Are you searching for the ‘perfect’ way to house meat birds?
Are you a DIY-er?
John Suscovich’s “Stress-Free Chicken Tractor” is a popular option for homesteaders wanting to raise their own broilers. We finally built one, and this is my thorough Suscovich chicken tractor review. You get to decide if the design is right for you.
Benefits of a Mobile Chicken Tractor
A mobile chicken tractor is the most popular form of shelter among homesteaders and for good reason. A mobile shelter allows you to move chickens to fresh grass regularly, which not only gives them plenty of forage but also spreads out their manure. John Suscovich runs 24 of these tractors at a time for his commercial operation. That is part of what is so great about them and similar designs; they’re scalable from a small family feeding themselves to a profitable commercial operation.
Why I Chose a Suscovich Style Chicken Tractor
After researching a variety of chicken tractor designs, I settled on John Suscovich’s plans for a couple of reasons. One of the selling points of this design was being able to stand upright inside it! Turns out my husband and teenage son, who are both taller than my 5′ 7″, can’t stand up in it. It’s only a minor inconvenience.
The other reason I chose this tractor is the flexibility. A Joel Salatin-type tractor, which is another great design, can pretty much only be used with chickens. The Suscovich-style tractor can house turkeys or even a couple of lambs in a pinch. The multiple uses for this design, to me, made it the best chicken tractor design for our needs. In the book, John lists use for rabbits, a cold frame, and even a fort for the kids.
We even used ours to store fencing supplies when the broilers were all done for the year.
How Was It to Build?
My husband and I built the tractor together in our garage over two weekends. We probably could have done it in one, but we were waiting for additional supplies to come in.
John includes a ton of other information about how he aligns the tractors, the specific types of waterers he uses, and how he builds the feeders. I opted not to use his trough feeder system. I may still build one though, as I think it might have made the birds a little easier to manage. By no means do you have to do everything exactly the way he does, but I like that he shares what works best for him and *why* it works for him, so you know if those conditions apply to you.
Fortunately, my husband and I work well together when it comes to building projects. I appreciated the detailed explanation for each material choice. A complete cut list was very helpful too. The plans are written for someone with novice carpentry skills. I learned a few things from his explanations of more advanced techniques, particularly about the lap joints. He even went into detail about the knots he used. You don’t have to go searching online if you never learned (or this former Girl Scout who forgot how) to tie a bowline or a clove hitch.
Unfortunately, in some places, the plans were a little too vague, and we struggled with a particular part that was the wrong length. I was frustrated because I thought I cut something wrong but it turns out the measurement was wrong in the plans.
A Real Suscovich Chicken Tractor Review
The plans come with a lot of information and details about raising broilers in general. Skim it or absorb every word, it is up to you. I definitely gleaned a few useful nuggets.
There were a couple of times during the build I got very frustrated because the plans just weren’t clear enough. Similar to when I cook a recipe for the first time, when I’m following plans, I try to follow them exactly the first time through. One example is with the door. The drawings are not consistent in showing how the door fits into the door frame or which board butts up to which, so it took a little trial and error to make it fit together right.
The drawings also show angled braces on the door and door frame, but they aren’t mentioned at all in the plans. Once we finally got the frame and door all figured out, we didn’t really need them.
Probably the biggest problem is that part G, a piece on the front of the tractor that connects the door frame to the rest of the tractor, is not the correct length. According to my notes, it was 1″ short, so we had to cut Part F, the bottom of the front of the tractor, 2″ shorter to make it work. Our tractor is 2 inches narrower in the front than in the back. Not catastrophic but definitely a hitch in the building process.
One good tip, pay attention to the length of the screws you’re using while you build. He doesn’t specify in the plans which ones to use. At one point, I just grabbed screws and started putting together the frame until I realized they were sticking through on the other side. Oops! I had to take it apart and redo it with the shorter screws.
Another key tip is to dry-fit the lap joints before applying glue. Some of the joints will require fine-tuning to fit together properly and it’s really messy to do if you already have glue on the wood.
Here is a video walk-through of the tractor where I talk about all the pros and cons, tips, and tricks.
Was it worth it?
YES! Despite some of the frustration when building the tractor, it worked perfectly. The size and weight make it easy to move. However, it is heavy enough that it didn’t get carried off in a recent windstorm. Taking what I learned on the first build, I built a second one. Right now our newest pullets are hanging out in it, waiting to be integrated into the laying flock. Next year, I plan to use it to house Turkeys.
We successfully raised 20 cornish cross broilers and put them in the freezer and we look forward to doing it again.
You can purchase the plans on John’s website at Farm Marketing Solutions.
Have you built a Suscovich-style tractor? Did my review of the “Stress-Free Chicken Tractor” help you make your decision?