Floor design the coop of a small urban chicken tractor

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by one09jason, May 6, 2011.

  1. one09jason

    one09jason New Egg

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    Hi All,

    I am building my first coop for a small flock of 3-4 laying hens, and I'm stuck on what type of floor to put in the coop.

    My design is a moveable tractor-type coop. It has a 4 x 8 footprint, and is mostly run with the top half of one end as an enclosed coop. I'm wondering what to do for a floor in the coop. I live in the northeast, so I was thinking of enclosed and insulated for the coop part, but I have been reading more and more on the benefits of open air coops. I wanted the tractor design in the first place so that the hens will poop on the ground, eliminating the need to maintain litter/shavings in the run. So I was thinking of building the coop portion so that it has no bottom, just walls, roof, and perches (and nesting boxes, of course).

    What do you think? Any opinions are appreciated.

    Cheers
     
  2. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Welcome to the forum!

    If you get a lot of snow, I think you'll find it becomes quite difficult to move a tractor frequently in the winter. People in northern climates tend to "park" their tractors in winter for that reason. So I think you will have to deal with manure management in a stationary run for at least part of the year. It's something to think about, anyway. I use sand in our stationary runs, and love it! I clean out the droppings with a reptile litter scoop taped to a long handle. And as an added benefit, the chickens love to dustbathe in it.

    I would not recommend you try an open floored coop unless your winters are quite mild. You do want adequate ventilation, but it's best when it's up high rather than down low. Here's the best discussion on that subject that I know of:


    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION
     
  3. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady Premium Member

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    You can see more and better photos on my website under "Housing" but here is my first tractor I built several years ago.

    [​IMG]

    Plywood floor with shavings. I can get you many more photos if you would like. Inside and out.
    Our winters are often down in the teens but this coop allows plenty of air circulation without drafts through considerable screw ups on my part. It actually worked out great. It has excellent ventilation and keeps the wind off of them.
    Our summers can get to 98* and the humidity at 100%. This tractor has been great no matter what size or breed or age I put in it.

    It is not insulated. Chickens have feathers and winter down. As long as they do not have drafts or get really wet they do fine.
    The plywood is 1/4 inch and it is in it's 4th year.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    As elmo says, remember that in the northeast it will only be a tractor for maybe half to 3/4 of the year -- the rest of the time (due to snow and/or mud) it WILL be a fixed coop and therefore require bedding and cleaning and all that, not to mention making a fierce mess in the run portion for you to deal with once you finally can move it [​IMG]

    Also, a wire floor in the northeast is going to give you chickens whose feet fall off from frostbite. You will need to make the floor of the house part solid starting at LEAST when the temps get down below freezing and honestly I think it would be best to do it in the low 40s F because cold breezes blowing up from below is not the kind of thing chickens are best-designed to withstand. This is totally different than big old-style open-front houses. It does NOT scale down that way, nor does it translate to open *floor* [​IMG]

    And you are likely to find that not only is a wire floor not quite as no- or low-maintenance as you might imagine (as well as being arguably bad for their feet), you may not actually WANT *that* much poo on your lawn [​IMG]

    If nothing else, I would suggest designing for flexibility so that you can adapt what you do according to how you feel about how things go, once you actually have chickens in your tractor over the course of the year.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. one09jason

    one09jason New Egg

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    May 6, 2011
    Quote:Hmmm.

    My coop design looks much like the one pictured above. So, either I have to put a door in the side (as in the above coop), or a door in the floor. Even if insulated, it's hard to imagine accumulating any warm air inside the coop with a permanently open door (say 12" x 14"). In winter, I imagine there would be less draft from a door in the floor than one in the side. So if the coop is not holding warm air because of a large hole in the floor, why not open up the whole floor? Instead of a floor, I would provide roosts instead.

    As far as venting goes, it seems like anhydrous ammonia would rise, but in humid weather, it would become saturated and heavier than air and fall through the open bottom of the coop.

    As far as insulation was concerned, I could provide a reflective barrier on the inside walls of the coop. That way, even though the birds would loose heat through convection, they would not loose heat through radiation to the walls and ceiling at least. And they would in theory, be out of the wind.

    Anyway, my logic may be failing somewhere, but those were my thoughts.
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    As far as venting goes, it seems like anhydrous ammonia would rise, but in humid weather, it would become saturated and heavier than air and fall through the open bottom of the coop.

    First, no, ammonia vapors in the real barnyard world are heavier than air thus tend to sink rather than rise. Second, ammonia is not much of a concern in most cases, certainly not in any management system that would be intelligent to use in a tiny coop like yours, compared to HUMIDITY.

    My coop design looks much like the one pictured above. So, either I have to put a door in the side (as in the above coop), or a door in the floor. Even if insulated, it's hard to imagine accumulating any warm air inside the coop with a permanently open door (say 12" x 14"). In winter, I imagine there would be less draft from a door in the floor than one in the side. So if the coop is not holding warm air because of a large hole in the floor, why not open up the whole floor? Instead of a floor, I would provide roosts instead.

    May I suggest that it don't work the way you think it do, at all.

    1) You are not going to accumulate any warm air in a tiny coop that is adequately ventilated, so just dismiss that idea right now. You need good ventilation. And in a small coop like that, you need to work hard to design it as unproblematically as possible (that is truthfully not a great setup for overwintering chickens in cold winter areas, although certainly it can be done)

    2) Plus, you would lose quite a lot more warm air with a large mesh floor than with a small popdoor-closed-at-night.

    3) A roost is not a substitute for a floor in any way shape or form whatsoever. You need both.

    4) Really, get some chickens and live with them for a year and you will see what I mean.

    I would suggest that rather than approaching this as a novel thought-exeriment, it would be wise to see what other people have found to work *and not work* in your type climate, even if you do not quite at the moment see why it should be that way. A better time to freelance around and try to optimize things is when you know how chickens actually "work" so to speak.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  7. one09jason

    one09jason New Egg

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    May 6, 2011
    Pat,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I had already read all your pages including the one on ventilation, which I found very useful. I've also spent a good amount of time looking at designs and reading the forums. I'm sure experience will be a good teacher. However, I'm still stuck with the task of designing and building the coop before I get to see how it will be used by adult birds.

    Quote:Precisely. I'm not going to accumulate warm air. So why does a coop need an enclosed floor? Also, wouldn't an open bottom good ventilation?

    Quote:Ok, what is a great setup?

    Quote:I wasn't suggesting mesh. I was suggesting no floor at all. Just some roosts and some nesting boxes.

    Quote:Why? This is the part I don't understand. If the inside of the coop is not going to be any warmer than outside, owing to the need for ventilation, then why does a coop need a floor?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2011

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