Want to do a chicken tractor, but afraid of safety.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by asher, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. asher

    asher Chicken Enabler Extraordinaire

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    I am going to be ordering some chicks to raise for laying hens. Once old enough, I want to have them in a tractor.

    My fear is, most tractors I have seen do not have wiring on the bottom. It seems you could not have small enough wiring to be predator safe and still allow them to graze/eat the grass which is what the tractors are "for", IMO.

    So I DO want a tractor, but worry about not having wire on the bottom in fear that predators could dig under, etc. and get the birds.

    Does anyone have a predator safe tractor that someone could still (easily) move around as a tractor is supposed to be? If so, could you post pictures please?
     
  2. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    I certainly understand what you mean and I've actually thought about this.
    I planned on using the heavier 2x3 wire on all sides. I found something that is pretty common to everyone- not me- lol, but a clamp with metal clips you squeeze together to attach wire to wire. Also, have thought that using a small gauge hardware cloth to give all sides of the "coop" part, closing them in at night with a tarp over the top to protect from rain and shade during sunny days.
    "stitching" wire closing edges or even those plastic ties would be safe as long as they are pretty close together so if one gets chewed, then another will protect the wire from becoming loose enough for a critter to get through.
    Regardless of wire clips, ties etc, nothing will protect your birds/animals from weasels, only hardware cloth will be able to do that.
    Good luck!
     
  3. rebelcowboysnb

    rebelcowboysnb Confederate Money Farm

    I have 2X4 welded wire on the bottom of mine. You can also have a wire skirt off the bottom laying on the grass an predators will be standing on wire by the time there close enough to try to dig under.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. asher

    asher Chicken Enabler Extraordinaire

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    I have a big roll of hardware cloth to use. That's what I use for all of my cages, actually. I was going to put that on the bottom, but it would seem like they wouldn't actually be able to graze the grass/yard if I do.

    A dilemma for sure!
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    What predators do you have and how many. If you have bears, or a SERIOUS dog- or coyote pack that knows about chicken and wants more, it may be tough to tractor chickens (without an electric fence around the tractor, which is an option for some people).

    If you have a serious rat problem, ditto (although it is also exceedingly hard, virtually impossible sometimes, to fully ratproof a fixed coop either).

    Otherwise, you can make a tractor just about as predatorproof as you can make a fixed coop, if you want to put the effort/money into it.

    Build it light but *strong*, with nothing flimsier than heavy-gauge 2x4 (preferably 1x1) wire mesh that is well-braced and well-attached; run 1/2" chickenwire or hardwarecloth (depending on predator pressure) on the inside of that 2x4 wire for at least the bottom 3', possibly the top of the pen too. Make an apron of your heavy-gauge pen mesh that lies on the ground for 2' or so out from each side of the tractor (ideally make it so it hinges up out of the way to move the tractor - mine is only about 8" wide and it STILL gets aggravating when moving) and pin or weigh it down well. And, shut the chickens into the 'house' part of the tractor when the sun gets ready to go down, and let them back out after sunrise.

    Dunno where you're located but be aware that tractors are awfully hard to really satisfyingly winterize for a Real Winter type climate, though.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  6. 98 gt

    98 gt a man of many... chickens

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    Why not make a tractor as usual, but add a mini coop for night time... Weasels will rarely come out during the day much like coyotes or bobcats...
     
  7. asher

    asher Chicken Enabler Extraordinaire

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    I'm in the foothills of NC. It gets cold, but we've only had one snow that actually stuck this year and it was a dusting that melted the next morning.

    We have a large raccoon population bordering our property in an abandoned cabin. The neighbors say when they look out at night, they see all these raccoon eyes staring at them. [​IMG] That and oppossum (sp?) are my main worries, though you never know when a stray dog or feral tom cat (we have a few of those around here, too that are huge) may want some fun or a treat.
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    You can raccoonproof a tractor pretty well if you try. (ditto opossums). We have nine kajillion raccoons here -- one year I trapped and relocated 11 raccoons in 7 days, and there were still some left over -- and nothing has ever bothered my hens in their summer tractor. Uh, knock wood. SHUT THEM IN without fail, though, when it starts to get dim out. (e.t.a. - into the 'house' part of the tractor, I mean, which needs to be stoutly constructed of 1/2" plywood or better, with no exposed bits that raccoons can grab and pry open, and stout doors with raccoon-proof latches)

    For winter you can probably get away with a tractor -- I lived in Durham for 6 yrs, tho without chickens, so I have some idea of your general climate -- but it would still be a lot easier and more pleasant for all of you if you had permanent winter quarters for them. Less management issues, better air quality and temperature for chickens, greater ability to predatorproof.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2009
  9. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Interesting thoughts to the preditor issues. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one dealing with those pesky coons.
    I bet tieing a cement/cinder block to the tractor, no one could lift it up adding security- tie and untie so you can move the bugger.
    Liked the idea of wire coming out so the coons cant dig under.
    What do Opossums give for problems? (we are just seeing them here)
     
  10. asher

    asher Chicken Enabler Extraordinaire

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    They will eat chickens as well. Or parts of them, at least.

    I may just end up getting a dog kennel/run and setting it over in an empty space rather than doing the tractor thing. We did this once before, had wire over the top, smaller wire along the sides. I never did put wire along the bottom, but did have a small thing in there at night that they were "locked up" in for their safety. Never had a problem.

    In our regular "barn" and coop, our birds are locked up (literally) every night. We've not lost a bird to a predator, yet (knock on wood) in three years so I guess we must be doing something right.
     

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