Some coop & run questions

rivrrat

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 17, 2014
3
0
14
I'm building my coop in a couple of weeks, and it's going to be a mobile coop for about 4 chickens. I plan on trying to let the chickens free range without a run enclosure, but I fear the neighborhood dogs might not make a viable option. So, I'm going to build a mobile enclosure too.

My question is in part about predators and chicken behavior. I live in the boonies. I have personally seen possum and raccoon in the yard, and while I haven't seen bear with my own two eyes, I have seen indisputable evidence of them in the yard. (I can't keep a bird feeder anymore). And foxes are around too, though I've never actually seen any.

Now, my dogs chase off anything they can, but at night they're inside sleeping. Occasionally they will alert me in the middle of the night... such as when bear are around. So night time is really my concern. Through the day I don't worry about predators much.

Everything I've read says to bury your fence, etc, to keep predators out. But my coop and run will be mobile, so burying is not an option. I'm just wondering if that's going to be an issue? I see plenty of folks use mobile coops, but are they in areas that are predator free? At night, when the risk is highest, they would be inside the coop. Now granted, my coop cannot be bear proof because the only way I know to do that is to electrify the area around it - and even that's not a guarantee. But what about other predators? The coop will be inspected each day, of course, and I'm going to use the hardware cloth, not chicken wire.

Is there something else I should plan on doing regarding predators and a mobile coop?

Next question is about the coop design and temperature. I see some designs have pretty much an open floor to help with cleaning (covered with the mesh or wire). But what about in the winter time, wouldn't that make it too cold for them? I was considering an open floor with a piece that I could slide in and out - leave it out when the temps are okay, and in when they're not.

Along those same lines... what about drastic temps (hot or cold)? I live in central/north Virginia. It's relatively mild weather, but we do get snow in the winter, and the summers can be brutally hot and humid mid-summer. The advantage of the mobile coop is that I could pull it into the garage on VERY drastic nights. But I can't do that all the time, and I don't want to have to. But will they stay warm enough in essentially a big wooden box in the middle of winter when it's 20F at night? I had read about using a deep bedding method of keeping them warm in the winter, by essentially not cleaning the bedding out at all during the winter, and instead turning it an adding new bedding. This helps keep it from emitting the ammonia, but also encourages the composting which generates heat. Anyone try that? Does it work? Sounds logical to me in theory, but I'm just curious about application.

Thank you!!!
 
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ChickensAreSweet

Heavenly Grains for Hens
9 Years
Jun 8, 2010
15,100
621
398
Pacific NW- where the Douglas Firs grow
Welcome!

Chicken tractors are not the best for cold weather, since they won't have much space to essentially live indoors as they may want to do when it is snowy.

Additionally, with all the predators that you mentioned, a chicken tractor is very vulnerable to predators if you don't have an apron. You would be wise to fashion a hardware cloth apron for it (no guarantees there though, as nothing is ever totally predator proof- especially with bears).

Honestly if you have bears you may need to go with a shed coop, electric fencing, and welded wire fencing for your run, lined and aproned out at the bottom with 1/2 inch hardware cloth (or all hardware cloth but that is very expensive).

Only 1/2 inch hardware cloth will keep out rats and weasels, which kill chickens. So you would want all the windows of the coop to be made of that. I have welded wire fencing and close them up in the coops at night.

If you go with a dog kennel or panels, make sure you line the bottom part of the fencing with hardware cloth to keep raccoons, owls, and hawks from pulling them through the welded wire.

Here:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/pawspluss-chicken-coop
this is someone else's coop- but shows a pic of aproning out hardware cloth

If you are still leaning towards a chicken tractor, here is one employing electric fencing from the looks of it (I just found it on a search)...you may get some ideas from it. However, this coop will be very very cold for them. I would not recommend this for areas with snow - they need to be out of the wind. They need to be in a nice tight dry coop for winter (with ventilation of course up high so it doesn't blow on them):
http://chicken-coop.comule.com/?p=38

Now here is my absolute favorite little portable coop- I think a bear would just flip this over though.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-nags-head-chicken-coop-tractor

I hope this helps!
 

bugflipper

Songster
9 Years
Apr 9, 2010
228
20
113
How about a coop on top of a run for a chicken tractor?

Put wire on the bottom of the run and no issues with digging under and getting in. Nothing really will keep a bear out if they are determined enough. Electric fences is all I know that deter them to some extent. I can't speak for black bear, assuming they are very strong as well, but with brown bear they can rip travel trailers apart to get the goodies inside. Once they become a problem with livestock they will basically stop at nothing and the only option is to give up raising things or shoot the problem bear.
The heat in your area really isn't such a big deal with the majority of breeds. They pump blood up through their combs and wattles to keep cool. Cold can be an issue for single comb breeds as they tend to get frostbite on their combs. Frostbite generally leads to gang green then death. A well insulated coop with proper ventilation should prevent that except for extreme cold weather. I prefer slide in manure boards but I raise a garden anyhow.

BTW anything hanging around the area will stop by for a snack if it's easy enough. You just need to make it not worth their while to try and get them. Or remove the threats, one or the other.
Good luck.
 

rivrrat

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 17, 2014
3
0
14
My coop will be much larger than most chicken tractors I've seen. It's as large as, or bigger, than some of the permanent coops I've seen. It's just going to be on wheels. It will only hold about 4 - 6 hens, I guess, though. Depending on the breed. It will be about 5' x 3' and 4' tall. At least. I might go slightly larger on the dimensions.

If I would be forced to do a permanent one, then I just wouldn't get the chickens. All of the permanent coops I've ever seen have just been ugly and nasty, full of mud. I want to move the hens around my yard so they can forage, even if I can't let them free range. I'd like them to just naturally fertilize my gardens and yard, and then I'd also be able to use less bedding. I thought if I did a wire bottom with a board that I could slide in or out as needed due to temp, that would work out well. I could have the little fertilizer machines moved all around the yard in the spring, summer, and fall, then close them up a bit more when it got chilly. Would that not work?

If the bear can and will get into the mobile coop, then they can and will get into any permanent one I built too. Primarily I guess I was more concerned about the smaller critters and just how quickly they are likely to get in. It's black bear in this area, and they're easily frightened off. It's just a matter of knowing when they're out there.

It snows periodically through the winter, but not all winter long. There are nights that are quite chilly, but generally speaking, winters are fairly mild. So while it will be in the 30s - 50s in the winter, it will also dip into the 20s or teens on occasion and I just wanted to be sure that the coop could handle that. It'll be built out of wood.
 

ChickensAreSweet

Heavenly Grains for Hens
9 Years
Jun 8, 2010
15,100
621
398
Pacific NW- where the Douglas Firs grow
My coop will be much larger than most chicken tractors I've seen. It's as large as, or bigger, than some of the permanent coops I've seen. It's just going to be on wheels. It will only hold about 4 - 6 hens, I guess, though. Depending on the breed. It will be about 5' x 3' and 4' tall. At least. I might go slightly larger on the dimensions.

If I would be forced to do a permanent one, then I just wouldn't get the chickens. All of the permanent coops I've ever seen have just been ugly and nasty, full of mud. I want to move the hens around my yard so they can forage, even if I can't let them free range. I'd like them to just naturally fertilize my gardens and yard, and then I'd also be able to use less bedding. I thought if I did a wire bottom with a board that I could slide in or out as needed due to temp, that would work out well. I could have the little fertilizer machines moved all around the yard in the spring, summer, and fall, then close them up a bit more when it got chilly. Would that not work?

If the bear can and will get into the mobile coop, then they can and will get into any permanent one I built too. Primarily I guess I was more concerned about the smaller critters and just how quickly they are likely to get in. It's black bear in this area, and they're easily frightened off. It's just a matter of knowing when they're out there.

It snows periodically through the winter, but not all winter long. There are nights that are quite chilly, but generally speaking, winters are fairly mild. So while it will be in the 30s - 50s in the winter, it will also dip into the 20s or teens on occasion and I just wanted to be sure that the coop could handle that. It'll be built out of wood.
One thing you may wish to look into is a portable electric fence (Premier is one brand I believe). You could have your chickies in the tractor, with a perimeter set up around it with electric to keep the bears away. Just a thought.

Your coop sounds nice and large for them!!!
 

chickencopper

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 18, 2014
104
5
60
GA Chicken Rancher
Bear? Well if he wants chicken, then only a concrete wall would stop him. Black bears are notorious for breaking in well built doors in our cabin area in the mountains. I never thought about chickens up there. Good Luck.
 

slingshotandLAR

Songster
6 Years
May 24, 2013
406
78
101
I have all kinds of predators.....

My chickens free range until November, I only lost one bird last year and it was after it got cold. Nothing bothers the coop I see tracks in the snow where a coon or fox will wanted by, but they can't get in.

We have bears too, if a bear wants your chickens it's gonna get them. That being said I have had no issues what so ever.

I did get some guinea hens and they keep a really good eye on the chickens, I don't have roosters.

It's not to bad really I thought I would have a lot more issues than I have with the locals, if your super concerned put a electric wire low on the tractor, just use insulators attached to the coop with a small solar charger. All you need is a ground rod, get a step in t post and use that. When you move the coop switch the power off take the stake with you and step it back in after the tractor is moved, than just switch the charger back on.

Good luck


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