ATVTrailerI bought a cool, new ATV trailer. We’d been wanting one for a variety of uses. The ATV is so convenient for doing farm chores, it’s fast, maneuverable, never gets stuck, and has nice suspension. All things that a tractor is not quite as good at. Though the ATV already has a front and rear rack for carrying things, we wanted it to be able to carry even more things.

I shopped around, but most local stores only had dinky plastic lawnmower trailers with low capacity. Craigslist only offered rotted-out, homemade plywood jobbers and more of the plastic types. This one we had admired from the Northern Tool catalog; but of course, shipping charges on such a thing are exorbitant. I discovered, however, that I could order it through Home  Depot’s online catalog and have it dropped at their store, so no shipping charges at all.

It’s always a bit of an eye-roll picking things up at will-call there, but worth saving a few hundred bucks in shipping. And indeed, this experience was an eye-roll: after handing the contractor desk lady my neatly printed-out email saying “your ATV trailer has arrived at the Snohomish store and is ready for pickup at the contractor’s desk…” she insisted they don’t carry these trailers so it wasn’t possible that I could have ordered one. Then she sent me to the customer service desk at the other end of the store, only to recall me saying she’d look for it after she went to the bathroom. Then she asked how I knew it had arrived (um, the email telling me so, that I just  handed to you?). Then she insisted it wasn’t there because the computer said so, before finally walking fifty feet to actually look in the will-call cage, and there it was: a giant heavy box in plain sight with my last name on it in huge letters.

With a few more bobbles, it was loaded onto my truck and off I went. I ended up needing to buy a hitch extension, because the carry rack we have on the back of the ATV sticks out so far, the trailer bumped into it. Anyway, now it’s all working, and is as handy as I thought it would be for hauling sheep. If I need to move a group of sheep, I use a dog. But moving a single sheep, or two or three lambs by themselves, is hard, if not impossible, using a dog. Sheep have a deep-rooted instinct to stay with the flock and avoid being singled-out, so splitting and moving a single is a total battle of wills. Very stressful for the sheep. And certainly not possible for my mediocre-trained dogs. Much easier to load the sheep right next to the group, and then just drive away.

For now, I’m using a wire dog crate to contain sheep in the trailer, but eventually I may build some kind of cool cage which would fit a large sheep better. In the photo, I had gathered up four lambs with scours (diarrhea) that I wanted to put into the barn for treatment. They were crammed in there, but that’s ok, it’s only a two-minute ride.

The only negative I’ve noticed so far is there doesn’t seem to be a way to back up with this kind of trailer. Backing up trailers in general is a skill, and the shorter the trailer, the easier it is to jackknife it. With the type of hitch this one uses (just a pin, not a ball hitch), and the lack of ability for an ATV to drive really slow, there is just no way to back up straight at all; it’ll jackknife in two seconds. So, the options are to try to set yourself up where you can always drive forward and turn that way; or unpin the trailer from the ATV and move it around by hand. The latter is easy when it’s empty, not so easy if it’s loaded. I also find if I put the ATV in neutral, I can pull the whole thing backwards, then run quickly to grab the brake when I want to stop. So, this part will clearly require some foresight during use.

All in all, I really like it. I had read multiple positive reviews about the trailer, complete with user pics showing it hauling heavy loads of firewood in rough terrain (another application for which we wanted it). This was one key piece of equipment I needed to allow me to increase my herd size, as now I can haul more hay in one trip. And it’ll also facilitate prepping  for floods, when I have to load up water troughs, portable fencing and other gear that needs to be brought up the hill. Before, I was making multiple  trips with the ATV, this should cut it down to one. I’m sure we’ll find many other uses for it as well.

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