want to build a coop AND a tractor

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Lil'yen, Mar 10, 2009.

  1. Lil'yen

    Lil'yen New Egg

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    Mar 5, 2009
    Charlottesville, VA
    Hi everybody, I'm entirely new to chickens so I apologize in advance for the long-winded question! We have some 3 week olds hanging out in our basement and we need to make them a permanent home. We live in a downtown area and our backyard acreage is very limited so we decided to go for a 2-story design. The footprint will be 3x3 feet, and the roof will slope from a height of 5' in the back down to 4' in the front. The upper floor will be completely enclosed with windows and ventilation, for roosting and nesting, with a ladder down to the ground-level floor, where the food and water will be located via pipe feeders. The ground floor will have 2 solid walls and 2 walls lined with hardware cloth. The floor will also be lined with hardware cloth. This will be their secure place to sleep at night. We also plan to make a 3' by 6' tractor run with mini-roosts, food and water, and optional shade that we can use to drag the chickens around the yard during the day. If possible, we plan to let them out of the run to free-range in our gardens whenever we can. At night this run will be connected to the more secure structure.
    My question is: is this enough space for 4 standard hens? I know the rule is 4 sq ft/chicken indoors, and 10 sq ft/chicken outdoors, but do both floors count as the "indoor" part since the ground floor is still relatively sheltered? Also, does the 10 sq ft rule change when you are moving a tractor around and free-ranging? We live in central Virginia so our nights and winters are pretty mild. We don't anticipate getting any more chickens seeing as we just don't have the space.
    Also, is it ok that I don't plan to put a nest box in to the tractor? When do chickens normally lay eggs? A nest box will be available to them in the evenings and at night when they go "home".

    Thanks again! I've been obsessing through this forum since last October and I really want to do things right.
     
  2. briteday

    briteday Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Northern NV
    Nest box...my chickens almost always lay earlier in the day rather than later, and never after dark. So I think you will need access to a nest box during the day. When I first acquired my current chickens, I kept them in the coop and run until they got used to laying their eggs in the nest. Once that was pounded into them then I let them free range a bit during the day. But I leave the door to the coop and run open so they can access food / water / nest. And they always return to the nest to lay eggs.

    If you don't leave them access to the nest and teach them to use it you will be wandering around your property looking for the hiding places they have found to lay eggs.

    I think square footage calculation sneed to be taken with a grain of salt when you figure in your climate. If your chickens will rarely have a day that they have to stay in the coop, then it's probably ok. But if you are in a cold winter climate zone...

    I live in a pretty mild climate with only one day this winter that they hens stayed in for 1/2 a day. I have 6 Rhode Island reds and their coop is 2 x 8 x 3H. And they do just fine. In fact they have a difficult time keeping the coop warm with body heat on cold winter nights and there is still plenty of un-used roosting space. Since you are going to have the food and water supply on the outside of the coop, you could also plan on a nest box that sticks outside the coop (for easier collection of eggs).

    And with your size restrictions be careful about the breed(s) you choose. Keep them on the smaller side of standard and choose a breed with friendly temperments. I have 6 RIR's that get along great but my neighbor has the same sized coop with 3 barred rocks and 3 EE's and they fight constantly, and the BR's have picked the EE's bloody.

    The only other consideration I see is that they will be nesting on the top floor. You need to have access to that area so that you can clean out all the chicken poop that will be piling up under the roosts daily.
     
  3. Lil'yen

    Lil'yen New Egg

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    Mar 5, 2009
    Charlottesville, VA
    Hi briteday thanks for the input! We are planning on having the roof lift up and the front wall of the 2nd floor will swing out for easy cleaning, with a nest box that sticks out the side so I won't need to raise the roof every morning to look for eggs. I gave my husband a rough sketch of everything that I wanted and it took him a while to understand why I wasn't overdesigning! I guess we will have to re-consider the nesting thing .. I plan on putting them in the tractor when I'm at work during the day but perhaps I can put them out during lunch instead of first thing in the morning.
     
  4. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    That sounds kind of tight for 4 standard hens. I had a 4 by 8 coop with an upper 4 by 4 area, and even that seemed too small. It is hard to visualize how big they will get when you see them as tiny chicks! I would go with at least a 4 by 6 roosting/nesting area, and try to get them 40 feet of run space. You will not regret giving them the room, especially when they cannot free range. Many on here have not been too thrilled with the tractor arrangement in the long run, so keep in mind you may also want a permanent, good-size run.
     
  5. Dread Pirate Roberts

    Dread Pirate Roberts Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 20, 2009
    NorCal
    I would be inclined to build just a coop, no run, with an automatic pop door and let them free range in the entire backyard all day. Assuming they wouldn't destroy the joint.
     
  6. Lil'yen

    Lil'yen New Egg

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    Mar 5, 2009
    Charlottesville, VA
    Hmm.. I guess we may have to go down to just 3 hens.. I would let them free range but for 2 reasons: our very nice vegetable garden and the dogs next door are hunters at heart and have been known to kill chickens and cats. Very nice dogs but were raised in the countryside so they must feel bored. Our backyard is tiny [​IMG] the lot for the house might be less than 1/5 acre so a big run would really use up much of the remaining grass space we have. I was hoping that with the tractor I can drag them occasionally to the front of the house where there is no fence. Right now I have some Easter egger, black australorp, cuckoo marans and blue laced red Wyandotte chicks that I got straight run.. Guess we should start thinking about making some choices!
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2009

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