Chicken tractor for permanent home- Catawba or Garden Coop?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Momoflilgs, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Momoflilgs

    Momoflilgs In the Brooder

    Apr 5, 2011
    I'm looking for tractor plan advice... I can't build a permanent (fixed) structure to house our three pullets and had planned on building a Catawba tractor and move it daily to a new patch of lawn. I like the thoroughness and design of the Catawba but a google search yielded several comments that tractors are just a temporary space. I also found an interesting plan called The Garden Coop. (Sorry, I can't post the link.) I live in Colorado and plan to keep my chickens through the winter and need to keep that in mind, too. Does anyone use a tractor as their only chicken residence? Do you have a specific plan or design that you recommend? The chicks are in the brooder and we need to get to building! Thanks, Jo
  2. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    Personally, I would steer clear of any A frame design. I think the triangle area at the top makes for cramped quarters and makes it trickier than usual to place the vents where they won't leak water and/or allow for drafts in winter.

    I'm very familiar with the Garden Coop site and I really like the design of their stationary coop. However, their tractor is way too small in my opinion for 3 chickens. I still think you need to allow for at least 4 square feet per bird indoors (coop), plus 10 square feet per bird outdoors (run), and if you live somewhere that winters will make it likely that your chickens will spend more time indoors, you probably need to try to make the coop area even bigger, or design the run so that it stays clear of snow and is protected from wind. I use 6 mil plastic, stapled to the side of the run outside the wire, where we live....but we don't get much in the way of winter here.

    The problem, of course, is that a solid sided coop of this size, plus run, gets kinda heavy to be moved around the yard. And of course, you won't be able to move the coop around your yard at all during the winter months because of the snow, right?

    What I would do is build a Garden Coop, stationary model. I think it's easy to panelize the construction so that if you need to move, you can unscrew the panels and take the coop down to bring it along with you. Then I'd build a small, lightweight day tractor to give the chickens the benefit of fresh grass during the months of the year that there is grass for them to graze on.

    This is the arrangement I have (stationary coop/run with day tractor) and it works beautifully.
  3. Here are some not so great pictures but this is what my wife and I use for runs. It is a box with a wall and 2 runs with wheels that u can use chains to hold them up and roll it, now pics haven't been moved in a while but that was cause my wife was in hospital and i was geting lazy, now I keep the grass greener.




    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  4. Country Parson

    Country Parson Songster

    Oct 1, 2010
    Bellefontaine, OH
    The short answer to your question is this: yes you can use a portable chicken tractor as permanent housing.

    I have three chicken housing units: 1 traditional hen house building and 2 'hoop houses'. The first hoop house I built using 4ftx16ft cattle panels bent into a semi-circle. I then put chicken wire over this, since the openings in the cattle panel are quite large. I covered the entire thing with a heavy tarp and installed a sturdy door. One end is all sheet metal from an old barn, and the other is wood. It's too heavy to move by hand, but I can drag it with my garden tractor. I just leave it in place, and have kept chickens in it all winter.

    My other hoop house is made from 3/4inch pvc pipe and chicken wire. It is very light and is easily movable by hand. The downside is that any determined predator COULD get into it and I doubt it would handle a snow load.

    So, when designing your portable housing keep the following in mind:

    1. It is rugged enough to handle a Colorado snow load?
    2. Will it offer enough protection from cold/freezing winds?
    3. Will it comfortably house the number of chickens I want (the more chickens, the larger the structure, the larger the structure the less portable it will be).
    4. Is it light enough to move?
    5. It is heavy enough to keep out predators?

    I think you can find a successful scenario to accomplish your goals.
  5. Coach B

    Coach B In the Brooder

    Jan 14, 2010
    Marshall County, TN
    I have a 4'x 12' rectangular tractor with enclosed ends that I wintered 10 birds in without problems. Of course a Tennessee winter is different than a Colorado one. We did have temps near 0 and some snow on the ground for over a week without causing the birds any probs. I did shore up the enclosure a bit with some scrap plywood and a tarp during the worst of the winter storms and added some straw/hay for them to scratch in when the snow kept me from moving it for a couple of weeks.
  6. Momoflilgs

    Momoflilgs In the Brooder

    Apr 5, 2011
    Thank-you for your replies. I already purchased the Catawba plans and the lumber to make a 4' version before we purchased the three chicks. (We had planned on only one.) I decided to go ahead and build the short Catawba version since I have the lumber and I wanted the practice on the design. I hope to sell it on CL and recoup (ha, ha) the money and put towards a more appropriate three-chicken version. I would be thrilled to even make a few bucks considering the time I'm putting into it! I should have it finished tomorrow and I'll try to take pictures.

    I'm still debating if I'll go with the 8' Catawba because of points you have raised. It does seem small for three chickens. The interior area- including the space of the nests- is roughly 2'x7'6". The footprint of the base- I guess this is considered the run?- 4'x8'. And I have to keep in mind that this area is actually smaller when you consider the nature of the A-frame.

    I'm trying not to get hung up about the winter weather. Even if it snows, it usually melts within a day so I would still be able to move the structure a few times a week. I may design a portable coop now and then build a winter home later. I think I have Elmo to credit with that suggestion. I was trying to focus on a year-round solution but that might now be feasible. I may look into the hoop designs that Country Parson has used.

    I haven't been thinking too much about predators but did purchase the 1"x1" hardware cloth for the outside of the tractor. We live in a residential area but you never know. I was also thinking of adding 2"x 3" hardware cloth to the very bottom to discourage any animals digging underneath the tractor. I've read where this has been used by others.

    Thanks again for your suggestions and sharing your experiences with me. Now I just need to come up with a add for Craigslist to sell a one-chicken-sized tractor! Thanks, Jo
  7. DunCroft

    DunCroft Hatching

    Feb 5, 2011
    Happy Friday!
    Just wanted to let you know that I am very happy with my Catawba coop. I live in NE and have 3 Buff Orpingtons in it. The big thing that makes it wonderful is that I used plexiglass for one end of the upper part of the coop where a nest box would go, and made the other side the only nest box. In other words, I have only one nest box and the rest is roost space with the window. They LOVE looking out the window in the morning and at night. In the summer, I plan on taking out the plexiglass and putting in a heavy duty screen (doubled up hardware cloth). They have plenty of room up there. As a matter of fact, they still sleep like puppies, Three side by side with there heads looking out the window. They are about 5 1/2 months old.

    Its bigger than it looks, and they even go up there during the day and hang out and nap. I change the litter once a week. Its easy with the sides that come off. Takes 5 minutes to scoop out the old litter, put it in the compost, and spread out new shavings and Diatom. Earth. I lined the floor with linoleum tiles. Its super easy to clean. I wouldn't do the deep litter method with this coop because there is only 4-6 inches of room for pine shavings before it starts to hit there bottoms. The Buffs don't seem to like or need extra heat.

    Good luck with your new coop...which ever one you build.
  8. Merryment

    Merryment Chirping

    Jan 20, 2011
    I built the Catawba coop last year, and it's a dream to build. I would use plywood for the side doors, or even Hardie board, instead of the 1x6s, because those have warped and make the coop heavier. We move our all over the place, and this winter, we've move the ladies all over our veg garden so they could work in the 50 bags of leaves we took from the neighbors' curbs and add their little droppings of magic.

    We have 5 hens, and just made the coop 2 feet longer. They have lots of room. If you have more chickens than that, lookat something else. The are enough gaps & cracks that they have decent ventilation. Also, We put hardware cloth on one end of the run instead of boards, so the airflow through the run is better.

    Good luck
  9. Momoflilgs

    Momoflilgs In the Brooder

    Apr 5, 2011
    I'm almost done with my mini Catawba! I will sand it today and treat it with Boiled Linseed Oil. I suspect the original size would have been quicker to build since I spent a lot of time reconfiguring things for the smaller size.

    My husband wants me to go ahead and build the 8' Catawba for our three chickens. I love the idea about the plexiglass window and will definitely use that since I'll only need one nesting box.

    I was thinking of using fence slats for the siding because they are cheaper and seem straighter than the furring strips. I can't use them for the roof since they don't come long enough. I'd have to have seams if I did. On the mini, I used pine but the roof cap is treated. I think I'll do a linoleum floor for the next one.

    I really appreciate your suggestions and comments. I need to post a few more times in order to put up pictures!
  10. Chicosmom

    Chicosmom Hatching

    Apr 10, 2013
    Grand Junction, Co
    Hi! My name is Jana Burritt and my neighbors down the road are using Chicken Tractors as the primary residence of their chickens. They gave me 2 of their birds and lent one of their tractors until we can get one built. We are from Grand Junction. Hope this helps.

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