicken mash is a dusty product - they made a complete mess. Brooder #3 has been a complete success. It is a large box made from reclaimed pine lumber, lined with a waterproof shower wall substance and is built onto the wall next to the chicken coop. It has a chicken wire top allowing for great air circulation and as long as we choose not to breed chickens in the dead of winter then a single incandescent light bulb is all that is necessary to get them started.
Tractor #2 included the original chicken tractor with modifications for a small box on one side of it to allow the young ones a little more protection from inclement weather. This design was far too heavy on one end and it quickly fell apart after less than one season's use. Our third chicken tractor has been a complete success (the third time's a charm). We used the thicker cross bracing from salvaged pallets along with four purchased 2' x 4' x 12's, some newer leftover chicken wire and a hinged lid made of someones left over OSB picked up from a free pile on the side of the road. This tractor has worked very well for going on four seasons now and with only minor repairs to aging chicken wire, it is still holding strong.
We have incubated three sets of eggs this spring. The third set just went into the brooder last week leaving the second set to join the first born in the large chicken tractor. Not such a good idea. Our tweens have developed quite the attitude and were not at all welcoming to the new birds. Into the tractor I went to rescue the four-week old birds. Not having lost much of my baby-weight, I was a sight to see trying to climb around in temporary chicken housing. Homeless, our middle birds went into a cardboard box while we worked on housing for them. Resurrected from the bowels of our storage system (anywhere it will fit) came the original chicken tractor. It was in pretty bad shape. A piece of ripped 2 x 4 here, a rusty hinge cleaned up and re purposed there, some chicken wire patching and the original chicken tractor came to life again to house another generation of baby chickens. Water basin and small tin of feed provided, chickens rehoused, quick shower and I still managed to make it to work on time.