Chicken Tractor questions. With Pic's

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ADK_FARM, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. ADK_FARM

    ADK_FARM New Egg

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    Jul 25, 2008
    Thurman, NY
    I have been working on a chicken tractor and it is almost completed. But i have a few questions.

    1. I am worried about ventilation. I have drilled a few vent holes, but am not sure if this is enough. I live in the North East, so it usually stays cool at night, but not always. (See 2nd picture.)

    2. Do i need to put something for the girls to roost on in the box section? I was just going to put some hay in, but I think they would perfer a bar to roost on.

    3. I plan on locking the hens in at night. I don't have a window built into the box section so it will be very dark for them. Should i put a window in?

    Thanks,
    Mark

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  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Welcome to BYC [​IMG] Very tidy looking tractor! How many chickens is this for?

    To answer #1 and #3 at once, yes you most certainly do, both things. The simplest route is probably to combine them. Cut two window-type holes on opposite walls at the end of the 'house' where they do NOT roost. (This is the tricky part about making teeny little tractors - it can get extremely difficult to provide sufiicient ventilation without having it be a strong cold draft right *at* the chickens. This tractor is going to be exceedingly difficult to winterize comfortably - have you thought about building 'winter quarters' for them?). I have a similar-sized tractor (tho with a larger 'house' part) for 2, formerly 3, hens, with about 3 sq ft of ventilation, and I wouldn't want to go much of any less than that at *all*. You may need more, since it is such a small air volume in the house.

    So anyhow, cut your window holes. Cover the holes very securely with strongly-attached 1/2" or 1/4" hardwarecloth.

    Finally, frame out two small windows using plexiglas or the glass from secondhand pictureframes or something like that, and attach them as covers for the holes. SOme people hinge them, some have them sliding in tracks - it depends on your DIY preferences and on how much wind etc your site gets. Either way, you can have them either entirely open, or open just a crack, or on rainy/windy days you can close the upwind one, and on the first few very cold nights of fall (before moving the chickens to, I hope, other quarters for the winter) you can even shut the vent windows entirely.

    One thing that would help reduce the amount of ventilation you need would be to have some sort of droppings board type thing under the roost (but see below) that could have all the poo scraped off when you let the chickens out in the morning. This will remove almost 50% of their daily poo/ammonia/dampness output.

    The roost thing, though... I am not sure what your dimensions are there, but I am going to guess that the 'house' is no more than 18" high? You may have room for a VERY LOW roost bar, just to keep their bums up out of the poo, but certainly no more than that. You might put it crosswise at the end farthest from the door, and put less than normal bedding there so that you can clean that part of the floor out every a.m. like you would a droppings board?

    Two other bits of food for thought: 1) is there a way for you to get into the pen part of the tractor? You really will need to be able to, sometimes. And 2) the chickens are going to try to use the open pophole door as a ramp (that's a pretty big hop into a pretty small opening, otherwise) but they will slip and scare or hurt themselves on a smooth and unbraced surface as it seems to be now. If you want it to hinge down, it should probably be braced when open, and have a batten on its inside top edge (which will be the bottom upper edge when it is open) for them to use for traction. Or you might consider some of the alternative ways of doing the door, although you may still need to provide them with some sort of step or ramp as an aid to getting back in. Just a thought, because it's easier to tweak the construction BEFORE the chickens go in [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat
     
  3. ADK_FARM

    ADK_FARM New Egg

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    Jul 25, 2008
    Thurman, NY
    Thanks for the response. I appreciate your input/ideas.
    I will add a window, per your suggestion.
    I was planning on having 6 to 8 hens in the tractor. I have 27 hens in all. I have a coop in our barn that all of the chickens will winter in. The tractor will only be used in warmer months and stored in the barn in the winter. I think i will add a roost for them, and as for the door, i think you are right and I will modify it.
    Thanks again.
    I have to say that this forum is wonderful. Just such a great resource.

    Mark
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:May I ask what the size of the tractor is? (the whole thing, and the house part)

    Have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. ADK_FARM

    ADK_FARM New Egg

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    Jul 25, 2008
    Thurman, NY
    It is 10'Lx4'Wx3'H. The house is approx 4' x 30" x20"H. What do you think about number of chickens?
    -Mark
     
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    May 8, 2007
    Wisconsin
    For a ramp, it would be very easy to add a cross brace at the bottom of the frame, about in the middle of the tractor. A ramp could then be attached between that and the little door opening. The door could be left to open down onto the ramp or changed to open to the side, as you wished.

    You'll probably need to give some thought to preventing rain from coming in and soaking the bedding, if you start putting vents on the walls that don't have a roof overhang. I noticed that you already thought of this and protected your existing vents with a roof overhang. If you use the area with the existing vent holes, you could just enlarge them into a couple of wide slots. To get cross ventilation, I would add a ventilation opening on the back, but protect it in some way from rain coming in.

    Adding ventilation on each end as an alternative would work great. They would just need some protection from the rain, also.
     
  7. chicken_angler

    chicken_angler Coop Constructist

    Jun 23, 2008
    a house
    I think you might want a few less hens than 6 or 8. It looks a little bit small for that many so I would put about 3. No more than 4 or 5.
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Honestly, to me that sounds like an *awful* lot of chickens for that size structure. It is the same as my tractor except that your pen part is 3 ft longer and my 'house' part has the same footprint but is twice as tall, and I would not consider putting more than 4 in mine *absolute tops* (even just 3 got rather crowded in some ways). (My tractor page is https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-tractor if you're curious)

    If you prefer to view it from a numbers perspective, if you have 8 chickens in there, and add together their indoors and outdoors space, each chicken will have only a little over 6 square feet of space TOTAL (indoors plus out), and only a smidge over 1 square foot indoor space. That's really pretty cramped. Anticipate the likelihood of problems. (Also, they will devastate the area the tractor is on within half a day, so while this would be ok if you don't mind them sitting on a bare dirt patch, it would not work very well if you want to preserve lawn [​IMG])

    At the very least you will need WAY WAY WAY more ventilation, with that many chickens pooing (and heating the house up) in such a very small space. Even if you only had, like, 4-6 chickens in there.

    Quote:This would be ok for warm-evenings summertime, but this fall when you have cold nights, you're likely to run into a problem with a cold breeze aimed right at the chickens. (This is why very small, especially very small *and low*, coops are so difficult to ventilate properly).

    OTOH if you want to put more than like 2-3 chickens in there, you will pretty much *have* to have ventilation breezes aimed right at the chickens, simply b/c there isn't going to be much of any floorspace *not* occupied by chickens [​IMG] It might be best to regard this as a VERY warm weather tractor, put a LOT of ventilation in on 3 or 4 walls (b/c of the high chicken population) but make sure it is hooded by a roof overhang or window that hinges at the top or louvers or any other arrangement. And then just put them in their winter digs when you start getting nights in the low 40s or 30s (F).

    Also, as WoodlandWoman says, with 6-8 chickens you will probably want to put plywood or a tarp on top of at least part of the roof, to provide shade on sunny days and as well as somewhere to get in out of the rain since the 'house' is so tiny.

    Good luck,

    Pat
     

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