Tractor sufficient for urban chickens?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Lake Desire, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. Lake Desire

    Lake Desire Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello BYC,

    This is my first post here, but I'm hoping to get involved in this community. As a teenager in the suburbs I kept 5-6 chickens at a time for eggs. I'm an adult now and live in the city of Seattle, and my partner and I are gradually learning to garden and urban homestead on our 4,400 square foot city lot. We recently got four chicks--a RIR, plymouth rock, buff orpington, and araucana. We were planning on building a chicken tractor so we could move the coop around, but I wanted to see if a chicken tractor would be sufficient housing for four backyard chickens. Or would folks recommend a more permanent coop than a tractor? We have a fenced in back yard--about half our lot--and plan on letting the chickens out in the backyard during the day. As far as predators go, there are plenty of dogs, raccoons, and bald eagles in our neighborhood.

    I would appreciate any advice on urban chicken keeping so we can build the best kind of coop for our small yard.

    By the way, the mayor of Seattle recently upped the maximum number of birds from three to nine!
     
  2. Laigaie

    Laigaie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In addition to your maximum number of birds, what other requirements does the city make about setbacks and coop placement, etc? That kind of thing is pretty important when it comes to tractoring. For us, we have to keep our coop well away from nearby houses, so we keep a daytime tractor separate from our coop, in order to move the birds around to parts of the yard that would otherwise be too close to the neighbors'.
     
  3. Lake Desire

    Lake Desire Out Of The Brooder

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    Good question. I just looked it up, and Seattle city code says: "Structures housing domestic fowl must be located at least 10 feet away from any residential structure on an adjacent lot."

    I'm also glad I checked because it looks like the maximum birds are 8, not 9!
     
  4. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Welcome to the forum!

    Tractors are harder to make predator resistant than stationary coops. They're also kinda tricky to design with a coop part that is both large enough and light enough so that you can move the tractor easily.

    A tractor does make it possible to get most of the benefits of free ranging without most of the risks, because you can certainly design a tractor to keep your chickens safe from eagles and hawks.

    Depending on the size of the tractor and the number of chickens in it, you might have to move it daily or face having a very nasty, poopy piece of ground underneath with the grass grazed down to nothing.

    I use a stationary coop and attached roofed run for security and also to make sure there's a dry place for the flock in case of rainy days. On most days, I put my flock inside a day tractor so they can graze in the yard and look for bugs in safety. We have tiny bantams who are vulnerable even to neighborhood cats that can easily climb over our fence, so we only free range when we can be there to supervise.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011
  5. Lake Desire

    Lake Desire Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for the welcome. [​IMG] One of the appeals of a tractor is not having poop to scoop out--I am willing to move it often (and I have lots of help around to recruit) but I do go out of town now and again so I can see the tractor staying put for a while and the chickens eating the lawn down to nothing. If I go with a stationary coop, how often do I need to clean it out?
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:In Seattle, a tractor is not unreasonable to overwinter chickens in although a larger fixed coop would work *better*. A fixed coop is considerably easier to predatorproof if you have serious predator pressure, a tractor will always be a bit more iffy, but with a flip-down apron that you peg down real well it needn't be *especially* perilous to use a tractor.

    If you build a tractor and then next year decide you'd rather have a permanent coop, you can always sell the tractor, you won't recoup all your costs but *some* of them, so it needn't be a PERMANENT commitment to one way or the other [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  7. sab

    sab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    I've spent the winter with 3 chickens and a duck in a tractor. Can't wait to end that by building a stationary coop. When it rains... and rains... and rains... the ground gets saturated and you have to move that thing around the yard in that saturated ground. That's not easy. Then if you are gone any length of time, the water and feed still needs to be tended to -- and the feed gets wet when the wind blows rain in. I ended up making plexiglass sides to put up on the tractor to cut down on the wet going in it. Not saying it won't work. Sayin' it's more work. I'm looking forward to being able to be gone a few days cause you can provide better feeding stations inside a permanent coop. I'll be using my tractors (I have 2) as free-range containment during 3 seasons and the coop will be their final resting place every night. I do worry about predators all the time with the tractor. I only hope that they don't get taken before I get a permanent coop built.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011
  8. Lake Desire

    Lake Desire Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for the tips, everyone!

    Do folks ever put a hardware cloth "floor" on the bottom of the tractor to keep predators out, or does that sort of defeat the purpose of a mobile coop?
     
  9. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Even in a tractor, you have to deal with the night time droppings that collect as the chickens roost (they poop while they sleep, sometimes I'm jealous of that ability). A tray or board under the roost makes dealing with those droppings easy. I use plastic boot trays. They're light and easy to take over to the composter and dump/scrape out. Then I hose off the trays and pop them back into the coop. I clean out the poop trays daily and it takes about 5 minutes.

    I have sand in two of our three runs, and I love it. The sand dries out the chicken droppings and coats them. I use a reptile litter scoop taped to a long handle to pick out the obvious droppings, and then I just rake over the sand. When my chickens are in their sand runs, I do scoop daily but this process takes less than 5 minutes (I don't look all that closely).

    Other people use variations on the deep litter method, which involves adding layers of shavings in the coop and not doing a clean out except for once or twice a year. Many people swear by this approach, but it just doesn't appeal to me. We spend a lot of time in our coop and the idea of standing on top of layers of composting chicken manure just grosses me out.

    I am an admitted neat freak, though. Many people keep perfectly odor free and healthy coops without going to the lengths I do..but I'm only spending about 15 minutes a day as it is to keep our setup not spotless, but pretty darn clean.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011
  10. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think a wire floor would interfere with the chickens' scratching, and there is always the issue of poo crusting on the wire (blech). You can make a tractor resistant to digging predators in much the same way you accomplish that for a stationary run: by attaching a wire apron to the baseboard, flat on the ground, extending outward 2 feet or so. Hinge it so you can flip it up and out of the way when you move the tractor. With a stationary run, you can anchor or stake the apron to the ground with landscaping staples, rocks, etc. With a tractor, you can't permanently anchor it but you can use bricks, etc. at the corners. That's what I do.
     

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