Coop/Tractor ideas needed for newbie in cold WI

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chickiee, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. Chickiee

    Chickiee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi and Happy Valentine's Day!
    I'm just going to throw this all on the table since we really don't know where to start for a coop. We just moved here in WI last fall. We're expecting 8 chicks later next month for fresh eggs, maybe adding a few more chickens next year if we're having fun with it. We like the idea of a chicken tractor and would utilize approximately 1 acre (of the 5.25 acre lot) to move the tractor around. Winters here can get bitter cold. Our lot is next to approximately 40 acres of woods and fields... we do see deer and hawks often, and hear coyotes periodically in our yard at night so predators are an obvious concern. I have reviewed numerous wonderful coops on this website and people have great ideas. I've also been reading some books, but I need to "talk" to other chicken folks to get to the bottom of some of these questions...

    1. Do people in WI use chicken tractors? It seems that it would work much better in a warmer climate. Would anyone recommend against a tractor for any reason?

    2. Many chicken tractors are for a handful of chickens. It seems that once you get to "8 chickens" a tractor seems too big? Can you have a tractor for 8 (maybe expanding to more next year?) chickens without it being too big to move around? Or, is this just too many to feasibly have in a tractor. We don't want to be moving a barn around the yard. ;)

    3. It seems if you have a wire floor for the tractor, then what's stopping the predators from giving it 110% every night to get the chickens? I just don't understand how a chicken tractor can be SO predator proof with this type floor, unless I'm completely missing something here. Tractor = mesh wire floor, right? I mean, how can you have a tractor without a mesh floor?

    4. If you have a tractor, do you have a small outdoor run that's attached to the tractor? Seems pretty safe, but a pain to move around. Or, just a large fenced area that you move the tractor within? Seems like a lot of fencing for this idea.

    5. If the nest boxes (thinking 3) are attached on the outside of the coop where you lift up a little door for easy access to eggs. Then, do you need to worry about the eggs getting too cold when the temps drop outside?

    6. Back to flooring... in winter we would need to attach a bottom to the tractor so they don't get cold. Any recommendations on how to do this?

    7. Ventilation... are the some basic rules for ventilation? How does the ventilation work in winter when you don't want to cold air drafts?

    8. Do you need to have somewhere inside the coop for the chickens to dust bathe in winter? I would think so. Does it get messy? How much extra space to you allow for the bathing area?

    9. What is your favorite material for roofing? Seems everyone uses different stuff, but I'm looking for specifically what seems to work well in WI.

    10. Any other ideas specifically for WI area?

    Thank you all so much!
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
  2. cassidy22

    cassidy22 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2011
    Front Range - Colorado
    I don't have answers for all your questions, but maybe for some.

    Chicken "tractors" come in many sizes. It depends on how you want to move it. If you need one person to move it, you might need more than one tractor for the number of chickens you are using. We currently have our mobile coop installed on the back of an old engine-less pick up, that we move around by towing it with our actual pick up. (no, we are not just backyard chicken farmers) Our coop holds hundreds of chickens, and it is basically only used by them at night when they are sleeping, and in the nesting boxes when they are laying.

    Basically, you are looking for someplace SAFE your birds can go at night, when most predators are likely to attack. It does NOT require a mesh bottom. But without one, you need to ensure access so you can clean it. They do get much messier in the winter, when chickens will spend more time in them.

    We actually park our truck for the winter in a location that has access to electricity, so we can hook up a heated water base for winter. Besides, we can't move our chicken truck, or even a small mobile chicken tractor easily in the snow. The the mobile part is for when the ground is clear of snow.

    You don't HAVE to have an enclosed space for your birds, but if you want one to keep them contained or protect them, you will need a way to move it. I've seen lots of designed that have nice enclosures that are moveable, some being the area UNDER the coop itself.

    As for predators getting in, anything up off the ground makes it a little more difficult. If you use wire mesh, it should be hardware cloth. A predator can rip right through chicken wire like it's nothing, and other things, like rabbit fence have too big of openings and critters can get their paws through. They might not get a chicken out, but they can do damage and kill it. If the coop puts the birds up above ground a few feet at night, it sure helps, and making sure everything closes, seals and LATCHES is key. Having a guard dog around doesn't hurt, either, which is really the only way we protect all our animals.

    My birds don't get a special dust bath area in winter. Their feet can get pretty muddy sometimes tromping through melting snow. I make sure to clean their coop and put in fresh bedding for them, but I can't always provide a clean dirt/sand for them to bathe in. They survive without it until spring time.

    As for roofing, you need something that can handle a snow load. We have a coop that has a standard shingle roof. We have a coop that uses corragated plastic sheeting so that the chickens get light inside, even on cold days when they don't want to go out. We've had chicken pens that used corragated steel sheeting to provide shade in the summer, and slough off the snow in winter. As long as it can handle rain, snow, and whatever wind load you might have, the rest just depends on how attractive you want your coop to be. Chickens can stay pretty darn warm, if their coop closes up at night, and seals well, and the birds can perch properly. The rest of the design is really about what materials are available to you and how much you want to spend beyond functional to make it pretty.
  3. Chickiee

    Chickiee Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is really helpful! Thank you!

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