To be fair, I’ve wanted to have chickens for egg laying for a long time. The interest was rekindled when my girls went to spend Memorial Day weekend with my parents while we worked on a surprise for them. During their stay the local Town and Country store was having “Chick Days” and my girls fell in love with the fluffy little peepers. Mom wanted to get them just one each, but according to the laws of the State of Ohio (so said the store employee) they couldn’t buy any less than six. Mom knew I didn’t have a brooder, hen house or even true barn to keep the little poopers in so she had to say no to the whole endeavor. The girls were broken-hearted. My mom called me later to tell me how crushed she felt at having to disappoint them. If you have grandchildren you probably understand how tough it is to have to say “No” ;).
Well, the whole ordeal got me thinking about keeping chickens again. My parents did when I was a kid off and on through my childhood up into my teens. A few years ago they got another flock of chickens for egg laying. They made a mistake when they bought the hens and got a “broiler” chicken. They didn’t realize that they HAD to butcher the chicken at about 10 weeks because they are genetically bred to put on meat weight very quickly. Poor thing got so big he couldn’t walk anymore. They learned a good lesson. . . and so did I about chicken types.
But I digress. . . I told the whole story about the chicks to my husband and he said, “Find me some plans and we’ll see about getting it built.” GREEN LIGHT!!! So I started doing research about chicken tractors and chicken arks again. My local library and the online library adjunct Overdrive.com have become great sources of useful information. I just found out about another digital library book borrowing service called Hoopla, too. It is nice to be able to request hard copy books (there’s nothing like turning the pages of a printed book) and also look at digital books at your convenience on your PC or mobile phone.
Before you begin though you’ll have to count the cost. That’s where I’m at right now. Make sure you have the monetary and time resources to dedicate to your endeavor. It’s not as simple as buying a half dozen or more cute chickies and bringing them home. You’ve got to think about the proper food, water, environment, cleanliness, handling and future secure housing of mature or maturing birds. Your plan may be to eat them or their produce but you must keep them happy and healthy in the meantime.
Chicks or Mature Chickens
Like any baby animal, chicks require special care and supervision. They must be kept warm, dry, clean and well fed and watered. Their first home could be as simple as a tall cardboard box, a feeder and waterer, dry bedding and a heat source like a 100 Watt bulb or a commercial brooding kit. It could take as little as 12 weeks or as much as 8 months before your chicks start laying. If you are OK with the delay then proceed with buying chicks.
If you would rather have eggs right away then consider more mature chickens. They may be a bit more expensive, but compared to the cost of food over the 3 to 8 month period you may be more ahead than you think. Older chickens can start scratching outdoors and laying eggs right away.
Your chicks won’t be able to stay in the brooder for long. Chicks will start to jump and fly in about 4 weeks. You may have to cover the brooder with a screen to prevent them from escaping. But you will have to think about their outdoor home before too long.
My Preferred Chicken Tractor Design
In the book The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects by Spike Carlsen I found a plan for a chicken ark with a fairly simple layout and not too many pieces. Starting on page 198 is the layout, materials list, cut list and instructions and additional suggestions for modification. What I noticed is that there was not a lot of space for roosts, nor was there info in these instructions on how to make nest boxes. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of if you are going to keep laying hens. If you just get broilers/meat chickens you don’t need much roost space or nesting boxes. The description noted it would take 4 people to move this ark which is a deal breaker since we only have 2 adults, one of which would probably not be all that willing to help move the chook house. SO, the addition of wheels and a better handle would be a must so that I could move the structure on my own.
Years ago I found a mobile stagecoach for chickens that gave me inspiration for keeping chickens on our property. This design, much like the one above, would allow them to have fresh grass and dirt every few days without worrying about the chooks wandering off your property or being snatched by the neighbors cats or other predators. The Chicken Mobile Stagecoach is fully enclosed on one end with nest boxes, roost space and a secure locking door plus an attached run with integrated food and water containers. This ark already has wheels installed at it’s center of gravity making it easy to move. The whole thing is built to fit over raised garden beds or between them – I NEED that right now :D. It’s built in Lubbock, Texas and ships only within the state, but they do offer complete plans for sale online or via the mail on CD.
Honestly, my favorite design is the one from Rooster Hill Farm in North Carolina. There is no way I could afford to have a prebuilt one shipped to Northwest Ohio from North Carolina, though. I’ve looked and looked for plans and haven’t been able find anything just like it.
This post is NOT sponsored, but does make use of affiliate links. Clicking on these links may result in compensation for this site.