Chicken Tractor or Chick-n-Barn

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by IrishM, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. IrishM

    IrishM Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 14, 2008
    Greetings Everybody!
    I just registered on the forum but have been reading and researching for some time. My wife and I are preparing to puchase 2 or 3 hens. I am in the process of finishing a fenced in courtyard garden in my yard and then will start with the chicken housing. Like many beginners, I have had a difficult time deciding what type of housing to purchase or build. I have looked into the Eglu (which I do not like), the Chick-N-Barn (which I think is too overpriced for what it is, but I like the design), and the typical chicken tractor. I have decent wood working skills but don't want to build from scratch (I need plans!). I am either going to recreate a better version of the Chick-N-Barn or build this tractor from the plans as found below:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/CHICKEN-TRACTOR...ryZ46532QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    There are several views of this tractor at the plan sellers youtube sight. Do any of you all see a problem with this design? Are there any disadvantages to a tractor design vs. a small barn & run coop? We have already spent a good deal of money making a nice fenced in area for our hens. I don't want to spend $600.00 for the Chick-n-Barn and run (even though my wife loves it). Would you all think this tractor would be a good coop for a beginner with 2-3 hens? Do you see any problems with it? The only thing I could see is that it does not have a secure door (at the coop entry). Which I think I could add fairly easily. Thank you all for your advice!

    ---IrishM
    Westerville, OH
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2008
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    No matter what the seller says, that tractor will be hard IMO to winterize into really *good* winter quarters for your hens. It has an extremely bare minimum of indoor space (as far as I can guesstimate, only about 4 sq ft, and because of the A-frame design not even all of that is fully useable by the hens!) configured in a way that will be hard to ventilate without drafts on the hens.

    Even if you cover it all with heavy plastic, that is just REALLY not much space for them to move around in if you ask me. Also it will be a giant pain to deal with in the snow in terms of getting in to clean, feed, collect eggs etcetera.

    Personally I would advocate building a regular ol' coop and run. For just 3 hens the coop can be small enough that you can relocate it if needed (without actually being a tractor per se). I would suggest something like a 4x4, 3-4' high coop, raised 2' off the ground, surrounded by the run or at least 'mostly' in the run if you know what I mean. Insulate it well (including ceiling and floor), with plywood or panelling covering the insultion so the chickens can't peck at it. Make plenty of ventilation slots (up high) in addition to a couple of windows, with weatherproof covers tht can close off vent slots as needed. (But ventilation is still quite important in winter, ESPECIALLY in a tiny coop).

    Is there a particular *reason* to use a tractor? Be aware that they have many drawbacks nad complications which are often left to people to find out on their own [​IMG]

    Have fun and welcome to BYC,

    Pat
     
  3. IrishM

    IrishM Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 14, 2008
    Thanks Pat! I am looking for information about the disadvantages of the tractor. I really like the looks of the Forsham Tractors and think I could probably build something comparable. I am just worried about giving the chickens enough space and a proper home. We do have fairly good winters here and I do have to worry about asthetics (neighbors) somewhat. Would a tractor that had the run enclosure underneath the housing be a better option? Or should I scrap the whole tractor idea and make my own small fixed coop design? I guess I assumed the tractor would be the way to go as they seem so popular. I don't worry about the grass getting destroyed. I know this will happen! If I copied the Forsham enclosure with the run underneath the coop and didn't plan on moving it (putting in bedding and ground cover) isn't this really then just an A-Frame fixed coop? I could also build something like the Chicken-N-Barn and run (which would give the hens more head room). If I make a fixed coop what would be best to floor the run with? Thanks for all of your input!

    Thanks!

    IrishM
    Westerville, OH
     
  4. kinnip

    kinnip Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2008
    Carrollton, GA
    I'm a n00b too, but I have been through this decision process. What I decided is to build a regular coop and run that's predator proof above and below ground and later add some tractors to run between the rows of my garden during the day. Part of the decision was based on the prevalent topography here. I have very uneven ground and a tractor would not sit well on most of the property.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:I will tell you what unadvertised idiosyncrasies I was not pleased to discover:

    -- you become a slave to the tractor, unless you are deliberately leaving it in one place for a good while to let the chickens seriously kill everything there. (Which btw does NOT necessarily do such a good job of preparing a seed bed as the books suggest, at least not on my clayey soil). Get distracted or busy for a day or two and you've got an ugly heavily-chickened rectangle to stare at for a couple weeks.

    -- in my case anyhow, I become a slave to the CHICKENS as well, b/c I feel so sorry for them shut up in their leetle indoor house (I have 2, formerly 3, in a tractor whose 'house' part is 4 x 2.5 x ~3'tall), with water in there but no food, that I feel I have to rush out there and let them out at the crack of dawn. In the winter when those hens are in their indoor pen, and with the big pen the other chickens are in now, they have lots of room, and both water and feed indoors, and I have no reservations about sleeping in [​IMG]

    -- they don't work well on lumpy dippy ground, b/c it is hard to predator-proof the gaps between frame and dip in ground.

    -- durable and seriously predator proof pretty much *requires* that the tractor be quite annoyingly heavy. I'm having shoulder problems right now, and despite wheels, it hurts to do the daily tractor move on mine (admittedly a redesign could probably strip a LITTLE weight off it, but not too much I think).

    -- they are not very good for winter use in Serious Winter climates, because the birds have relatively little indoor space, VERY little indoor air volume (so ammonia and dampness build up to problem levels much faster), and yet it is quite difficult to figure out how to ventilate them in the winter without having cold drafts blowing directly on the chickens which is not good for them either.

    -- This may sound odd, but I don't like that the chickens can't dig dusting holes in the ground. (They could if you left your tractor in one spot for a long time for them to semi-permanently kill the vegetation there, of course). I have more mite problems, and have to feed more grit, and I just sorta feel bad for them.

    -- The A-frame tractors really do not give as much indoor space as it might appear, because some of the floorspace is not very useable due to the slanting down walls and they often (not always) have big holes in the floor for a ramp going down. This is fine if you live in England and the chickens are out free-ranging all the time, but I live in Canada (with rain, heat and Winter) and too many predators to free range.

    'S the way it seems to me, anyhow.

    Would a tractor that had the run enclosure underneath the housing be a better option?

    I would suggest that if you really want a tractor, make one that is rectangular box-shaped not A-frame. Here is mine (but there are some design flaws that I would steer anyone away from...!)
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-tractor
    ...of course many other designs exist, some prolly better. Insulate it well, and consider some way to 'buffer' incoming ventilation air.

    Or should I scrap the whole tractor idea and make my own small fixed coop design?

    Well, just cuz tractors are popular doesn't mean they are necessarily the most functional thing for all climates [​IMG] A lot of people use them because they read it in a book and it sounded clever (that's why I did), or because for one reason or another they don't want to, or are not municipally allowed to, build a fixed structure.

    I think you and the chickens will be happier in the long run with a fixed coop, though, especially once there is two feet of snow out there [​IMG] I still would not recommend A-frame -- there is jsut too darn much wasted space (unless you separate off the top triangle and use it for storage space).

    There are lots and lots of 'cute' small coop designs, so you can make something as good or better-looking in a fixed coop as in a tractor. Make sure to contemplate what it will be like going out there every day in WINTERTIME, shovelling snow away from the door(s), and dealing with the inside of the coop to clean, feed, collect eggs, etc.

    JMHO of course.

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2008
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    I forgot your last question [​IMG] The simplest thing is to let the chickens devegetate a fixed run til it is bare earth, then dump a buncha sand, or small gravel, or even roadbase (mix of sand/gravel/dirt) in there. Looks tidy, doesn't get real smelly or mucky, and if the poo starts to accumulate too much you can remove it by raking.

    You will probably then want to chuck green tasty things in for them to eat. Mine like the weedings out of my garden, 'overflow' tomatoes, bolting lettuce, and kitchen scraps [​IMG]


    Pat
     
  7. SewingDiva

    SewingDiva Chillin' With My Peeps

    We went through a very simliar decision making process as yourselvs vis a vis chicken tractor vs. chicken coop, and in the end went with a coop for all of the reasons everyone has mentioned. In our case we bought the Playhouse Coop plans and my husband built it - you can see it in the back of this photo:

    [​IMG]

    Tractors do have their uses however, and folks who like to free range their meat birds use them a lot; meat birds being is a totally different culutral process than having laying hens.

    We live in Massachusetts, so winter weather was a big factor when we were deciding what type of coop to build. A tractor could easily be buried in snow during a bad New Enlgand winter!

    ~Phyllis
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2008
  8. Tuffoldhen

    Tuffoldhen Flock Mistress

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    I use two chicken tractors but only in the Spring thru Fall to either grow out new chicks or to keep the roosters in when I want them separated from the hens for a good while..... You have to work almost everyday keeping them cleaned up, putting pine shavings or sand in to keep them cleaner and not so smelly...and they can get smelly very quickly!!....

    I'd go with a small coop/henhouse design if I only had 3 or 4 birds...something that will be sturdier and warmer for them in winter...no drafts.....
     
  9. chickenclarence

    chickenclarence New Egg

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    In defence of tractors... I move mine every day... no smell. In summer I mix grass seed in with the scratch I feed so when the tractor is back in that same spot, in about two weeks, there is new tender grass.

    I skirt out the edges of the tractor with 10 to 12 inches of 1/2" hard ware cloth and weight that down with stones to keep predators at bay. The skirts are sometimes a pain when moving the tractor but my only loses have been in unskirted tractors.

    Mites became a problem in my stationary coop but I have found that mites don't seem to follow the hens once they are in the tractors.

    The tractors did a good job of weeding the garden when I planted with wide aisles, but my walk ways are much too narrow now for them to be in the garden.

    When the weather gets hot I move the tractors into the woods.

    In winter (I am in Michigan, zone 5), I line the tractors up on the edge of my garden and use "chipped" tree leaves for bedding. Come Spring I till it all under. I run extendsion cords to heat the water dishes when it gets really cold and I staple 6mil plastic over the wire. Sometimes the tractors do get buried under the snow, but a little shoveling keeps the doors and vents open.

    The only draw back in winter is the tractors are low to the ground and I some times have to get down on my knees to retrieve any eggs not layed in the nest. I have thought that I may put the tractors up on straw bales for the winter...

    The birds do leave holes in the yard, so I keep the tractors out of the areas where we walk and any areas that the Public may veiw.

    I vote for tractors if you have the room!

    ~:>
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008
  10. brookwoodpat

    brookwoodpat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 11, 2008
    I have the chick-n-barn and run and am thinking of turning it into a small tractor, by putting a wire frame on the bottom.

    However, if you have any woodworking skills, I think you will not want the chick-n-barn. I got it because I can put things together from a kit, but don't really have building skills, or sawing skills. however the chick-n-barn is very flimsy wood, and in wet weather the doors will bend when they are not in the tracts (such as during the day when they're open, and then you won't be able to get them shut again. The wire on the barn openings (screen doors and ventilation panels) needs to be covered again with hardware cloth. there is no floor, so you'll have to build one. You'll have to put latches on every opening, as there are no fastenings on any of the egg doors, or chicken doors, or lift up flaps on the barn. Also, I wonder how they expect chickens to stay in it in winter as the roost is positioned right below the ventilation vents, so in winter, the chickens heads and upper bodies will be right below the wind passing through -- they'll get frozen or at the least be in a draft. Ventilation is necessary, but I think drafts are dangerous for chickens.

    That being said, my chickens have been in the 'barn' for a month, and so far we've had no losses, though I have done my best to predator proof it. They don't stay in it during the day-- they free range. They only roost in it at night. If you decide the barn is still worth a try, (With some predator proofing and winterizign it will serve) You don't have to spend $600 for the chick-n-barn and run -- you can buy the barn alone for 299$ at critter-cages.com plus shipping. As for the chick-n-yard, it goes for 105 plus 30 shipping on ebay. But I'd build a run of your own, as you say you've already fenced in one anyway. The chick-n-yard is very small, and the mesh is one inch and so not raccoon proof -- you'd have to rewire it with hardware cloth anyway, and put a predator proof latch on it, so the only thing on the chick-n-yard that doesn't need completely redone is the frame, which is too small anyway. So you might as well not spend the $$ on it.

    I bought the barn because I really didn't want a fixed coop, I was afraid it would be a place where mice and rats would live under and I just didn't want that. I was hoping for one of those movable tractors (like the a frame ones) but they are ridiculously expensive for the materials involved, and hardly hold any hens. I've been looking at fixed coops, since I couldn't find a good tractor, and can't decide on one of those either. If you buy a shed, you have to put windows and ventilation in it, and if you buy a prefab coop (cedargrove makes some nice small ones for 500-1000$) and there is one other amish coop maker that makes chicken coop/houses they have good and bad points, but I haven't settled on one yet.

    I myself have ten 7-8 week old chicks, who free range all day and roost in the chick-n-barn at night ,(3 Red Star, 7 RIR) and five two week old chicks (2 black star, 2 americauna, 1 buff orp) in a wire pen during the day, who are brought in at night. Finding a coop large enough for 15 hens would be difficult, so I will probably sell some of them, though I've become fond of them. The RIR are very very friendly birds. I wish you luck, as I'm struggling with the same decision. I had no idea it was so impossible to find a good, reasonably priced coop.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008

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