a few questions on tractors


In the Brooder
10 Years
Apr 5, 2009
maysville, nc
I have searched all night and still have alot of questions, hubby is bugging me too come too bed so i am sorry if I am asking all the same questions as every other newbie.
We are wanting too get 4-6 chicken now and want a tractor big enough for 8 just incase.

~what is the biggest we could expect too make the tractor and still be able too move it with just 2 people? I know alot of that depends on materials used so if you have any tips of what not too use please share.
~I have read several post that seam as if people use tractors just as a temp home, is there any reason that we could not keep the girls in a tractor full time?
~Do we need too put netting on the bottom of the run? we plan too use the run just while the dogs are outside and while we are gone. I really do not want too loose any chickens if the netting underneath would save them.
Of coarse as soon as I posted this I drew a blank about what all i need too know, I will update later or in the morning. Thanks all!
My birds lived full time in a tractor pretty "full time" up until point of lay, or approx 20weeks old. I designed it for 4 hens, and I ended up keeping a rooster too so it was actually slightly overcrowded but I didn't have any problems. The main reason they had to live in the tractor was that I wanted them to have grass and our back yard was not fully fenced/dog-proofed and we occasionally have wandering/escaped dogs. Now that we have a good fence they are pretty much ranging the whole back yard until I get their new coop completed. When it's done they will sleep there and stay until mid-morning so hopefully I can get most of the eggs in the nest boxes!

If I had to do it again I would make part of the roof to the run open up for putting in the feeder/waterer, because as it is designed right now I almost have to crawl in to hook the feeder to the hanger. (The feeder/waterer hang so that they will move along with the run when it's dragged.)

Dogs will dig into the run if they want your birds. My dog never messed wtih my birds, and amazingly the neighbors found a way to keep their dog home too. I originally designed my run with an electric wire along the bottom to prevent dig-under, but after a while I quit using it.

At night I closed the door between the run and the house. The house itself is raccoon proof if the door latch works properly (had one problem, door latch is now fixed and lockable) so I didn't have to worry about raccoon-proofing the run area.
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A comfortably ample 8 chicken tractor is going to be difficult. However if you are in the eastern half of NC it is probably doable. In the mountains, having to deal with more cold, I am skeptical that it can be done adequately well unless you build separate house and run portions that can be moved separately and then docked back together after the move.

My biggest tip: ADD UP THE WEIGHT OF THE MATERIALS for your intended design BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING. Even 2x2s and 3/8" plywood really add up as you put more and more of them together! You can find standard tables of weights of lumber etc (google) or you can actually weigh samples. You are not trying to be precise down to the last pound, but you want a trustworthy ballpark number.

You will need to use some decent-size lumber for the frame that lies on the ground -- nothing less than a 2x4, preferably pressure treated -- but for much or all of the rest of the framing you can use lighter materials such as 2x2s (ripped down from 2x4s - storeboughten 2x2s are either too poor quality or too expensive, depending on which grade you're talking) and 1x2s, or *thick-wall UV stabilized* PVC, or cattle/hog panels... IF YOU ENGINEER THE TRACTOR SMARTLY. Remember it needs to withstand the stresses of moving (lots of diagonal jolting) as well as being stood on by families of overweight raccoons.

If it were me, I would either make an 8x10 tractor 2.5-3' high with one end enclosed as a 'house', or I would make a pen that size or a little larger and a separate 4x4 or 4x8 house portion that docked with it.

~I have read several post that seam as if people use tractors just as a temp home, is there any reason that we could not keep the girls in a tractor full time?

No, people do that, but it is harder for year-round chickenkeeping than it is for seasonal things like meat chickens or older chicks being grown out til they are large enough to go elsewhere. Tractors do not winterize well for Actual Winter, because of the small air volume in the house portion and the difficulty of balancing ventilation/draft-free-ness/temperature in such a small space. Even in mild winter areas, if you get really muddy or floody it can be hard to manage a tractor (trouble moving it regularly enough, and/or lack of dry places to move it *to*) whereas a fixed run is easier to make all-weather.

It can be DONE, especially if you are in the eastern part of the state, but make sure it's what you really want. An awful lot of people <myself included!> start out all enamored of the advantages of a tractor and then, after building and using one for a while, discover there are a lot of DISadvantages that are seldom discussed and can outweigh the advantages for some of us.

~Do we need too put netting on the bottom of the run? we plan too use the run just while the dogs are outside and while we are gone. I really do not want too loose any chickens if the netting underneath would save them.

You mean the run portion of the tractor? No, it should not have a mesh floor because you need the chickens to be able to walk along in there as you move the tractor. They can't do that on a mesh floor. Exception: if you really want to try moving the tractor with the chickens shut up in the (floored) house portion, which I do not so much recommend b/c a lot of bumping and tilting and bouncing is involved, then you could have a wire floor on the run portion.

However it is probably simpler to design your tractor with flip-down wire aprons, 1-2+ feet wide, that you tentpeg to the ground to discourage anything digging in.

Good luck, have fun,

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I'll have to take a picture of my finished tractor for you. It weighs a lot, but I move it myself every day. (I am a fairly wimpy 37yo woman) DH rigged up a wheel from a kid's bike on the front. It is not pretty, but it does the trick. Here's a picture of it during construction. I think we spent about $200 on materials. The bottom part is 5' x 8'. Top coop part is 2' x 8'... basically a 2' equilateral triangle. It houses four laying pullets.

Here's a couple of photos of a portable coop/tractor combination I built. The coop disassembles in about 10 minutes and can be moved one part at a time by one person. Reassembly takes about 20 minutes. The tractor disassembles in about 3 minutes and can all be moved by one person with a wheelbarrow. Reassembly of the tractor takes about 3 minutes too.

The coop and tractor are adequate for 4 to 6 chickens depending on breed and size. There are three internal nest boxes, accessible by means of a people-sized door on the opposite side of the coop from the pop door. I'm in Maryland if anyone is interested in having something similar built.



thanks! Next time I am typing at 1:50 AM I will be sure to try and remember this. Really I was tired and may have messed up a bit more that i realize at the time.
I once had a stationary aviary and found it to be very messy and very hard to keep clean (odors & flies were a constant problem). So when I moved to Carson Valley, NV decided to be a BYC enthusiast settling on a tractor. Concerned that wood retains odors and can be difficult to clean, I thus settled on the Omlet eggloo http://www.omlet.us/homepage/homepage.php with a 6-foot run for my 5 Barred Rocks. You can expand the run with your own design if necessary.

It was a bit expensive but since it was designed for the chicken by the experts, many of my concerns for the safety, ventilation, cleanliness, ease of movement, etc were taken care of with one purchase. The nice part for me is that the Omlet is easy to clean which I do on a daily basis so the odor does not disrupt the neighborhood. The droppings also adds to my compost pile.

I did have to alter it a bit by surrounding the existing run with ½ inch wire cloth for additional safety for the chicks and fitted some removable plywood panels to block snow, rain, and storm warning winds from disrupting the tranquility of the run.

Good luck on your project

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