Chicken Newbie

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by KelliProvost, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. KelliProvost

    KelliProvost New Egg

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    Oct 31, 2008
    Hi there. My name is Kelli and I live in Northern Vermont. We were given three Buff Orphingtons by a friend this summer. Based on his advice, we have built a chicken tractor and have been moving that around the yard every 2 days or so all summer. It seems to work well. After reading a lot of posts on this web site, however, it seems like the more ideal situation is to have a fixed coop with a much bigger run. Our chicken tractor is 6 feet tall, by 6 feet wide, by approximately 10 feet long. I can't move it by myself, but my hubby can. So, first question is, is this tractor situation okay for the birds? Again, we only have three and don't plan on adding more.

    Also, I am concerned about roosts and winterizing the tractors. My husband built roosts, but I think they are too small, as the chickens do not sit on them. I am ripping them out and plan on building a ladder style roost. Should I put them in the run part or in the coop part of the tractor? Or both? And how much roosting area should I have for the three birds?

    Lastly, for the winter I plan on keeping the tractor in one spot, as I doubt I am going to be able to move the tractor once the snow starts. I have a way to heat the water, and am planning on hooking up a light to a temperature-controlled outlet set to come on below 45 degrees in the house part of the tractor. I think I should cover the run with plastic sheeting, too, right? To keep out the wind and snow?

    Am I missing anything critical? I really want my birds to survive their first winter. They have not started laying eggs yet (they are 5 months old) but I am not supplying artificial daylight either. I would rather they lay eggs on their own schedule.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated. I am very glad I found this web site and look forward to all the expert advice!
     
  2. ChickenTender63

    ChickenTender63 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 28, 2008
    Alamance, NC
    Welcome! There are plenty of folks on here that will lead you in the right direction shortly. I don't have a tractor, but it sounds like it should be plenty of room for them to be happy.

    Good luck to ya!

    CT
     
  3. derby

    derby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 18, 2008
    Boonsboro, MD
    Hi Kelli!

    Sounds like you have a nice tractor. Can you post a pciture?

    You can probably just keep them warm by stacking straw bales or hay bales around the outside. I have a friend who kept hers last winter in the MD mountains by just building a hut out of bales (no wood or anything else). In the spring, you can probably find something else useful to do with the straw.

    The roosts should be inside in the coop. Mine like to scrunch together, so about 12" per bird -- you need 36" of roost space. The roosts should preferably be flat boards, about 2", rather than round rungs.

    Welcome!

    Derby
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:My word, you must have one strong husband! That is one heck of a tractor size! [​IMG]

    Honestly, since it is basically a full-sized small coop that just happens to be light enough to drag around the yard, I doubt you'll have any problems with it over the winter. Might want to wrap the upwind and north sides of the 'run' part with plastic, and make sure the house part has sufficient ventilation but not drafts (especially not drafts near the roost), but I'd think you'd be in good shape.

    It's a PLENTY big enough tractor for 3 chickens, btw -- not too awful many people besides you and me give our chickens that much room, and they really do seem happier that way, so, <applause> [​IMG]

    My husband built roosts, but I think they are too small, as the chickens do not sit on them. I am ripping them out and plan on building a ladder style roost. Should I put them in the run part or in the coop part of the tractor? Or both? And how much roosting area should I have for the three birds?

    Three linear feet is ample; two feet would be sufficient. I'd put the roost in the coop not the run -- you want them roosting inside, not outside where a raccoon could reach through. Also indoors is warmer in winter, of course [​IMG]

    Have you any idea WHY they're not using the roost? It might be a good idea to try to narrow it down before building anything else. Can they get to it easily? (Don't count on them hopping up more than 18" or 2' unless they're motivated). Is it wide enough? (you'd want 2" minimum, 4" is better) Is it too cold or smooth? (needs to be wood, not metal or pvc) Or is it possible they just have never learned to roost? (To teach them, go out there after dusk every night and pick them up and manually put them on the roost -- after a little while, possibly even after the first day or two, they will start putting themselves to bed there, on their own).

    If you do find yourself rebuilding it, consider whether there's a way to incorporate a droppings board underneath, as they are wonderful for sanitation and (if scraped clean every morning) improve indoor air quality a good bit.

    BTW I would not personally bother with a ladder style roost for 3 chickens, unless one of them viciously hates another one of them.

    I have a way to heat the water, and am planning on hooking up a light to a temperature-controlled outlet set to come on below 45 degrees in the house part of the tractor.

    You really, really do not need that. They are FINE FINE FINE (buff orps especially!) well down into the twenties, even teens, even below that in many cases. As long as the indoor air remains dry and not humid. Also remember that chcikens put out a LOT of body heat, and especially if this is a half-height coop, the temperature inside is likely to stay considerably higher than the nightly low outside. Put a max-min thermometer in there at roost level so you can learn about how the temp behaves.

    Hope this helps some, have fun, and welcome to byc,

    Pat​
     
  5. KelliProvost

    KelliProvost New Egg

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    Oct 31, 2008
    Thanks everyone! Wow! Speedy replies! I will post a picture - it ain't the prettiest tractor, but it works. Pat, thanks for all the specific advice. It really helps. Can I asked what a droppings board is?

    The roosts he put in were round dowels, only about 1 inch wide. Too small! I plan on using 2 x 4s instead.
     
  6. lurky

    lurky Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2007
    Western MA
    Hi. Welcome to byc. I think a fixed coop is easier, but it probably depends on if you are going to end up like most of us. I was going to get 3.... But the feed store had a minimum order of 6.... So now I have 30. So you need to think about how outta control you might get [​IMG] chickens are addictive.... And we here at BYC are all bad influences [​IMG]
     

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