Using a chicken tractor/mobile chicken coop as full-time housing?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by karenw, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. karenw

    karenw Hatching

    Jan 2, 2011
    Hi. I am new to the board and I will be getting 2 Easter Egger hens and 2 Dominique hens in spring. The area I live in has a lot of aerial predators such as hawks and owls so I know if I let them free range I have a good chance of losing them to these predators. I also have opossum, raccoon, fox and coyote so these are concerns also. However, I also want to allow them to forage. Which of the following do you feel offers the best quality of life for the chickens:

    1. Building a coop with large covered run fixed in one place without being able to let them out to free range.
    2. Having the fixed coop with covered run and buying another detached covered run that I could move around during the day for them to forage.
    3. Going with a mobile chicken coop with covered run/chicken tractor and keeping them in that and moving it around daily or weekly?

    Any input would be helpful. I would like to provide the best home possible for my birds.

  2. patman75

    patman75 Songster

  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    If you live in somewhere with cold winters (LOL - it seems like *everyone* thinks they get cold winters, but for the purposes of this *particular* discussion I am talking about winters that spend a lot of time below freezing, particularly if you get waaaay below freezing) then a permanent coop is probably best (for wintertime at least). Because portable things, being necessarily small, can be awfully hard to keep properly ventilated without being also too cold/drafty. That is much easier to achieve in a larger or not-subject-to-the-constraints-of-being-lightweight structure.

    If you live somewhere that doesn't get so cold in the winter then it is quite reasonable to contemplate a tractor as permanent housing. However you should realize that a tractor can never be AS predatorproof as a well-made permanent coop. So there is a tradeoff between being able to keep fresh grass in front of the chickens all the time (by moving the tractor) versus security. There are some other tradeoffs too, and also you need to think real hard about how much of the year you may not be ABLE to move the tractor around (due to mud or snow) and whether you have a large enough lawn and a tolerant enough sense of hygeine to not end up feeling that the moving tractor is ruining your whole property. (It does leave a chewed-and-scratched-down heavily-pooed-upon trail in its wake, depending on how often you move it and how fast your grass regrows and how much rain you get)

    The problem with deciding "best quality of life" is that there are at least four competing TYPES of quality-of-life here: winterworthiness, pleasant foraging for the chickens, protection from predators, and *your* quality of life. No one setup maximizes ALL these things at once, there are tradeoffs involved.

    So you just have to figure out which things are more important to you than which other things.

    Sorry not to be more help but at least it may be useful food for thought,

  4. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    Snow is the big factor in using tractors year around. If you get more than a little snow that stays on the ground for long periods then moving a tractor regularly is going to be a problem. If you don't get snow like that then there's little to keep you from using one except for maybe not wanting to get out and move it as often as necessary. Protection from wind/rain can be built into the tractor.

    I use tractors year round, but I'm in North Florida. We can get winter temps into the teens on occasion and twenties regularly, but no snow. The tractors actually move easier when there's frost on the ground.
  5. karenw

    karenw Hatching

    Jan 2, 2011
    Thanks for your replies. I live in South Carolina so our winters here are not so bad. We may occasionally get snow and ice but very rarely. I live on 11 acres in the country so I don't really have a yard that I am worried about. My house is in the middle of the woods.
  6. Cargo

    Cargo Songster

    Sep 28, 2010
    Farmington, NM
    I do all 3 options.

    My 4 girls have a dedicated run area of 200 sf
    The coop I designed and built is a tractor in the warm months.
    In winter I put it up on a raised platform and close it up to keep the weather out.
    They get to free range in the fenced backyard almost everyday in fall and winter.
    (Wife has assured me that there will be blood if they eat her plants and flowers in spring and summer.)

    Coop is here on my BYC page.
  7. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady

    Apr 22, 2008
    upstate SC
    Check out my website under Housing and see if anything there looks like what you may want to use.

    It snows here on occasion and we still can move our big 10x10 M*A*S*H units without much trouble. Once the wheels are on it I can push them easily around the front pasture. The ones at the back of our property are a bit harder since we have them on the side of little hills.

    My small tractors I built myself and move those every few days without any trouble at all. I am an over the hill fat lady and can do the manual labor pretty well alone so it should not be too much trouble for you.

    With that few of birds (you will get more, I bet) you can build them a nice tractor and give them some great fresh digs every few days.

    Oh! Yes.....[​IMG]
  8. karenw

    karenw Hatching

    Jan 2, 2011
    Thanks Nadine. I will take a look at your page and PM you. I live in Chapin so sort of between the upstate and midlands and our weather is a mix of the two.
  9. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady

    Apr 22, 2008
    upstate SC
    My sister lives in Chapin on Lake Murray. I used to camp with my family down on the lake when there was a campground called Crystal Lake.
  10. Coach B

    Coach B In the Brooder

    Jan 14, 2010
    Marshall County, TN
    I have a tractor that one of my two flocks is staying in year round. Temp got down to 3 back before Christmas and the birds seemed fine. I do have enclosed ends on it and when it gets to the low teens or lower I put a tarp and some extra plywood sections over most of the openings without any issues. I move the tractor once a week and since its on a future garden site I don't mind the extra fertilizer and weed/grass elimination(mud). [​IMG] I do let them out most afternoons and sometimes all day for some extra free ranging if we're going to be home.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011

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