Coop runs - how does the yard fare with tractors?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by WadeMD, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. WadeMD

    WadeMD Chillin' With My Peeps

    154
    0
    109
    Dec 16, 2009
    near Frederick, MD
    I am in the planning stages for acquiring 6-8 hens this coming year. I am currently working on coop design (awesome place to find so many examples!) and am currently debating between a tractor with attached run/yard space VS a stationary henhouse with run.

    So my question, for those with experience:

    1- How long can you leave your tractor (eg, allow the birds to scratch in that area) in one place before the grass becomes too beat down to recover (what size in sqft and how many birds)?

    2- Do you find that you actually move it around enough to preserve your yard? If so, how often do you move it?

    3- Do you have problems with excessive weed growth after moving your tractor away (eg, nutrients from birds cause a sudden growth in weeds that outcompete the grass)?

    4- Are you having problems with your tractors that you didn't foresee?


    Thanks all! [​IMG]
     
  2. FaereChicken

    FaereChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    108
    0
    109
    Jan 1, 2009
    N. Central Maryland
    The tractor is heavy, and what with rainy weather, we don't move it often enough. Fortunately we're not overly concerned about grass, but if we were, it would be a stunning failure. They're down to dirt in about 4 days.

    Other than that, we like it!
     
  3. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

    601
    2
    121
    Aug 17, 2009
    Monroe, North Carolina
    I had a tractor years back that was too big and hard to move. I'm planning a little one -- the coop on wheels with a detachable run for in the spring.

    The chickens will pretty much take care of a lot of weeds and bugs, but if you don't move them often enough they'll scratch up EVERYTHING and leave bare ground. It doesn't take long, but it mostly depends on how many chickens on how much space, and what kind of ground you've got. They can turn clay into pavement in a few days.

    The run I'm planning will be stock panel covered with 2x4 weld wire. Stock panel is light and rigid, self supporting, so that fat old lazy me shouldn't have too much trouble moving it. The birds will be locked in the coop for the move.

    Look at the coops section on the home page. I've gotten a lot of ideas from there and this section of the index, and I've remade my plans several times over the last few months, so I think I'll have something pretty nice by spring.

    And, hey! [​IMG] You'll really like it here! I love it!
     
  4. WadeMD

    WadeMD Chillin' With My Peeps

    154
    0
    109
    Dec 16, 2009
    near Frederick, MD
    Thanks!

    Its funny... I'm in W/Central MD South of Frederick and just moved up here from central NC and look who answered me! [​IMG]

    I have spent all morning reviewing all of the blog posts associated with the coop competition, really excellent ideas. I'm really trying to get down to practical application though. The more I think about it, the more I want a stationary coop. But, that also means cleaning on a much more regular schedule to keep odors down. Its an issue of convincing the wife that having a stationary coop/shed looking building in the back is acceptable, but I think it might be easier overall (and safer, we're likely to have lots of 'coons, skunks, coyotes in the area). I do like the idea of a constant fertilizer source, but not the thought of turning the slightly sloping backyard into a mudslide.

    Anyone have practical experience in attempting the use of a tractor on a regular basis?
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    109
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:I don't know, never achieved "grass never recovering" even when I was *trying* for it [​IMG]

    My yard is rather clayey but decent soil, with a fairly good growth of grass. My tractor was 4x7' with 3 hens in it. I had to move it daily to prevent really-obvious damage to the lawn, and even then you could see a trail of diminishing 'chickened-ness' stretching out behind it; however, even when left in one place for a couple months, and the ground was long-since bare stomped earth and I was *sure* nothing would come back, a couple months later the only sign the tractor had been parked there was that the grass was somewhat darker green in that space [​IMG] I also left the tractor in one place for six weeks or so at the edge of the garden in an effort to clear new ground, which was a stunning failure as well (chickens soon were on nasty bare earth, but did they permanently kill the grass and weeds, NO!)

    2- Do you find that you actually move it around enough to preserve your yard? If so, how often do you move it?

    As per above, I had to move it daily to avoid conspicuous badly-chewed-pooed-and-stomped spots.

    3- Do you have problems with excessive weed growth after moving your tractor away (eg, nutrients from birds cause a sudden growth in weeds that outcompete the grass)?

    Nope.

    4- Are you having problems with your tractors that you didn't foresee?

    I ended up selling mine b/c it was more work than it was worth, and couldn't hold as many chickens as I wanted. I totally do believe tractors are good for some situations but I think their merits are often exaggerated as being more broadly-applicable than they really are.

    Another thing to remember is that they're much harder to manage in wintertime than a stationary and slightly-larger coop is, if you live somewhere that gets Real Winter.

    OTOH, you can knock together a tractor fairly inexpensively if you want, and then if you later decide to give it a permanent site or to go to a larger coop, you haven't really lost much if anything (can still be useful for quarantine, chicks, breeders, etc)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  6. BedHead

    BedHead Out Of The Brooder

    81
    0
    39
    Dec 17, 2009
    Alberta
    Hi! I also just joined up here in anticipation of getting some laying hens in the spring, and I am also debating on whether to have a tractor. I think I want a stationary coop but with a tractor that I can either move around the yard or leave right beside the coop. Have you seen anything like that in your research at all? I haven't gotten to looking at all the coop designs on here yet [​IMG]
     
  7. patman75

    patman75 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I saw a youtube video of 3 chickens turned a 4X8 patch of grass in a tractor down to dirt in 1 day.

    I move mine every day, once in a great while maybe 2 days. I have a 4X8 footprint with 4 chickens.

    I also added chicken wire to the bottom to prevent predators from digging under. And I had raccoons try and give up. By adding wire to the bottom it also prevent the chickens from tearing up the grass. I only use chicken wire on the bottom because the weight of the tractor and the wire keep the predators from getting thought it. Use welded wire or hardware cloth to keep you chickens safe. Chicken wire only holds back chickens and not predators.

    Wheels are a great idea. Those tractors get heavy quickly.

    It is hard to have a large feeder or watering can in a tractor so you will be feeding and watering them almost every day unless you get very creative with the food and water.

    Good luck!
     
  8. WadeMD

    WadeMD Chillin' With My Peeps

    154
    0
    109
    Dec 16, 2009
    near Frederick, MD
  9. StupidBird

    StupidBird Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,066
    13
    191
    Apr 8, 2009
    GA
    I have 5 standard sized hens in our tractor -
    Half a day: well battered, eaten, and pitted
    the usual 2 or 3 days: completely denuded except for privet (oops, didn't mean to park over that, its toxic), and practically tunneled out at all corners, pitted so much the block for the waterer tips over.
    Recovery time: don't count on it. I'm tilling the whole area next spring for a garden and orchard. If I get my way, the orchard get a nice chicken fence around it and the new coop. (more birds! better security and no more weekly scrubbing)
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    109
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Put it somewhere dry and well-drained, roof the run if possible (PROPERLY, supported enough to withstand even storm-sized snowload), and exercise fundamental common sense in hygeine, and there will be little or no smell (maybe a few flies). It is a lot less work IMHO than moving a tractor every day *plus* cleaning its house portion, ugh! Also remember you will end up with poo spread out all over your lawn, if you use the tractor.

    but not the thought of turning the slightly sloping backyard into a mudslide.

    That may be a bit of a consideration as well - tall tractors don't work well on sloping ground, so (depending on what kind of slope we're talking here) you might be restricted to a low type of tractor which is less space-efficient b/c you can't double up house portion AND some run underneath it. This is particularly an issue if you want 6-8 hens and want to overwinter them in the tractor in inland MD... you may find them real short of space and goodwill, and when chickens' goodwill towards each other runs out, bad things happen. If you do want to tractor that many, consider a 2-part system with a run that separates from the house portion to move it all, that lets you make them bigger, HOWEVER you would not want to be moving that sort of arrangement very often.

    Also moving a heavy tractor uphill can add an extra element of challenge [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by