Seeking design suggestions for the ultimate chicken tractor/mobile coop for a small flock

Poppy Putentake

Chirping
Aug 5, 2015
46
45
87
Vermont
electrymonk asked,

>...for the human door, have you considered the use of a 'indoor' closet door... ..with a good thick layer of paint.

I do think a regular outside door for a human house would be too heavy and not needed. I've previously (on my greenhouse) just made a wood frame (with diagonal bracing from hinge side to top (this is important -- see here)), similar to the small door on my current tractor pictured below. This would also make it easy to include ventilating openings in the door.

TractorWinter.jpg


> ...putting the nesting boxes under the dropping shelf but, have it on rails to slide out for egg collection. What are your thoughts with this idea?

I tend to favor openings through a vertical outside wall to reach the eggs, covered with a bin-type door, hinged at the bottom and latched at the top. This could be big enough to also clean out the nesting boxes from outside, or else, if the nesting boxes are also conveniently reachable from the inside, the egg-collecting openings though the outside wall could be smaller. Here is a picture of the door to my current nesting boxes (similar to the upper, triangular, door on the other side of the tractor, pictured above).

NestsHinge.jpg


What you are describing sounds a bit like a drawer in a cabinet or dresser. A simple way to do this would be to just have removable nesting boxes resting on a shelf. You could even make the removable nesting boxes with a "front door" for the hens to use and a "back door" for you to use for collecting eggs from the other side (maybe through the outside egg door).

BTW, I've found that cardboard boxes of the right dimensions make good nesting boxes! Just cut an opening in the end, re-glue the top if needed and put in some bedding. The hens seem to love them. (An entrance in the shape of a rounded triangle or trapezoid (narrower at the top ) works well -- makes it a little darker inside which is what they seem to like.)

Speaking of 4' x 8' coops, I found this video of a coop that size that houses 50 chickens! I was thinking that even a dozen in such a small coop would be pushing it. This guy does it by stacking the platforms/poop boards. What I'm wondering is, how much height does one need beween levels? Seems like it might be hard to stack even two levels of roosts. He doesn't tell the height of his coop, but it looks like there is a ful-headroom human-door on the side, about a foot below the eaves, so the height at the peak of the roof is probably around 10 feet -- maybe out of proportion to the narrow width.
 
Last edited:
Jan 17, 2020
4
5
8
Buffalo, NY
Hi all,

I've currently got 5 hens, am planning to build a new shelter for them, and to accommodate a possible (modest) increase in number. I'm open to suggestions on design and layout from those more experienced than I.

For a large flock, the traditional walk-in type coop makes sense, but for a small (<10) home flock, I'm thinking that's less practical, but I still want to be able to access the entire interior, only from outside.

Is there anywhere a guide to sizes of the various components of a chicken house? I'm thinking of things like spacing of roosting poles, square footage needed, and ideal heights and other measurements. Nesting box dimension recommendations seem especially varied. I've seen everything from 10” cube through 16” cube (also a recommended height of just 9”). Based on my limited experience, I tend to favor nesting boxes that are deeper (meaning, horizontal depth) than they are wide, and with a little extra height to make room for bedding. I've also been making the entrances wider at the bottom than the top (i.e., a rounded triangle shape). BTW, chickens seem to like the nesting and brooding boxes I've made out of cardboard boxes at least as much as the built-in ones in the tractor

I am unsure whether it would be best to have a raised finished floor, or have the house rest directly on the ground (so that the coop can be moved instead of cleaning the bottom), or to have a floored coop above a mini-run.

Here is a list of features I'd like to have in a chicken house. (ordered by priority -- maybe I'm asking too much):

Portability – it should be possible to move it around as needed. (In some jurisdictions, portability also means no building permit is needed.
Access to nesting boxes from outside for cleaning and collecting eggs..
Access to floors and roosts for cleaning, and also for catching birds if needed.
Built-in feeders and waterers that can be filled from outside and also removed for cleaning.
Adequate and adjustable ventilation.
Windows for light inside, except near nesting boxes.
Peepholes or windows to see inside, especially whether nesting boxes have birds or eggs in them.
Insulation -- not so much for warmth as to prevent dampness and condensation.
A way for the chickens to get on the roof

I'm interested also in knowing what features others would like or have found useful.

I currently have two A-frame type tractors that I built 3 years ago before I had experience with chickens. For a number of reasons,, I do not recommend A-frame tractors. If I were doing this again, I would build something similar, but "house-shaped", with a sloped roof above vertical sides. The main problems are:

The geometry of the shape puts lots on constraints on design..
It is complicated to make a weather-proof lid or doorway in the sloped sides, and using openings in the sides involves inconveniently leaning inwards.
The sides of my tractors are covered with hardware cloth with polyethylene sheeting over. In the winter, snow blocks the light and needs to be brushed off. Snow also piles up at the angle between the sides and the ground. This would be less of a problem if the sides were straight.

The other problem I've found with chicken tractors is making them light enough to move while still having everything the flock needs. Maybe a solution would be to have two separate tractors that can be joined, one for housing and nesting, and another serving as the daytime enclosure when they are not free-ranging. (I free-range my birds most of the time, except when I'm away and someone else is taking care of them, or when it is very snowy.)

One book (Gene Logsdon 1985. Practical Skills / A revival of forgotten crafts techniques and traditions) suggested a walk-in coop partitioned into two rooms with separate doors to the outside and a door between, one room for grown chickens and the other for young ones. That's for several dozen chickens. I did something similar by making two tractors of different sizes. The smaller one has proven very useful, not just for raising chicks, but also when a chicken "hospital" (or even "jail") is needed, so I'll still keep it even if I build a new main coop.

Poppy
Search for ‘Justin Rhodes’ on YouTube. His Chickshaw design is one of the best I’ve seen. Eventually I plan to build one of my own. It’s low maintenance, easy to move, and can house a surprising number of birds.
 

ChicksinBoise

Songster
12 Years
Jun 14, 2007
149
21
156
I will second what electrycmonk said. Definitely go with 2x3s and maybe even 2x2s for your framing. You could also use that composite ridged type roofing over your trusses, instead of plywood etc, to cut down on weight there. Once more option, although more expensive, is build it with cedar wood. It is more expensive but also lighter and more insect proof. I just build a 4x8 A Frame coop with pine 2x3s, and cedar fence pickets for the roof and siding, it is plenty sturdy, and the chickens love it. We get 6 eggs a day from 6 hens. =)
 

electrycmonk

Songster
Aug 8, 2019
392
1,410
187
caught in 'Denton vortex', Tx
My Coop
My Coop
I will second what electrycmonk said. Definitely go with 2x3s and maybe even 2x2s for your framing. You could also use that composite ridged type roofing over your trusses, instead of plywood etc, to cut down on weight there. Once more option, although more expensive, is build it with cedar wood. It is more expensive but also lighter and more insect proof. I just build a 4x8 A Frame coop with pine 2x3s, and cedar fence pickets for the roof and siding, it is plenty sturdy, and the chickens love it. We get 6 eggs a day from 6 hens. =)
Thanks @ChicksinBoise I'd also suggest a few other details....
IF habitat for humanity has a ReStore in your area go scrounge up all kinds of stuff.
I realized after I was 1/2 way into our build what I could of gotten cheaper:
*- they have an old school lazy susan rack for screws, nails, bolts etc (buy the lb)
*- tools, doors, windows, paint, electrical (in walls), lights & electrical (out of the walls), shelving stuff, Adnausium....
-- I went to galvalume panels for roof ~$20 per 12' X 24" panel
-- thin OSB (I think it was 1/4"?) ~$6 a 4x8 sheet
-- A roll of the tar felt for water repellent/insulation between ~$15?
I would think the shingling stuff will be heavier?

I would suggest being careful with 2x2's exposed to the elements. Every single one or mine has warped and or twisted like weeds during the build and to a degree after install as well.
 
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