Tractor Questions

NorseDad

Chirping
Dec 3, 2021
19
101
51
West Central Florida
Hello Folks,

I'm looking to buy my first chickens this spring, and I need advice on the housing. For background, I live in central Florida on the Gulf coast where we only tend to get a few frosts a year and no snow. I am also NOT in a flood zone. My backyard is about 4500 sq feet, and my neighborhood allows up to 4 hens.

I am looking at possibly buying a chicken tractor (because I am not exactly a handyman) like this one from urbanchickentractors:
https://www.urbanchickentractors.com/product-page/2-5-chicken-tractor

I am wondering if given my situation this would be an alright decision to go with. I don't know how fast 4 hens can clear the spot and how often I'd need to move the tractor. Do I have enough space to give my grass time to recover? If I upgrade to hardware cloth and have the bottom screened off as well, would this be a viable year-round housing option, or should I just look at stationary coop set ups?

Any and all insight is appreciated.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Jul 26, 2008
34,624
72,113
1,462
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
My Coop
My Coop
It looks like the base model is 48"wide x60"long x56"tall.
I looked for a bit on that site and couldn't find any dimensions.

As @aart Said, A frames are difficult to properly weatherproof while still providing enough ventilation... and that is in a more moderate climate. They are down right horrid in heat.

Anyway... in Florida you do not want a closed up type coop of any shape. You want a huge roof, that fully covers the run, huge eaves are great, and everything else mostly strong hardware cloth, a few spots to block wind.

Yes, perches where they have a breeze, but maybe some visual barrier so they feel protected.

Boards/walls to put up for huge storms and hurricanes is the only time you will want to close up the coop (and even then, you still need ventilation).

Tractors are great (I have a couple), but it is extremely difficult to make a tractor BOTH easy to move as well as large enough.

The rule of thumb is 4 square feet of coop and 10 square feet of run per chicken... at a minimum.

However, 1. You are in Florida, so again you don't want an enclosed coop, you want to aim more for an all in one aviary type of thing, and 2. If you have 4 females (no rooster), and move it often to fresh grass... I find you can squeeze them in a bit tighter than recommended.

At a guess, I think (IF you move it every 2 to 4 days), you could make an aviary type coop of 9 square feet per bird, total size, work. That would be the bare minimum, and would give you no "cushion". Which means that is NOT large enough if you want to integrate new girls with older ones... or if they are on bare dirt/ not moved regularly.
 

3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
11,952
31,367
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North Carolina Sandhills
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Welcome to BYC. Very smart of you to collect information and seek advice now before you get the chickens.

Here are the basics as far as space goes:

The Usual Guidelines

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:

4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
1/4 of a nest box,
And 1 square foot (.09 square meters) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.

4 hens
  • 16 square feet in the coop. 4'x4' is the only really practical build for this given the common dimensions of lumber.
  • 4 feet of roost
  • 40 square feet in the run. 4'x10' or 5'x8'. 6'x6' is a bit too small, 6'x8' is more generous and easier to build than 5'x8'.
  • 4 square feet of ventilation. A 2'x2' window is theoretically enough, but in practice doesn't create any air FLOW so better to spread the venting around (and even better to exceed the minimums, especially in warm climates).
  • 2 nest boxes, to give the hens a choice
Just to see what this looks like, here is a coop designed to meet the minimums for 4 hens: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/the-little-monitor-coop.76275/

That said, in Florida you are in an even hotter climate than I am and I find that, except for the monitor design above, I need at least 2-3 times the recommended minimum ventilation or deep shade to keep the coop under 100F on a day that's much over 90F.

If you are not going to have a separate coop and run you should probably consider an open air design -- where the structure is, essentially, a big wire box with a roof and windbreaks on one end.

This is one of the best tractor designs I've seen: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/hoop-tractor.69336/ However, it's not proof against small predators like rats and weasels. Additionally, in your climate you would not want to cover the sides all the way down like that because you'd need more free flow of air.

As a general rule, it's difficult to find a pre-made coop that's worth having and when you do it's likely to be expensive. When looking at them and when looking at plans here or elsewhere keep these rules of thumb in mind:
  • If it looks like a dollhouse it's only suitable for toy chickens.
  • If it's measured in inches instead of feet it's too small.
  • If your walk-in closet is larger than the coop-run combo you're thinking of buying think carefully about whether you have an utterly awesome closet or are looking at a seriously undersized chicken coop.
  • If it has more nestboxes than the number of chickens it can legitimately hold the designer knew nothing about chickens' actual needs and it probably has other design flaws too.
I can't answer how fast the chickens will eat down the grass in a tractor except to say "Faster than you imagine". Meat birds are often tractored at higher densities than recommended for layers (they're essentially very large chicks in very big brooders), and after a few weeks they're usually moved daily or even twice a day.
 

NorseDad

Chirping
Dec 3, 2021
19
101
51
West Central Florida
I just want to say thank you so much to all of you for the suggestions. I am going to try and look for a more open air fixed position design that encompasses a run/roof/windbreak on one side. I have a great spot in heavy shade that I think will be an ideal location to help with temperature management.

I knew I made the right decision to join this group. Thank you!
 

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