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Predator-proofing chicken tractors?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Felicitas, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Felicitas

    Felicitas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Our quest to figure out the perfect coop setup continues. After seeing what commercially-made coops cost, husband is now on board with the idea of building our own, yay! We are looking at a large A-frame chicken tractor design which seems to fit our needs very close to perfectly - the Catawba Coops tractor, specifically. The only misgiving I have is the predator problem. We live on the border of a national park, and consequently we have pretty much every predator possible - coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, possums, rats, owls, hawks and probably something I've missed. We plan to put padlocks on all outside openings to defeat raccoons, and strong 4-mesh-per-inch hardware cloth on the outside run section, including the bottom. We also intend to extend the hardware cloth on the bottom out about a foot beyond the base of the run, staked down with metal tent stakes, in order to defeat diggers. Is this enough? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

    My worst nightmare is to order my baby chicks and raise them indoors, and they are all tame and we love them, and then see them all killed the first time we put them outside. I want the Fort Knox of chicken tractors!
     
  2. Felicitas

    Felicitas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nobody? Nothing?
     
  3. Dixiedoodle

    Dixiedoodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2007
    A few questions, Will you use the tractor as permanment houseing? Will your birds have a secure coop at night? Will you be 'around' most of the day? Do you have dogs or do your neighbors have dogs??

    I am just building my first coop. I understand -the wanting Fort Knox. My first stationary coop is finished and we are working on the run, which in totally encased in chainlink fencing with 1/2" hardware cloth over the 3ft at the bottom. From what I have read, anything larger than 1/2" wire holes and any predator can get to your birds. A raccoon, oppossum, weasel, mink can certainly reach thru any thing larger than a 1/2" and pull your birds thru the wire. A snake can get thru a 1/2" opening. I have found that the 1/2" -20 gauge hardware cloth (This is what we purchased at Lowe's and I was worried about it) seems like something could chew thru it, so make sure you have a heavy duty wire..

    I hope others who have used tractors will jump in and offer advice..
     
  4. TexasJoe

    TexasJoe Taking a break

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    Mar 3, 2008
    A-Frames are good and simple, but a little easier to tip over than a 2-3' tall rectangular tractor (though, it won't be an issue with the draped hardware cloth around it).

    If you're going to raise them from week old chicks in the tractor, then i would go with the 1/4" hardware cloth. You can safely get away with the 1/2" if you're not going to put baby chicks in it. Raccoons (and opossums, i believe) can and will reach through anything larger.

    I have a fully-welded chicken-wire tractor that is 6'x8'x2'. It works very well and is minimal and QUITE functional. Though, I would suggest others to use 2x4s for a solid frame, and then staple the hardware cloth to it: the thousands of metal twist-ties gave me temporary arthritis for a week.
     
  5. lisebarb

    lisebarb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:We built the Catawba coop and we live in an area with lots of feral cats, possums, raccoons, and one a hawk migration route. At first we were leery about getting chickens because we thought we just might be ringing the dinner bell - if ya know what I mean, grin.

    We bought a 48 inch wide roll of 1/2 inch hardware cloth. The regular "chicken wire" was cheaper but the holes were bit enough for a raccoon to stick a paw in and grab a hen.

    So we used the "hardware cloth" on the sides and bottom of the run part so they are completely caged in. To protect their feet we keep a mixture of straw and leaves on the floor of the run. They love scratching around in this.

    I don't think it's necessary to extend the hardware cloth out the side to discourage diggers. If the bottom is covered this seems unnecessary.

    It gets quite windy here especially when the wind is coming off the lake but we haven't had any problems (knock wood) with the coop being blown over. It's a pretty sturdy design.

    Good luck, Barbara.
     
  6. Felicitas

    Felicitas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Lisebarb, thank you! Just what I needed.

    Dixiedoodle:
    A few questions, Will you use the tractor as permanment houseing? Will your birds have a secure coop at night? Will you be 'around' most of the day? Do you have dogs or do your neighbors have dogs??

    Tractor as permanent housing: yes
    Secure coop: yes, the tractor design has a coop built-in and at least from the plans and photographs the tractor coop is not only secure but surprisingly spacious.
    Around most of the day: yes - I am a SAHM and an online student, and my husband works from home as well, 4 out of his 5-day workweek. We are major homebodies here. [​IMG]
    Dogs: We do not currently have a dog, but we live (rent) on a large estate and the tenants right next to us have dogs. The landlady also has a dog but it's a mini-Dachshund who is scared of bugs. [​IMG]
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Where do you live? If you get Serious Winter, a tractor can be pretty hard to winterize and manage satisfactorily thru the winter, keeping temperatures and air quality in the "good" range...

    Secure coop: yes, the tractor design has a coop built-in and at least from the plans and photographs the tractor coop is not only secure but surprisingly spacious.

    Something to bear in mind is that A-frame tractors provide less indoor space than you might at first think. (Because of the low-slanting walls upstairs making the edge space poorly usable for the chickens, and because of the ramp to the downstairs taking up a bunch of what would otherwise be usable floorspace.) Most provide, um, very very minimal indoor space, in fact. If you're in a mild and pleasant climate that is not an issue; if you're somewhere with lots of rainy or windy days or cold weather, you're likely to run into more problems.

    You COULD use a wire floor but personally I don't like that in a tractor, it prevents them from properly scratching, which is one of the chickens' biggest hobbies of all. Not to say it can't be done, I just don't care for it personally. I sure wouldn't want to do it with 1/4" hardwarecloth; they won't be able to get hardly ANY grass, and the poo will not fall through and thus you will end up with a horrible mess in there unless you hose it through frequently.

    In terms of a skirt to discourage digging, I'd say there's no point in it if you insist on a wire floor -- but definitely yes if you don't. If you could make it longer than 1', it wouldn't hurt. If you can make it so it flips up to allow the tractor to be moved more easily you will not regret it (just weight it down with bricks or peg it into the ground with tent pegs once the tractor has gotten where it's going).

    Good luck and ahve fun,

    Pat​
     
  8. HenSpa

    HenSpa Chillin' With My Peeps

    We have a HenSpa chicken tractor. What we did recently to secure it at night from dig-ins under the coop: got this heavy-duty gauge sheet metal with diamond-shaped holes that goes beyond the coop by at least 2 feet all around (sautered three sections together). We park them on this just at night. But I wasn't happy about the comfort factor for the chicken's feet; felt they could easily cut their feet on, plus wasn't a natural thing for them to walk on. So we got some finely ground crushed gravel and buried the sheet about an inch deep with this stuff. Now, they seem much happier walking on it, it's easier to clean, plus I feel good about their safety because there is NO getting through that stuff.
     
  9. Felicitas

    Felicitas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Where do you live? If you get Serious Winter, a tractor can be pretty hard to winterize and manage satisfactorily thru the winter, keeping temperatures and air quality in the "good" range...

    We're in the Atlanta, Georgia area. It gets down below freezing sometimes, but very rarely colder than 20F, and snow is rare, most years. (Ice is more common, actually.)

    You COULD use a wire floor but personally I don't like that in a tractor, it prevents them from properly scratching, which is one of the chickens' biggest hobbies of all. Not to say it can't be done, I just don't care for it personally. I sure wouldn't want to do it with 1/4" hardwarecloth; they won't be able to get hardly ANY grass, and the poo will not fall through and thus you will end up with a horrible mess in there unless you hose it through frequently.

    Hmmm, good points. I suppose a much more open kind of wire for the floor, if we go that way ... but you make a good case for not doing that.

    In terms of a skirt to discourage digging, I'd say there's no point in it if you insist on a wire floor -- but definitely yes if you don't. If you could make it longer than 1', it wouldn't hurt. If you can make it so it flips up to allow the tractor to be moved more easily you will not regret it (just weight it down with bricks or peg it into the ground with tent pegs once the tractor has gotten where it's going).

    That is an excellent idea - this coop design could easily be modified to do that.

    Of course, we aren't 100% married to this design either. If it turns out that a permanent structure and run will be better for our situation, we'll go with that.​
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Ok, so, winterizing is not remotely an issue for ya [​IMG]

    You might consider a rectangular type tractor as having more reasonable indoor space (and, being shorter, being a bit less vulnerable to tipping in high winds and suchlike)... but otherwise it sounds to me like you've got your bases covered [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat
     

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