Portable coops and other novice questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jennylin, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. jennylin

    jennylin Hatching

    Oct 24, 2008
    Okay, I found this site doing a search for "chicken tractors". I'm very intrigued by the idea of raising most of my own food given the hormones and chemicals in everything and that at 6, 2 and 1 my children can plow through four gallons of milk a week. I think I have the milk thing solved and moved on to the dozen and a half eggs they are consuming. SO -

    I grew up on a farm and as a little girl we had chickens. One winter all their feet froze off and my father got rid of them. It scarred me for life. In the hope of not having another picture of little feetless chicken-cicles stuck in my mind, I need advice. I want to start really small, especially since my city raised dh's response to "chicken's are a lot of work" was, "you pick up the eggs, what's the big deal". He doesn't seem to grasp the difference between an Easter egg hunt and raising chickens - Anyway, I need two things:

    1. Can anyone recommend a design for a small (very small) moveable chicken coop that could survive some winter conditions. I live in central Illinois. We only have an acre in a very small town so I don't want to destroy part of my yard. (Checked the village ordinances - plus, I can hear someone's rooster crowing - so I think we're okay.)

    2. How do you raise chickens to eat? Do you raise them from eggs? And then don't you need a rooster? How much does it cost to "feed out" a chicken? (We were a cow and pig farm after the feetless disaster. I can still see those poor chickens flapping around.)

    Basically, I have no clue what I'm doing. I've been lurking here for awhile and decided to just ask and see what responses I get. I really want to eat "real" chicken and "real" eggs. I also want my kids to have good things to eat. I grow a garden each year, but haven't gotten into composting. Once again, no clue where to start and that isn't something we did years ago. Anyone who could recommend a book, that might be good. I learned about everything else from books. [​IMG]

    Thanks in advance! And I particularly loved the thread on killing the chickens. Weirdly, it was hysterically funny. I could just see myself trying to stuff the head of a chicken into a traffic cone. [​IMG]
  2. AtRendeAcres

    AtRendeAcres Songster

    May 23, 2007
    Clarion County

    If you go to coop design there is a section on tractors!
    You can raise chickens for eggs & you don't need a rooster!

    Chickens for meat you can buy cornish is just a meat chicken
    you can raise a dual purpose breed that will do both give you eggs & meat you can read more about this in the meat chickens link were some alot of people are talking about different breeds!

    I raise both I keep my extra roosters or cornish in something like this ((scroll down few post to view jaku's second tractor))

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 24, 2008
  3. Omran

    Omran Songster

    Jul 26, 2008
    Bagdad KY
    Welcome to BYC:it is always nice to have new members here.

    Personally I will make sure how many chickens I like to raise before building any structure (you need4 sf per chicken) and if you are planing on raising x Cornish for meat then you have to buy a minimum of 25 chicks,and they have to have thier space to grow up happy too.

    The best thing about BYC for me was that I got so many good informations, that helped me deciding the size of my coop and I am so glad to have a good size coop now because chicken are addected, you start up with few and every other day you think about getting more.

    I wish youthe best luck
  4. dixiechick

    dixiechick Songster


    Welcome aboard....I agree with previous poster....get your birds first and then look at building tractors. Chickens are like potato chips, you'll end up with more than you thought you wanted!!! We've had our flock for a year now and I am still evolving our flock....add more and different kinds....

    It's a wonderful obsession! [​IMG]
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Quote:The Chicken Coop Designs page IS a very good place to start. My most recent coop was made to be movable - in the back of a truck. After over 10 years, I haven't moved it a foot. But, this Winter, I intend to build a small (big enuf for 3 or 4 hens) hand movable coop.

    It should be quite a bit like a doghouse with legs [​IMG]. The front door will be for me and a small back chicken door will be for the . . . uh, chickens. The area under the house will be enclosed with wire netting and extend several more feet for an outdoor pen. My birds free range about the backyard often during the good weather but this will give them access to the lawn during the time they need to be enclosed.

    . . . 2. How do you raise chickens to eat? . . .

    After quite a few go-rounds with meat birds, I've pretty much given up on this. The most recent effort was with Light Brahmas and after spending way over $6/bird on feed, I quit counting the $$ I was putting into them. That was in 2006.

    Raising Cornish X's wasn't very much fun but they are much more economical than any other breed that I tried. I was noticing recently on BYC that about $6/bird seemed to be an accepted figure for getting them to the size for the table.

    . . . Do you raise them from eggs? . . .

    I certainly do and have many times. It is fun having the adult hens around and it makes a good deal of economic sense to me. A dressed meat chicken weighs about 3 pounds. A laying hen will lay about 3 pounds of eggs each month and over 30 pounds of eggs over the course of a year.

    . . . And then don't you need a rooster?. . . .

    Only if you want fertile eggs for hatching.

    . . . How much does it cost to "feed out" a chicken? . . .

    If you are talking about meat chickens: see above. Laying hens are often laying at 20 weeks of age. The pullets I have currently have just reached that "magic moment." I think I've still got a few more days to wait for the eggs. However, I just estimated how much feed I've got left and added up the purchases so far. I've spent nearly $10/per bird to get them to this age. They are standard-size breeds, Barred Rocks and Australorps - 2 of each.

    You should know that commercial feed amounted to nearly 100% of their diet for about 8 weeks. They just don't seem very adventuresome when they are chicks. However, they ate a greater variety of food from then on. When they are about 6 or 8 months old, they will essentially eat anything that people eat and more. Even lawn grass can be an important addition to their diet. You can see how this can cut down a bit on feed costs and it just isn't true with meat birds since they are only about 8 weeks old at the time of butcher.

    Barred Rocks and Australorps aren't the most economical to keep but they don't do badly in that regard. They are productive layers.

    Welcome to BYC! Keeping healthy chickens should be a therapeutic experience and help you overcome that early traumatic experience. Have some fun and try to come back here, often . . .

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2008
  6. Faye

    Faye In the Brooder

    Oh well ! I got the coop first it's 6Hx6Wx6L and I heard 2 square feet per hen.... Is that true??

    I was planning on starting with 6 chickies, I mean they gotta have somewhere to call home when they get out of the brooder. How else to protect them from the wild animals? Mountain Lions and coyotes here.
  7. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Quote:Faye, I'm always surprised at what Californians are dealing with :eek:! Hope you've got a strong coop.

    There are lots of ideas about how much indoor space chickens need. I think it relates closely to how much outdoor space they can use. Of course, in bad weather, we don't want them falling all over themselves indoors, 24/7. The most common rule-of-thumb I see on BYC is 4 square feet per bird.

    Your 6 chickies would then require 24 square feet. But, your 6 x 6 coop provides 36 square feet, so you've got the right floor plan.

    I think it would be a real shame to cram 18 birds in there but it doesn't sound like what you are planning to do [​IMG].

    Steve's digitS' (inc. thumb)
  8. Faye

    Faye In the Brooder

    Whew... thanks... I'm glad there's enough room.

    As for the mountain lions, I guess they chicken too!!! Just pray....[​IMG]
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:I dunno, I would've said chickens aren't much work either, and I have chickens... [​IMG] I spend less than 10 minutes a day on them, and much of that is walking-back-and-forth-to-the-coop time [​IMG] (Well ok, many days I spend much more time out there just fiddling and watching the chickens, but that's different <g>). Some management practices help a lot, like having a droppings board under the roost that you scrape off every morning (takes 20 seconds, removes about half the poo from the coop right then and there)

    1. Can anyone recommend a design for a small (very small) moveable chicken coop that could survive some winter conditions. I live in central Illinois. We only have an acre in a very small town so I don't want to destroy part of my yard.

    You may want to think about that some more. I know the chicken tractor thing sounds very appealing -- no impact on landscape, chickens always have fresh grass, yadda yadda. My experience is that it doesn't really work quite that way. You will have to move your tractor daily or so, if you don't want to do lasting, bad things to your grass (though even in a single day, the hens will sometimes scratch bare dusting spots in the lawn), so you need to be pushing that thing along EVERY darn day or so; also, what it does is spread the poo over a large section of your lawn, just about as bad as free-ranging, so make sure you've thought about whether you want your kids tromping thru that all the time and so forth. Finally, and these to me are the really big things, you cannot give chickens very much living space in a tractor (whereas in a coop and run you can give them potentially LOTS of room), and tractors are quite difficult to winterize and manage over winter in such a way that the birds stay warm and air quality stays good.

    I'd suggest seriously considering a fixed coop and run, and then if you ALSO want to build a lightweight summer tractor to let your chickens tour the yard, fine [​IMG]

    2. How do you raise chickens to eat? Do you raise them from eggs? And then don't you need a rooster? How much does it cost to "feed out" a chicken?

    You can eat CornishX broilers bought as chicks from the feedstore or by mail -- these will give you supermarket-like carcasses and the most efficient (i.e. cost-effective) conversion of food into chickenmeat. You can't raise CornishX from eggs nor breed them yourself. They are kinda weird, mutant, Fat Guy creatures; also they stink TO HIGH HEAVEN. Seriously.

    You can also eat 'regular', so-called dual purpose breed chickens (anything that's not a CornishX, although little things like leghorns or banties are less worthwhile). You would typically be eating them at 16 wks of age as opposed to 6-8 for the CornishX, and they do not get nearly as meaty (in particular, they don't grow near so much breast meat - they look like the rubber chickens in old comedy skits). They will be a little bit tougher too, because older, but TASTIER! Depends how much you care about economy vs taste. These chickens you can of course raise yourself from eggs, in which case you would of course need a rooster (and quite possibly an incubator too, as not all chickens or breeds can be depended on to go broody or successfully raise chicks, certainly not on *your* schedule <g>).

    Good luck and ahve fun, and welcome to BYC, and of course you should DEFINITELY get at least a few hens for eggs [it is really easy and rewarding, and you get really yummy eggs!] [​IMG],


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