New tractor design questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jrossetti, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. jrossetti

    jrossetti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi there,

    So I need to build myself a tractor and i've been messing around with different designs and I've got some serious questions that I'd love your help with before I get started (just in case I need to make any modifications.

    I've got 3 chicks, they're just under 2 weeks old, so I've got a few weeks to work out all the kinks and get this thing built. 2 Speckled Sussex and 1 Welsummer.

    Anyways, I've been looking at the Garden Ark and reverse-engineered most of the design just based on the photos on their website. I really like this design, but I'm hung up on a couple of details.

    First, ventilation. I know it's important, even in the winter. I've read Patandchickens' Big Ol' VENTILATION Page, but I'm still not clear on some of this. I'm considering using clear corrugated PVC for the roof. I'm hoping this will solve both the ventilation and the lighting concerns. So my first question is this: will that be enough ventilation, or do I need more? My 'plan b' for additional ventilation is in the door, or by drilling some holes in the walls near the floorboards which can be plugged up if necessary. Also, what effect will this ventilation have in the winter? I suspect I'll need to plug up some, but not all, of the curves in the roofing to keep the heat in.

    Secondly, I want to ask about the sizes of things inside the henhouse. Let me briefly describe my tractor dimensions. It's virtually identical to the garden ark, here's a pic of my design so far (without the roof):

    [​IMG]

    It is 3' x 7'. The henhouse is 3'x3'. The nesting box is in the back corner, straight ahead from the door. The nesting box measures 12" wide, 12" deep and 14" tall, based on the recommendations in 'Chickens' book by Sue Weaver. Is this a good size? I ask because I feel like I'm cramming too much inside the henhouse, and there won't be enough room inside for the hens to move around comfortably. The roost is 6" off the floor, 10" away from the wall behind it, and has 18" of clearance above it. The roost is 11" away from the nesting box. Here's a pic:

    [​IMG]

    So, there isn't any room left over to put in a heater (I was thinking a 60 watt lightbulb under a terracotta pot), or water. I live in Salt Lake City, UT, and I think a heater might be required in the winters around here (It normally varies, gets to anywhere around 25-30F in mild winters and 15F-20F in bad winters) What do you suggest? Do I need to put water in the henhouse? (I could always put the heater-pot on top of the nesting box, there's no need to make it permanent, either). My plan B is to move the nesting box outside the henhouse, having it hang off the back wall like is the tradition with many chicken coops. I'm just not sure I have the skill to pull that off, but if I do this, that will virtually solve all of my space concerns.

    Thirdly, I've heard a ramp to the door is not required. Indeed, on the Garden Ark, they don't even have one, they have a perch outside the henhouse, but close enough that a hen can jump over. I am considering making the doorswing open downwards to rest on the edge of the perch, so the birds can jump up on the perch and make it in without having to navigate a tiny entrance with no exterior floor. What are your thoughts on ramps or steps? I could easily throw in some steps.

    Finally, I have a question concerning feeding. How do you all who have tractors handle feed/water/oystershell/grit? I figured I'd have 4 things hanging from the bottom of my henhouse, but that seems kind of ridiculous for 3 hens! Thoughts?

    Thanks for your help! I've been reading these forums and doing a lot of searching and reading posts trying to wrap my head around some of these concepts. It's kind of overwhelming trying to keep everything straight and still make a simple tractor design.
     
  2. missfitch

    missfitch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    nice diagrams, wish we had you at our house, we are constructing a new coop, but no plans were just winging it, lol
    ours is going to be 4 by 8 by 6 ft tall, I would love to know how to put it on wheels myself, anyways I love yours!!!! too cute
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    If you live in SLC and use clear plastic for the tractor roof, you'd better have plywood to put over it all spring/summer/fall or you will not HAVE a problem with wintering your chickens, they will long since have been roasted [​IMG]

    It may very well make the house part too hot *in winter* too. Seriously.

    Put the clear panels for lighting on the WALLS, and make them somewhat or completely openable for ventilation, and you will have all the benefits you want *plus* no roast chicken.

    Drilled holes don't really give much meaningful ventilation, compared to the amount you need (do the math, or look at my ventilation page where I've done it [​IMG])

    I don't know if you're planning on having a roof on the run part of the tractor, but if you are, one good way to do ventilation would be to have at least some vents at the top of that wall. Frankly for summertime I think that even with a totally opaque roof you will probably be best off with that WHOLE wall being mesh. You could have a panel to close the lower 3/4 or 4/5 up for wintertime.

    If it only gets down to the teens F where you are, and you have SS and Welsummers, you do not need to worry about "keeping in heat" as long as you are NOT also keeping in humidity. Trying to close things up tightish to keep out that very mild degree of coolth is just going to give you pathological humidity and thus unnecessary frostbite. Those are both pretty cold-hardy breeds. Worry about dry air, not temperature [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  4. jrossetti

    jrossetti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 12, 2009
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    Quote:Heh, thanks for pointing that out, I never would have guessed at that. I might check out the white corrugated PVC in that case, for the henhouse roof.

    Quote:So, for example, would hinged clear vinyl 'windows' be adequate? I've looked at all sorts of pre-contructed windows at my orange box, but I just can't find something I think will work well and is in my price range. And I'm not sure what I can do for windows besides some simple solution, since I've never done anything like this before.


    Quote:I am planning on having a roof over the run, just like ont he Garden Ark. Their design looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    And I'm planning to do the same thing. So what you're suggesting is making the INSIDE wall of the henhouse (the one with the door) out of mesh, correct? I think I really like that idea. This would also solve the light problem, I would dare to guess.

    Quote:Thanks for pointing that out. I wasn't aware that these were cold-hardy breeds (but then again, I'm new to all of this, and you're never to old to learn something useful!) So this really confirms my suspicions about condensation and humidity, then, and I will adjust my design accordingly. If I make that inner wall from mesh with a removable panel, and also counting the gaps in white corrugated roofing, would you suggest additional passive venting, or should that be enough?

    Thanks for your help!!
     
  5. jrossetti

    jrossetti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 12, 2009
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Quote:I'm using Google Sketchup to design everything. It's a handy tool. I will be adding wheels on one end of the skids. I found that the replacement lawn mower wheels at home depot are the cheapest at about $5-6 each, and should be more than sturdy enough to handle this tractor design, just bolt them on close enough to the end so that when you pick up the opposite end of the tractor, they'll touch ground and be able to roll, thanks to the angel cut in the bottom corner.

    Thanks for the compliment! I'll be taking plenty of pics as I go. This definitely won't be the prettiest thing, I'm all about function over beauty, but I'm sure it'll be passable [​IMG]
     
  6. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Something to think about...

    I made my coop 4' by 4', with an 8' by 4' run. Why? Stock lumber comes in 8 foot lengths, and plywood panels do, too. I don't dare use a power saw and I wanted to avoid the number of cuts I was going to need. Oh, and those corrugated plastic panels come in 8 foot lengths, two foot widths.

    Plus, bigger is better. Your chickens will appreciate the extra elbow...ehr.. wing room.
     
  7. MimiChick

    MimiChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My coop is similar to what you are building. It's called the playhouse coop and I made some adaptations - nest box on the outside to give the girls more inside room during bad weather, removable wheels and a much larger cleanout door. That cleanout door is, I think, the most important change in a small coop design. If you can, make your door the entire side of the coop - soooooo much easier to clean. You may also want to make sure you can get into the run eaisly (height). Sometimes it's the only place I can corral the girls for pest dusting, medicating, etc. I also raised the pop door and nest box to use the deep litter method. Something to think about with your design.
    Putting the nest box on the outside is easier than you might think. All you really have to do is screw 2x3s around the outside edges of your nest box, then screw the 2x3 part to the outside frame.
    One note - be careful with the tires. I got 8" tires from TSC ($7.99) and they just barely hold up enough to move the coop. I'm actually thinking about adding another set towards the middle, or going dually on the back. Check the weight rating for whatever tires you're going to get.
    Here's a pic of my coop, almost finished, just before moving it to the back yard. My girls are quite happy and safe and we're happy too.
    Good luck and have fun!
    [​IMG]
     
  8. billybob107

    billybob107 Out Of The Brooder

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    Looks nice, I am just curious, what program did you use to make the drawings, I am setting mine up in my head and would love a program like you used to make my life more simple...
     
  9. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 17, 2009
    Monroe, North Carolina
    Hey, jrossetti,

    Thank you thank you thank you! Your design looks almost like mine, with great ideas I'll be able to use! "Google sketchup" it's called? wow! I've been painstakingly doing mine on paper with a ruler and pencil and trying to figure out scale. [​IMG]

    The one difference I've decided on is that my coop will sit directly on the lawn mower wheels, and I'm using hog panel with weld wire for the pen. It's not called hog panel for nothing -- it will stop just about anything, and with a hardware wire apron it should be fairly secure. It's also very light. When I want to move house, I can lock up the girls, take down the pen, move the house, and set up again.

    I'm off to try the sketchup program! (thanks again!) stay tuned![​IMG]
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:You can buy premade windows if you somehow really want, but there is no need for that for a chicken coop, and frankly I do not think they would work all that well for a tractor.

    In your climate you can probably get away with no window "glass" at all for much of the year (just hardware cloth), then just make a plexiglass panel that hooks/bolts on over the opening if you ever want to close the window. This is really easy to do; if you look through the coop design pages you will see a number of examples of homemade windows that hinge or bolt on rather than being 'real' windows.

    In fact if you make the wall that's shared with the run all mesh, and the roof is white opaque and insulated underneath (peckproofed), then you could probably get along without any further openings in the tractor if you really wanted to. Tho IMO it would be real nice to provide for the possibility of a cross-breeze.

    If I make that inner wall from mesh with a removable panel, and also counting the gaps in white corrugated roofing, would you suggest additional passive venting, or should that be enough?

    Nope, I think you should be plenty good that way [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     

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