Please help me with my chicken tractor!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by tcbosco1, May 29, 2008.

  1. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 Out Of The Brooder

    I'm new to the entire world of chickens (and forums), so please bear with me.

    I'd like to apolgize in advance if these questions are re-runs, but there was so much material to search through, I was unable to find specific answers to my questions!

    My husband and I are building a chicken tractor similar in design to the Forsham Cottage ark / Boughton design. It is a basic A frame design with the coop portion on top and a small run underneath.

    Here are my questions:

    1. How wide should the ramp be that allows the chickens access from the bottom run to the top portion?
    I'm thinking about 8". Will that be enough?

    2. How big should the opening be for the nest box?
    Again, I'm thinking about 8" x 8". Can chickens "squeeze" into tight spaces?

    3. Should the nest box be totally enclosed with a small opening, or is a separate area with a large opening sufficient?
    Looking at the Forsham/Boughton pix, it is very difficult to see what's going on in there!

    4. Keeping in mind that the ladies will be living in an "attic" space, how high should the roost be off the floor?
    It is kind of a tight space with a total of 19" at the max. It gets lower toward the sides due to the A frame shape. I do have plenty of length, however, at least 10" per bird. Would 5" above the floor be adequate?

    Thanks so much for any information you can provide! I look forward to hearing from anyone!
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Just as a comment, be aware that the number of chickens per ark that is given in the Forsham sales literature assumes that it's pretty much only going to be nighttime roosting quarters and the chickens will free range in the yard for most of the daylight hours most days. If you are going to keep the chickens IN the tractor you will need a lot fewer chickens (personally I'd recommend absolutely no less than 4 sq ft/hen of 'indoor' space and 6-10 sq ft/hen of 'pen' portion) and another (non A-frame) design might give you better 'bang foryour buck'.

    1. How wide should the ramp be that allows the chickens access from the bottom run to the top portion? I'm thinking about 8". Will that be enough?

    Should do, unless you have fatties like Orpingtons - I definitely would not go narrower, and a little wider would be nice. I'm thinking not so much ramp width per se as width of the opening they have to descend through.

    2. How big should the opening be for the nest box?
    Again, I'm thinking about 8" x 8". Can chickens "squeeze" into tight spaces?

    Er, they can if they have a really good reason, but personally I would not make the opening that small (is there a reason for those dimensions?). You want the nestbox to be something on the order of 12x12" minimum footprint (and an extra 2" here and there may spare you some accidentally pooey or broken eggs), and myself I would only close up the opening enough to have a 4-5" 'sill' to keep the bedding from getting kicked out.

    3. Should the nest box be totally enclosed with a small opening, or is a separate area with a large opening sufficient?

    I've done it both ways and not seen any difference, for whatever that's worth. As long as it is not right in the way of major traffic and has 3 sides and the top closed in, and the bedding is kept deep and fluffy and *clean*, my hens seem fine with "whatever".

    4. Keeping in mind that the ladies will be living in an "attic" space, how high should the roost be off the floor? It is kind of a tight space with a total of 19" at the max. It gets lower toward the sides due to the A frame shape. I do have plenty of length, however, at least 10" per bird. Would 5" above the floor be adequate?

    Yeah, here is part of where A-frames get really awkward. A fair bit along the edges is not really usable space, and there is hardly any headroom [​IMG]

    Nineteen inches is already getting towards 'tight' for roost space, and that's without an actual roost [​IMG] -- 5" above the floor would give you only 14" above it for roosting, and in fact less than that since they roost crosswise and the 14" will be over the middle of the hen's back not over her head, you know? I have about 16-18" (I forget) above the roost in my tractor and it is kinda tight... sure, when they hunch down to sleep they fit just fine, but walking along the roost to GET to where they want to sleep, or when they want to stand and stretch before getting down...

    You can do it, obviously, and it won't kill them, but I think you risk being reincarnated in a world where chickens design people housing and decide that a single (not even twin) bed is PLENTY big enough for anyone to sleep in [​IMG] If you're set on this design, you might think about more like 3-4" above the floor (remember there will be bedding, so you can't go too much lower than that and still have their butts stay out of their poo).

    Good luck and have fun,

    Pat​
     
  3. Oblio13

    Oblio13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    An 8" wide ramp is plenty.

    Yes, hens can squeeze into small spaces. They like dark, quiet nesting boxes. They're also less likely to peck eggs in them, because they don't eat in the dark.

    Here are some other specifications that I gathered from various sources and use when I build my coops and arks:

    Roosts 15" apart and 15" from wall.

    1 linear foot of roost per bird.

    1 nest box for every 4 hens, or a colony nest box 2'x4'x18"high.

    1 rooster per 10 hens.

    100 pounds of feed per bird per year, reduced by foraging and table scraps.

    5 square feet per hen of coop.

    100 square feet per hen of pasture.
     
  4. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks for the speedy responses. They're quite helpful.

    To put your mind at ease, I do plan on allowing them to range, either freely or in an attachable run.

    The ramp width is the same size as the opening for them to go through.

    There was absolutely no particular reason I specified 8" x 8" for the opening on the nest box (the nest area is at least 12" x 12" - haven't nailed it down yet, but there is plenty of room to spare), just a starting place, I guess. Based on your suggestion (and a closer look at the Forsham pics) I think I will leave it open, but with a sill.

    There will be flooring underneath the roost. Is it possible that they can just "hop" up to where they want to sleep instead of having to shimmy down the length of the roost? (You've got me worried about the afterlife!!)
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2008
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:That is a good point - that aspect of height above the roost would probably make less difference in your setup [​IMG]


    Pat
     

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