Chicken Tractor Predator Floor

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by GirlsMommy18, Mar 22, 2018.

  1. GirlsMommy18

    GirlsMommy18 Songster

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    I'm almost finished building my chicken tractor/coop, but I'm now trying to figure out the best way to put down a predator deterrent. I've got raccoons and possums in the neighborhood, and while they are well fed on trash, I wouldn't want them digging into the dirt floor tractor for a snack. I've got chicken wire left over from an earlier project is love to use, and the tractor has hardware cloth everywhere else.

    What is the best way to prevent predators getting in from under on a mobile coop?
     
    penny1960 likes this.
  2. penny1960

    penny1960 Going back to La La Land

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    more hardware cloth grasses will grow up into it they can peck but only thing safe that predators cannot reach through
     
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  3. GirlsMommy18

    GirlsMommy18 Songster

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    I take it that the hardware cloth should be the floor, correct? Or is there another way to keep predators out with it similar to a skirt for the tractor? Sorry, I'm kind of new to the whole tractor thing.

    My old ducks always were in a stationery coop, but the only way to get around permits this time around was making the chicken coop with wheels.
     
    MatthewsHomestead and penny1960 like this.
  4. squadleader

    squadleader Chirping

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    You don't want wire on the floor of a chicken tractor. No worries though, a simple wire skirt around the outside of the tractor solves the problem of a predator digging into the tractor.

    I don't know how big your tractor is, or whether you're moving it by hand, or pulling it with a vehicle.

    My tractor is big (8' x 16') and heavy (over 3,000 pounds) and I drag it 8 feet sideways every week to put it over fresh grass. I have 2x8 flat skids, wrapped in 60 mil PVC sheet roofing membrane.

    With a heavy drag chicken tractor like this, it's crucial to wrap the two side skids in plastic, this makes the skid very slick, and also creates a rounded edge that keeps the skid from digging into the ground during the weekly pull.

    It also allows me to pull in any direction, forward, backwards, or sideways.

    I'm using brute force to do this with a vehicle and can afford a very wide skirt, if you're moving it manually, you'll want an easier to handle, more narrow skirt. Mine is 50 inches wide, but two feet is probably enough.

    I use a cattle fence panel with half inch hardware cloth zip tied on top of it, but some members here recommend a single layer of 1 inch by 2 inch welded wire, which is thicker wire for the skirt, and will probably last longer than half inch hardware cloth since the skirt is in constant contact with the ground.

    On the body of the tractor you always want to use half inch hardware cloth because raccoons can reach through larger wire and hurt your chickens without even getting inside the tractor. However on skirts you can use the wire with slightly larger openings, like the 1"x2" welded wire because there's no risk of reaching in, it's just a matter of stopping them from being able to dig under the skids.

    As a tractor gets larger, it becomes almost a certainty that there will be gaps under the skids because of uneven ground, with some gaps big enough to stick your shoe under the skid.

    That's where a wider skirt really shines because it extends out from the tractor so far. It either completely closes the gap because the skirt is flexible, or the predator can't fathom he's got to move away from the tractor over four feet to search for a gap.

    I weight my skirt with a couple of cinder blocks on each corner, which you toss off when you move the tractor. Because my skirt is so strong, I discovered I can pull my tractor, without removing the cinder blocks.

    2018-02-03 14.19.32.jpg
    Pulling the tractor is as simple as dropping the pull chain over the trailer hitch and pulling the tractor 8 feet. It only takes a couple of minutes to do every week.
    2018-03-19 12.35.22.jpg Here you can see the a PVC wrapped flat skid, secured with screws and washers every six inches.
    2018-03-23 05.02.41.jpg
    I keep the skirt flat with a couple of cinder blocks on the each corner. I don't even have to move them to pull the tractor.

    I always keep the open end of the tractor facing south. It's a little hard to see in the photo, but I block off the east and west side open wire at the bottom of the tractor with clear plastic roofing panels, but only in the winter, the south face is never closed off, and we went down to minus 5 degrees this winter, with no problems with the chickens.
    2018-02-06 15.17.11.jpg
    This is the North end, during the winter I seal the open wire door with a clear roofing panel.
    2018-01-20 20.38.47.jpg
    Fresh grass floor every week.

    Again, I don't know how big a tractor you've got, but perhaps there's an idea or two here that might be useful to you.

    As you can see, I've gone to a lot of trouble to create this tractor, and it's a nice environment for the chickens, but I've really become a huge fan of free ranging, and my chickens are out all day, every day wandering around my yard.

    However, I'm still glad I went to the trouble of creating a nice tractor for them because there are still days they have to stay in. We had a day of solid rain followed by a very snowy day this week, and they didn't go out at all those days.

    I don't want them getting wet especially when it's cold. They've got food and water in the tractor, so that's a better spot for them on bad days, rather than huddled under my front porch with nothing to eat or drink, which is where they'd go, if I let them out in bad weather.

    Plus it is nice to know that if a predator problem arose that I couldn't handle (I've trapped and killed three raccoons this winter near the tractor) that prevented free ranging, I could retreat them back to the predator proof tractor.

    So it sounds like you've made a great choice, perhaps you can share more details of your setup and some photos.

    All of us are glad to offer our experience to help you avoid any of the mistakes we've made.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
    Ducklover2 likes this.
  5. GirlsMommy18

    GirlsMommy18 Songster

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    Your chicken tractor is amazing! That is huge and crazy impressive! I never realized how big a tractor could be.

    My tractor is 4x8 on 6 wheels. And it moves pretty easily by hand so far, but its not quite finished yet. I just bought more hardware cloth for the skirt. Thank you for clarifying where to place it, and especially that it still works as a skirt on a tractor!
     

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
  6. squadleader

    squadleader Chirping

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    Richmond, VA
    No problem, hardware cloth is great, just use it full width all around and toss a cinder block on each corner if you feel it needs it.

    The hardware cloth is light and shouldn't make the task of moving the tractor harder.

    I ran my shorter sides of hardware cloth out to match the width of the tractor and the side skirts. Then cut the side skirts so they overlap the the end skirts six inches or more. Then zip tie along the overlap.

    I used screw eyes into the wood at the base of the tractor, placed the wire into the eye, then took pliers and closed the eye.

    That creates a hinge, that allows you to raise the skirts, if you cut the zip ties at the corner overlaps.

    Now you've got a light skirt that you can probably just remove the cinder blocks from, and move the tractor without doing anything else to the skirt because it's so light.

    At this point you've got a complete perimeter skirt that should work very well. Be aware of gaps caused by uneven ground, and maybe have an extra cinder block handy for that possibility.
     

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