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Help! Tractor plan way too heavy!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Uzuri, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. Uzuri

    Uzuri Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2009
    OK, so I did my plans out, happily leaving enough space for each bird, especially inside. Looks nice, looks though.

    Then on a whim I do out the math -- 450 pounds! Yipes! That's not going to tractor anywhere without, well, a tractor.

    So what can I do to lighten this thing up, short of getting rid of chickens (I'm only getting 6 hens and a rooster, and mister rooster may not last long if he decides to have a particularly poor sense of timing)? That number was already probably too light of plywood sides for the house part to keep the coons out. My dad suggested corrugated metal, but I don't think that's going to be any better for keeping them out because it's difficult to secure. I was thinking maybe something *very* lightweight, like tarping or some sort of vinyl, for the sides that don't need doors in them, on the outside, and a layer of hardware wire, to protect the lightweight material. The door sides would probably still have to be wood, but we're talking a lot less here at that point.

    Thoughts? Experiences? I don't want to have to build a permanent building *and* a tractor, but mobile chickens is half the reason we're getting them at all.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  2. Chickenmaven

    Chickenmaven Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 6, 2009
    Michigan
    You will have to weigh your safety concerns against this mobility issue. How serious are your concerns about predators? Are you in a neighborhood or on the edge of the forest? Do you have a lawn tractor that could be used to pull the chicken tractor? Any plans for wheels? Also, you might consider making the house part detachable from the run part. Just a thought.

    This site has TONS of examples of tractors. Good luck. [​IMG]
     
  3. flopshot

    flopshot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 17, 2009
    do you have a sketch of the structure ? perhaps some of your framing could be downsized. the metal is going to be lighter that plywood and not hard to fasten to a wood frame. 450 pounds sure sounds either too large or overbuilt.
     
  4. aidenbaby

    aidenbaby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 10, 2009
    Lochbuie
    Maybe you could set up some wheels that come down when you need them and go back up when you don't.
     
  5. DarkWolf

    DarkWolf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 11, 2008
    Murray Kentucky
    I'd like to see a sketch as well.

    Anyway, if you're thinking of a LIGHT weight material that stands up to weather and whatnot, consider coroplast.

    It's in beer signs, political signs, heck.. Just about every sign is made out of it.

    They can be found just about anywhere. Ask your local gas station if they have any [corrugated plastic] that they're throwing away. Or for that matter try bars, or wait till the next local election.

    The stuff is great. Heavy weight [depending on the thickness] so it DOES add structural strength [using screws with washers] and it's light as can be. Plus the channels within, when sealed with silicon are their own insulator, much like double pain windows.
     
  6. Uzuri

    Uzuri Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2009
    Predators are definitely going to be a concern. The nitwit across the street feeds coons.

    I can put the sketch up this evening. I've got it as 12' x 4', with the "house" portion being 8' x 4' x 3' (2' on the downslope side of the roof) and raised above the run (so there's enough run for everyone). I could drop the house part to 7 x 4 and still have 4' per chicken, but that saves me almost nothing weight-wise. There will be wheels, but they're not on my sketch because I haven't figured out how best to put them on and still have the bottom flush with the ground. Temporary wheels are great, but you still have to be able to lift the tractor to get 'em on there [​IMG]

    I'm thinking I may need to go with two tractors and give the roo away.

    I'll definitely look up corrugated plastic.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It is EXCELLENT that you added it up before constructing; that is pretty rare. Many people wind up with stationary tractors [​IMG]

    If you could post plans (at least a sketch) it would be a lot easier to help get the weight down.

    Generic advice:

    -only use 2x4 for the part that touches the ground, use 2x2 for everything else. Just make sure you have it very well engineered, and you may want to use metal reinforcing braces at corners/joints.

    -don't use any plywood thicker than 1/2"; thinner is lighter but also a bit less thoroughly raccoon-proof. A metal or opaque plastic roof is a lighter weight option although would require insulation for winter use in colder climates.

    -If you use decent-gauge 1x1" welded wire mesh and metal corner braces, that will provide reasonable stability and probably obviate any need for wooden diagonal braces on the pen part. (try without, and see).

    -If necessary, build the house and pen parts as separate structures that 'dock' together when they get where they're going. There are a few extra hassles involved in this (need to block off open part of pen when moving it separately from house; need to ensure ground is level enough that they mate securely; need to latch together real well) but it is doable if you really want a *large*, many-birds tractor system, especially if it has to carry them through the winter.

    -also, making a reach-in sized house part, instead of walk-in sized as seems to be your plan, would save a lot of weight.

    An alternative, in terms of predatorproofing, would be to keep the tractor within a pen of (charged, obviously) poultry electronet. This is a considerable extra mgmt hassle (you have to keep the grass REAL REAL short, and move fence periodically to mow under it, also is not suitable for winter or for very windy areas, and if you don't have a charger it can get pretty spendy) but it WOULD allow you to have a much weeblier less-predatorproof tractor. (Not totally safe, but you could play the odds).

    For the scenario where the tractor is surrounded by electronet, coroplast (the corrugated-cardboard-like plastic signboard) would be ok for walls. BUT I WOULD NOT use that sign board stuff if there is ANY chance that a raccoon will be on the other side of it.

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2009
  8. Uzuri

    Uzuri Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2009
    I'm contemplating a dockable system. We'll see if I'm smart enough to figure that out [​IMG]

    Anyway, here's my current plan sketch. Hopefully it's legible. I'd figured it as 2" x 4" for the framing and 1/2" ply for the roof/walls of the "house"

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/uploads/25978_scan.jpg

    I just realized that I don't have the roost drawn on there -- figure it running the whole length of the house part, above the boxes. the roost is part of my problem, since to get it high enough to have them not roost on or in the nesting boxes of course makes my ceiling higher and therefore puts more material in the walls. Maybe I need a shorter tractor with a bell tower [​IMG]

    If anyone does a lot of carpentry and wants to rerun my numbers, that'd be great, too. It could be that I'm totally off. I suspect that I'm not, though.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Yeah, I think if you want something that big, it is *going* to be pretty heavy even if framed entirely with 2x2 (except on the ground) and with a metal or plastic roof. (although you might add it up that way and see if it gets enough better, weightwise. I would not hold my breath.)

    Two pieces that dock together sounds like the best way to go, to me.

    If you do not expect much in the way of daytime predators (if this will be in a reasonably dogproof fenced yard, for instance) you might even consider a pvc or cattle-panel hoop style tractor for the 'pen' half.

    You only need 2 nestboxes. If this will be summer-only use, or if you live in an area with fairly mild winters (sorry, I can't keep all these things straight in my head [​IMG]), you could put the nestboxes in the house part at floor level, on the theory that they can probably cope with the reduced floorspace. If this will be wintering chickens in a cold-nasty-winter climate, you might or might not want to take that chance, but if not, you could make the nest boxes floor-level but have them protrude out over the run, you know what I mean? Either of those things would maximize height of roost above boxes, and minimize roosting in boxes. Another alternative is to just build what's convenient and if they turn out to roost in boxes then just make sure to close the nestboxes at night and open first thing in the morning... a bit of a nuisance but sometimes life's like that [​IMG]

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  10. Uzuri

    Uzuri Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2009
    I'm hatching an idea for a two-piecer as we speak. I think I just about have it figured out in my mind [​IMG] A quick scribble and calculation gave me about 200 lbs for each side with what I'm thinking, which would be pretty easy for me to drag alone.

    The unfortunate thing around here is that we still have people who let their dogs run :p I'm beginning to think that the only way my chickens will survive is if I make them chain mail [​IMG]
     

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