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    Ripping Back Always Stings

    As a knitter, I’ve learned that if I have a bad feeling about some aspect of what I’m knitting, I should go with that feeling. And I’ve learned that if something isn’t working, you just have to close your eyes and rip it back.

    Turns out, carpentry is just the same. Who knew?

    Among its many other flaws, the gambrel roof chicken tractor is designed such that twice a day (while moving from coop to pen, or pen to coop) the chickens can escape. My original schematic took this into account, and attached the pop door such that it could be unlocked and opened from outside. But when it came down to building it, that just wouldn’t work, so I fit it in as best I could, and kept building.

    Unfortunately, thanks to the previously-mentioned design flaw, there was an “incident” Wednesday evening. Martha’s fine, although the back of her right thigh is bald. And one of the dogs is coughing up feathers. And I’m still a little traumatized.

    The worst part, of course, is the self-inflicted I told you so‘s.

    And so it is that Thursday morning I skipped out on work to make yet another trip to the hardware store. My enthusiasm for building the third chicken tractor in two months is… not high.

    By the way, here’s something else I learned: 5mm plywood is not going to work. The gambrel roof has been outside for only 12 days. It has not been directly exposed to rain. And look at how badly it’s buckled!


    I’m basing Chicken Tractor the Third on someone else’s design. I know! So unoriginal. I eat humble pie while poring over her photos and description.

    The main difference between her design and mine is that I’m pulling the welded wire hardware cloth up to 4 feet, almost to the roofline of the coop. This is to prevent giant dogs from leaping up onto the top of the run and jumping up and down until it collapses. (This is a relevant concern for some of us.)

    Also, the roll of hardware cloth I bought last month is 4 feet high. And anything that keeps me from having to cut the hardware cloth is my best friend of all time. (Making cuts wouldn’t be so bad if I had a pair of tin snips. Alas, I have only a borrowed bolt cutter which is literally longer than my arms. Fun times.)

    I’ve built the first long side already:

    chicken tractor

    I will be building the coop (of 1/2″ plywood this time) into the hole on the upper right. This way, see, the chickens can enter and exit through a door in the wall. Chickens like to do that! Chickens do not like to hop out through a hole in the floor. What kind of idiot would think otherwise? Ha ha! Ha.

    Speaking of significant looks, they go both ways. I like to give the chickens a significant look, while casually mentioning that I’ve been saving egg cartons since last December.

    egg cartons

    No pressure, ladies. Just sayin’.

    11 comments to Ripping Back Always Stings

    • Umm… not thickness of plywood, so much as exterior or interior grade… something to watch for.
      Popholes in walls are definitely better than popholes in floors.

    • Dear eREEKa (MongoLIA will never die). Bolt cutters I have found out come in a TON of sizes and make cutting SO many things a breeze. I use small ones on bead mandrels, bigger ones on bolts and chicken-type wire. When you have a few bucks, go to an ACE Hardware store and try out sizes that fit your hands best and that you can heft. They truly save a lot of agony. I bought two really REALLY cute chicken times the other day. Always wanted ’em. Close as I’ll get to the real thing sadly cause chickens are lovable and cute.

    • Would putting shingles (or the like) on the new roof help? I realize you’re not going for a chicken mansion, but maybe some kind of roofing material would help shed dampness?

      Roaming dogs are just one of the things that makes me think yet another time when I think, “Hey, maybe *I* should get chickens!” (We also have possums and raccoons, so I suspect even if I could successfully raise the chickens, their eggs would never make it to my table. Not to mention, I’m not home during the day to look after the chickens.)

    • Katharine

      Erika as someone has already mentioned I really hope your are using exterior grade plywood for your roofing and sheathing or at least a couple coats of exterior grade oil paint on the exposed surfaces, both sides.Instead of shingles on the roof I would recommend corrugated metal roofing. Lighter and stronger. Not the best in a hail storm but I don’t think you guy get that much hail!
      I love the design of your coop though.:)

    • Jennifer

      You make me laugh! Not at ripping back…we all do that. It’s your consistent awesome writing style.

      Will the new tractor be mobile enough? I really hope to be taking care of two chickens within the next couple years, so I’m taking notes. I’m also reading a lot of books related to the subject. Have you heard of the straw-bale coops for winter/wind relief?

    • Northmoon

      I’m so relieved that none of your chickens were killed in the dog/chicken interface incident! I know from sad experience it can be deadly.

      As for the rebuild, the right tools always help, but they cost money so what can you do? Hope the tried and tested design works for you.

      and I agree with Gayle – look for exterior grade plywood, or perhaps this is a good reason to paint?

    • Speaking of pressure, there are 108 minutes left of Sunday…..

    • Oy vey.
      That is one scary incident. Hope Martha’s alright.

      Oh and I second what dorothy said and I guess it’s past Sunday already 😀

    • If at first you don’t succeed……..okay, I’ll stop.

      Hope this one meets everyone’s approval! And that the bad big dogs are not hopping up and down on it. Bad dogs.

    • […] chicken tractor for years. Even though, checking through my blog archives, it’s only been a month. I probably would have finished it sooner, except that I broke my wrist halfway through, and had to […]

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