Though perhaps I'm actually down-cycling with this DIY chicken tractor how-to, this unique chicken coop alternative transforms an unwanted sofa into a stylish place for my chickens to hunt and peck during the day without destroying my yard or tempting the neighborhood dogs with a free-range-flavored snack. In the winter, I hope to hang heavy sheet plastic or (fingers crossed) discarded windows along the sides for a unique greenhouse as part of my chicken tractor plans.
Materials & Tools:
-Sofa, table or chair with a sturdy wood frame
-Work gloves, scissors or pocket knife & needle-nose pliers
-Weatherproof stain & paintbrush (or cutting of rubber foam from unwanted cushion)
-2 skis (via Goodwill)
-6 zip ties
-Nesting box, waterer & feeder
-Hinge, 6 wood screws (any size you have on hand) & wood plank for door
-Wire & staple gun
Remove all fabric, rubber foam, springs and gun staples using work gloves, scissors or pocketknife and needle-nose pliers. This took me roughly 6-10 hours. Feel free to break it up into 20 minutes sessions over a month or so or invite a group of friends over.
Tip: To remove the staples, grip them with the tip of the pliers, and then lean them back, using the wood beam as an anchor.
Stain the wood with a weatherproof wood stain or paint, following the directions on the container. Two coats as well as a 72-hour curing time may be needed.
Tip: I used a chunk of rubber foam cut from a sofa cushion when my foam paintbrush punked out, and while it worked well enough, the stain did puddle and needed to be wiped away with a second cutting of rubber foam.
Add your permanent extras like a nesting box, feeder or water dish. Secure with rope.
Secure skis to the bottom of the stained tractor using screws (if you're lucky enough to have one), 3 zip ties per ski. Rope could work though it may cause friction and so tear up the grass when the tractor is moved.
Screw a hinge onto a wooden plank for the door, and then attach the hinge to your tractor. Create an easy latch for the door by adding two more screws, one on the door and one on the tractor (on the top or at the sides, both work) and then tie a shoelace to one of the shoes. Close the door by weaving the lace or rope between the two screws until it's firmly held in place.
Tip: I used an office file box for the chickens' nesting box, strung up with rope since it didn't fit evenly on the sofa beam and I didn't have a screwdriver to screw the post on. I will add a small curtain to make the nesting box darker (which chickens prefer when laying) and have also added small egg-inspired rocks to give the chickens hints that the file box is for laying.
Add wire with a staple gun. Secure nails by hammering them into the wood. To collect eggs, I cut a small hole in the wire too high for a day-time animal to reach but high enough for me to reach an arm. I may put another wood door later, if I feel the chickens aren't safe.
Tip: Chicken wire is the easiest to work with. I wove the panels together using scrap wire to create a uniform look. The front wire is galvanized steel, which won't rust and bends to create a fuller look.
Some final details:
--My upcycled furniture turned chicken craft tractor holds 4 full-grown heavy breed layers or up to 10 bantam chickens, also fully grown.
--I left most of the furniture beams on because I live in an area with high winds, though this does make pushing the coop around the yard difficult. To remove beams without power tools, simply take a hammer and some angry whacks to the beam you don't want.
--I keep the DIY chicken tractor in the shade, but others might consider putting a small shade on the top to block the sun and yet still allow air to circulate.
Price run-down for me using supplies on hand and if I were completely unsupplied:
Sofa: Free / ~$60 if bought from Craigslist
Chicken wire: Free / $20 (for a 4' by 24' roll)
Stain: $8 / $8 (maybe less if gotten from scrap paint cart at home supply store)
Brushes: Free if using cushion foam / Free
Skis: $13 / $13
Screws: Free / $1
Door hinge: $3 / $3
Door plank: Free / $5 (if gotten from scrap bin at home supply store)
Money Spent: $24 / $110
Hours Spent: 30+