New chicken tractor, opinions needed! (4 pics) Ventilation, etc.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by justcelia, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. justcelia

    justcelia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 24, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Just (almost) finished our chicken tractor.
    I would like some sugestions/opinions.
    The tractor is 4' X 6' and 4 1/2' high. This is home to 2 Brahma pullets (5+mo.) They free range during the day (double lot with 6' privacy fence).
    We are in SE Michigan. The back and 2 ends are covered with thick plastic.
    The coop area is 4' wide X 2 1/2' deep and 2 1/2' tall and an attached 1' X 2' nest box.
    The roof is translucent corrigated plastic. The coop has a "drop ceiling" that is insulated and the back wall is insulated as well.
    There are two 6" X 4" vents at the top of the coop (with hardware cloth then wood 1" out to prevent drafts) plus the 1'X1' door to the run area.
    The roost is a 1 X 3" one foot high running cross-wise. (so far, they prefer to sleep on the floor of the coop)
    Bedding is a thin layer of DE then pine shavings then straw.
    Please let me know what you think. I want them as healthy and happy as possible.
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    Thank you for your help!!
    Celia
    New Chicken lover! 2 Brahma hens!
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    What is that white stuff on the straw? Can air vent out at the peaks of the corrugated plastic? Where exactly are the vents? Will the doorway to the run be open all the time?
     
  3. justcelia

    justcelia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    SE Michigan
    The white stuff was DE. I spread it around more.
    The vents are the top 4" of the coop. they are covered by wood at the top, but held open at the bottom (angeled)so air can come in but not be windy.
    They run the 2 1/2' length and the 4' length. It stays dry and not smelly in there so far. I know humidily is the cause for frostbite.
    The big door is closed at night. The chicken door stays open and the coop door is just so I can clean in there.

    Celia
     
  4. justcelia

    justcelia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 24, 2010
    SE Michigan
    The last pic shows the vents.
    sorry.

    Celia
     
  5. chickerdoodle

    chickerdoodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 21, 2009
    Oregon
    Cute tractor! [​IMG]

    You thought of many things for your girls. However, the first thing I noticed is that predators can easily dig under your tractor and there is no secure door to close at night where they sleep. Many predators can dig well and they would be easy prey. You can add a 12" "skirt" of hardware cloth on the outside of the tractor bottom to help avoid that.

    Another is whether or not they have enough space over the roost to jump up and stand normally. Chickens like to do that before they settle down and sleep. You should have at least 16 inches above the roost so you can check with a ruler and then you'll know if its OK. If its not enough "head room" then lower the roost until there is. You can even move the roost to a straight position as long as you have it at least 2 feet long--they only need 1 foot of roost length per adult hen. If it is enough space then you may have to slip the girls onto to the roost at night after dark for a few nights in a row until they do it themselves.

    Brahmas are wonderful, friendly chickens--you will enjoy them so much!
     
  6. kla37

    kla37 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    LOVE the paint job! It's so pretty! [​IMG]
     
  7. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    South Georgia
    My concern is still ventilation, but maybe because I am used to such a different setup, it really is enough. What concerns me is it looks like there is not a large enough space that humid air can go up -- it will be warmer air and thus rise, of course -- I can't tell that it won't be deflected back in, but maybe I'm all wet.

    I would also be more sparing with the DE -- that is what I was afraid it was. It is harmful to lungs when inhaled (yours and theirs.) Actually, you should wear a mask when handling it, and use it quite sparingly where they will scratch.

    I hope we haven't discouraged you with all these comments -- you put a lot of work and thought into that coop, and I imagine your chickens will be quite happy in there!
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Hi, cute coop, that is actually more-plausible for wintering-over a couple hens in MI than a lot of tractors that people have shown on BYC for that purpose [​IMG] Tractors are not great for northern winters, to say the least, but this is a pretty ok design IMO, for 2 hens anyhow [​IMG]

    That is a WHOLE HUGE LOT of DE... I would seriously recommend cutting down to one tenth of it, if *that*. At least don't add more!! And I think once you are using it you will quickly decide to switch to either all straw or all shavings (shavings being easier to maintain and more useful for birds to snuggle down into in the cold, esp. where you don't have room for a really deep depth of it) because the mixture is kind of a pointless complication and will be harder to clean out than just one or the other.

    It looks (although I could be wrong) like there are gaps in the insulation under your roof. You will seriously want to patch those, or you will have condensation/frost/humdity problems in the coop. If you want light to be still coming through -- although I don't know whether that's really gonna work too well for you in the long run, you've *got* the clear roof so I figure there's probably a reason <g> -- then I would suggest using several, like 2-4, thicknesses of bubblewrap, all the way across the whole "ceiling". Ideally underneath the insulation panels but you may need to put the bubblewrap on top instead (if space allows) to prevent sagging and pecking. The bubblewrap needs to be 100% continuous and reasonably well sealed at the edges, because it needs to act as a vapor barrier.

    I presume you have some plans for keeping the water from freezing in the winter, or are going to bring them fresh (liquid) water a coupla times a day as required?

    Think about where you could fit an indoor feeder into some corner of the coop, even if you have to use a wall-mount rabbit feeder or homemake something. If you leave your feed out in the 'run' part of the tractor over winter, a) it will get damp and freeze solid, and b) you will attract every mouse within a quarter mile and have a mouse population explosion.

    The suggestion in an above post about making a 'skirt' to discourage things from digging into the tractor is a good one -- since it will be parked for most/all of the winter, you don't even necessarily need to do anything real fancy, you could even just *lay* the edge of the tractor frame onto the mesh and peg its free edges down. Yes, eventually the ground will freeze hard enough to be digproof all by itself, but that will not be for a while.

    You will most likely want to put some dead leaves or straw or something into the run portion, once the ground is cold and frozen, so the hens are not barefoot on frozen bare ground. This may need to be added to as it gets yucky, and possibly even removed and replaced with fresh stuff if it gets real nasty in a thaw (although having a roof on your tractor certainly helps).

    It is not clear to me from the pics, how much of the tractor will be covered in plastic? Make sure you leave a good amount open, like maybe half of one side, for ventilation.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  9. justcelia

    justcelia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 24, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Thank you all so very much!
    I will add the skirt to keep preditors out and cut down on the DE.
    I will also figure out a way to close in the top better.
    The plastic wrap covers all of the tractor except the front (41/2 X 6' and includes the coop part).

    The lady I got the girls from say their sisters don't roost, they prefer to "cuddle" on the floor. (there is 1 1/2' above the roost).
    The water I will change daily. The tractor will be right outside my back door, in an "L" crated by our house and garage. They are further away for now, we are supposed to have about a week of "decent" weather. (fingers crossed)

    I hadn't thought of rats going for the feed. I had a small feeder in the coop area but they just never used it.
    The painting was suspended due to cold. (my cold hands!) I hope to have a warm-ish morning so I can paint and let it dry while the girls are out playing with the dog. (They actually seem to be enjoying each other!)

    How do I know when I have "enough" ventilation? I don't want my girls to get frost bit!

    Thank you again. I am really glad I found BYC!!!
    I also wanted to let ya'll know that all of this tractor, except the roof, was reclaimed/free stuff! (and NOTHING was square! LOL!)

    Celia
    Learnin' a LOT!
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    South Georgia
    Good for you for using free stuff. I'm a great believer in general scrounging.

    Patandchickens has a good writeup on ventilation which I will link for you. I can't answer your question about whether you have enough -- but hopefully you will be able to judge well for yourself, between her post here and her ventilation page: https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2010

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