basic chicken tractor questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by threehens, Aug 18, 2008.

  1. threehens

    threehens Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 12, 2008
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    I'm new to this chicken thing-only a few weeks into it. We built a chicken tractor with a 4x3 house and a 4x9 run, 3 feet tall. We have three white leghorn/RIR mixes who are almost 22 weeks. They are flighty and nervous but seem happy otherwise. They aren't laying yet, which is frustrating but I guess it's like a watched pot. I posted a couple questions (thanks for the help on those) and searched extensively for my others without luck. This may be more appropriate in the behaviors/egg laying or feeding forum but I'll try here:

    -We put straw in the house and nesting box but they scratch it out into the run. I put a 2x2 in front of the nesting box to try to prevent them from emptying it which helps a little. Do I continue to put straw in the house? It has a plywood floor. Does it need it?

    -I've been giving them kitchen scraps and a cupful of feed 2-3 times daily. The flies are many. Should I remove what they haven't eaten at the end of the day or are flies ok? It seems like the, for example, bell pepper tops/stems would break down eventually.

    We've moved them a few times which they hate. I think they'll stay put for awhile out by the garden. We aren't letting them free range yet. It seems like they get stressed easily and I don't want them to not lay due to stress.
     
  2. gumpsgirl

    gumpsgirl Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Mar 25, 2008
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    I'm not sure what to do about the straw in the nesting box issue. It sounds like you've already done what I would do. As for the feed and kitchen scraps issue, you need to keep the feed available to your hens all day long. They will eat what they need and really do need that available to them all day long. I think if you would cut down on the table scraps and only put out what they will eat, that would help a lot with your fly problem. I never give my chickens more kitchen food than they will consume in a 10 - 20 minute period and do not have a problem with flies. You also might want to try adding some food grade DE to your coop. That will help a whole lot with the flies as well.

    Don't fret to much over the egg laying issue. They will be laying before you know it! I wouldn't move their tractor anymore until they settle down and get into their egg laying routine. [​IMG]
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:You do need bedding in the house, or the poo will get permanently plastered onto the plywood and you'll never EVER get it clean. Even if you put down vinyl flooring (poo comes off more easily) you still need bedding, for basically that reason.

    You could try shavings and see if they stay put any better than straw, for you, but the main solution is going to be to put a higher lip on the edges of the nest box and house doorway. I find that about 4" works well for my nest boxes, but there is absolutely no reason you couldn't go higher (especially for the one on the door out of the house) like 6-8" - the chickens will just hop up onto it and then down the other side, no problemo. It might require cutting the pophole a little taller but that shoudl be pretty easy and will solve the bedding problem.

    -I've been giving them kitchen scraps and a cupful of feed 2-3 times daily. The flies are many. Should I remove what they haven't eaten at the end of the day or are flies ok? It seems like the, for example, bell pepper tops/stems would break down eventually.

    The flies are probably not from the uneaten scraps so much as from the chicken poo. This happens with livestock [​IMG], and even 4 chickens in a backyard tractor *are* livestock [​IMG] One thing you will probably find (I say 'probably' because if you are in a suburban area it is possible it may take some while, I really don't know for sure) the fly problem will decrease as predatory insect populations build up -- especially the kinds that parasitize fly larvae.

    If you had a permanent coop and run I would say 'try putting sand/gravel in the run, to help dry the poo out ASAP' which will cut down on flies, but that is really not a practical solution with a tractor.

    BTW you may not want to be feeding them lots and lots of kitchen scraps if you want lots and lots of eggs, b/c you are likely to end up with them short on some nutrients (especially protein, unless your scraps include meat). Which can affect laying. At the very least you want to make sure to give them a cup of oystershell or crushed dried eggshell that they can eat free-choice to make up their calcium needs (the layer feed you're giving them has its calcium rationed on the assumption that the chickens are eating that as their sole ration - if they're eating other stuff, they may not get enough calcium).

    Good luck and have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. threehens

    threehens Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 12, 2008
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    Thanks for the help ya'll! I hung a feeder in there this morning and will lay off of the kitchen scraps for a little while.

    Thanks for the fly info Pat. I did read that somewhere about finding the fly balance and I think you're right, it probably is the poo. I can just hear them which is weird but it doesn't matter, it's not like they are inside my house!

    I did see one hen, "Pink Sleeping Beauty" (my 3 yo named them princess names), in the nest box sitting so I have some hope that they at least go in there rather than only scratch the bedding out. Maybe she'll lay an egg--one can only hope...
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:ROTFL [​IMG] My then-3-y-old son's tastes in naming run more to things like "Ladder". Yes, we have a hen named Ladder. Go figure [​IMG]

    Boys and girls really are different <g>

    Pat
     
  6. NorTracNY

    NorTracNY Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not necessarily a boy/girl thing. My 2.75yo at the time wanted to name her baby sister "Pinecone." She's in a camp at the Y this week. She says one of the kids names is "Poopy" and another one "Stinky." What were the parents thinking?!?! [​IMG]
    Thankfully she isn't naming the chickens.
     

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