Chicken tractor/cold climate

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sarahtar, Jan 27, 2009.

  1. sarahtar

    sarahtar New Egg

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    We are hoping to start with a few (3) chickens this spring and I obviously will need a home for them. I've read over and over to build/get something bigger than you think you'll need because you'll want to add more chickens, but I'm not particularly concerned about this, especially as I'm limited by city ordinance.

    I live in Iowa, so it gets pretty darn cold in the winter. (Last week, it was 30 below.) I need something portable, because the chickens will not be allowed to free range much (we have a neighborhood owl, as well as something that keeps eating pigeons and leaving us the feathers in a pile in the yard). Plus, city ordinance requires they be kept 25 ft away from neighbors.

    So I was thinking a small tractor (I was looking at Msbear 's design). But then I've read several threads on here suggesting that tractors are too hard to keep warm in the winter? Is this true?

    How do I combine my need for small and portable with my need for warm in the winter? Worst case scenario, I have a friend with a small acerage and a large flock who could probably overwinter my chickens for me, but I think I prefer to have something that will work out here.
     
  2. Vcomb

    Vcomb Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    Hello and Welcome!

    I live in Nebraska, so I know how your weather can be as it is also my weather. A good idea to start is the end you plan on enclosing with a roof use good thick plywood or planking for the wood. during the winter you can cover the wire part of the chicken tractor with clear plastic stapled down. It keeps heat in, helps warm them by trapping sunrays inside, and keeps the draft off of them. Chances are during winter you won't be moving the tractor around as much, so for added insulation you can shovel snow up against the sides half way on the sides the wind will hit the most.

    Right now I've got half a dozen pens that are 4' wide and 8' long with a single hen per pen. All that covers them is as follows: blue poly tarp draped over it, with a piece of corrugated sheet steel on the north side, with snow shoveled up against it. On the other side, short chunks of plywood which I move out of the way on sunny warm days for additional sunlight. They're doing great this winter.
     
  3. Tigerfeet

    Tigerfeet Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey there! I'm in Iowa too and I've been concerned about the same things.

    Originally I wanted an a-frame style of tractor, but on the advice of more experienced chicken-ers here I'm leaning more towards the design you posted. I think maybe the important thing is making sure there's ventilation.

    Looking at coop designs I think three chickens can happily live in a very small area, and my in-laws have a cart EXACTLY like that one. It's pretty good sized so I think for 2-4 birds it would be ok. Make some baffled holes up near the top for air to get through in the winter but up high so that it won't be blowing directly on the chickens.

    I'm thinking too about making removable, insulated panels in mine. I hadn't thought of the clear plastic though, that would be awesome added between the mesh and the panels that I'm thinking of! Kind of like make-shift weatherstripping.

    As far as wintertime goes I've already got a spot picked out where I would put the tractor. It's tucked in a corner of the house by my back porch and the wall so hopefully it won't be getting too much wind. I live in an old house and I know first-hand how the heavy Iowa winds can steal heat away!
     
  4. Vcomb

    Vcomb Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    a few pictures, I swear the birds are happy and healthy inside, but the plastic makes it nearly impossible to get a decent photo inside due to glare and white-out [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    pic of one of my triangle pens without tarps on. I put steamer trunk handles on the ends, its light enough for a person to drag or if you got a lil muscle lift it in the middle and carry it. very light with 2 people carrying it.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2009
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Tractors *are* hard to winterize, especially for really serious winter, without compromising significantly on one or more of {air quality, temperature, nondraftiness}. (The problem is that the indoor part of the tractor is such a very small air volume.)

    The ideal situation would be to have a permanent smallish-but-not-tiny coop in a shed or corner of the garage, or attached to a shed or garage lean-to style, in which the chickens could spend the winter. That way you can give them not just a larger floor area but a larger *air volume*, which makes management of air quality and temperature MUCH easier. You could use a tractor for summertime, or even just have a tractor type 'day pen' that you put them out in, in various parts of the yard, during the day but put them back in the permanent coop at night.

    If you *have* to keep them in a tractor over the winter you can probably do it with sufficient forethought and preparation, but it will NOT be pleasant for you nor the birds and is really not a very *good* arrangement if you can possibly at all avoid it.

    Pat
     
  6. lovemychix

    lovemychix Chillin' With My Peeps

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    2 new Iowegians. [​IMG] Where you guys at?

    If I were doing the tractor I would make sure to insulate it just to be safe. I have a lot of birds and it stays warmer because of the birds body temps. Only a few birds seem to get cold. Chickens can take cold temps, it's the drafts and wind that harm them.
     
  7. Tigerfeet

    Tigerfeet Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 2, 2009
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    I'm in Brooklyn (right in the middle between Iowa City & Des Moines)

    Pat - you're preaching to the devil in my head! This devil is telling me to go out and saw holes in my garage and build and inside-outside coop with little ramps and omg I DON'T have to saw holes in the garage it ALREADY HAS WINDOWS!

    See there look at what you went and did? Goodbye overgrown rosebush, hello chicken coop! My husband is going to be furious [​IMG]
     
  8. lovemychix

    lovemychix Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:You aren't too far from me. I have gotten chickens from a lady close to you. I was in Iowa City for the chicken show!
    Your husband mad. Mine doesn't know that I am in the process of making chicken diapers so my silkie can be inside. He's going to flip. [​IMG]
     
  9. willheveland

    willheveland Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've used this coop over winter for just a few birds.Can be moved fairly easy during good weather.In the wintertime I'd just raise it up a bit and put dried leaves from fall in the bottom.Put it up close to a building so it can get sun but out of wind.If you wanted could put up plastic panels on 1 or 2 sides.
    You didn't mention how many chickens you wanted. Will
    [​IMG]
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Why? It'll mean he doesn't have to prune the rosebush anymore <vbg> And if you can route the chickens out the garage window, which is quite sensible, nothing you do would be *permanent*, which should cheer him up some. Also if you put the coop inside the garage you may spend less b/c you can use 1-2 of the existing walls *and* it doesn't need as much paint and spiffiness as if it were sitting in the yard [​IMG]

    There, see, I'm helping [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat
     

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