A rock picker is a machine used to remove rocks from topsoil. They are most commonly used for improving the soil quality of farmland or for removing rocks from construction sites, such as future golf courses. Most are designed to be towed behind a tractor or other vehicle. Choosing the right one mostly requires evaluating the situation for which it will be used and then finding the one that best fulfills your requirements.
Like many other farm implements and construction equipment, rock pickers are made in a number of sizes and with varying capabilities. Smaller models are better for light usage and have a smaller maximum size of rock that they can handle as well as smaller hopper capacity. Larger models are more suited for covering large amounts of acreage such as farm fields.
The first step in choosing the best rock picker for your needs is to get an idea of the size of the rocks in the soil where you will be using the picker. Manufacturers always list the maximum size of rock that their machines can handle. Scout the area, and measure a few of the largest rocks you can find. You should assume that there may be slightly larger rocks present as well. The best rock picker for you will be able to handle rocks of at least this size.
The next thing to consider is the size of the area from which you need to remove rocks. A very large area, such as a golf course or large farm field, requires a rock picker with a larger sweep and a large hopper. The sweep is the amount of ground covered in one pass of the rock picker. A large sweep allows for covering more ground in less time. The size of the hopper determines how often you must stop to dump the rocks the picker has collected.
If the ground is very rocky, you should consider a picker with the largest possible hopper. Very rocky ground can produce an enormous number of rocks very quickly, and a rock picker with a small hopper requires frequent stops to empty it. The amount of time you are willing or able to spend removing rocks should influence your decision, of course, as pickers with larger hoppers are more expensive, as a rule, than those with smaller hoppers. A willingness to invest more time in the removal can save you money if you select a picker with a smaller hopper.
Depth is another thing to consider. Each rock picker will remove rocks up to a certain soil depth. Take into account your needs when selecting a picker. If the picker will be used to clear farm land, a picker that pulls rocks from the greatest depth possible is more desirable. A rock picker that simply removes rocks from the surface and to a shallow depth is probably good enough for landscaping and other such uses.
Power is an important factor when choosing a rock picker as well. Most rock pickers are designed to be towed behind and to run off the hydraulic system of a tractor. They require a certain power rating to operate properly. Some models have their own engines, but be careful to choose a rock picker that is compatible with any intended tow vehicle.
Cost is, of course, a consideration. Use word of mouth and the Internet to research rock pickers and their manufacturers, and narrow your choices down to the pickers that meet your requirements for sweep, picking depth, hopper size, and vehicle compatibility. Choose the machine that best meets your needs and that fits within your budget. With heavy equipment, however, the cheapest machine is not always the best choice as it may be of inferior quality to more expensive machines. The most expensive model is not necessarily the highest quality equipment, however. It may also be a good idea to consider renting a rock picker rather than buying one as you may only need the machine for one project and then have no further use for it.