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Chicken Tractors

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I am thinking of adding 2 nice sized chicken tractors this spring. My only concern right now is the state of the lawn after they sit there for the day. I rent my property and I really don't want to be leaving big bare spots in the grass. If I moved them every day to a new spot, would the wear and tear on the grass be noticeable? I plan on keeping maybe 12-15 meat birds in each until it's time to icebox them.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 966
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
It's totally a function of number of birds in a given area vs. time you leave the tractor sit in that area.  Would you be able to move the tractors more often if it looked like once a day wasn't going to be enough?  How big of tractors do you plan to build (and how do you plan to move them?  Large tractors can be very heavy.)?  Meat chickens don't scratch as much as adult layers, and you normally only keep them for a few weeks (they'd be in the brooder for probably three weeks, then outside for maybe five weeks until butchered). 

Also, what you could do is start butchering the biggest ones at five or six weeks old, doing them gradually until you finish the last roasters at maybe twelve weeks.  By then you'd be down to only two or three birds per tractor, and even in a small tractor that would be fine. 

Alternatively (and it wouldn't cost any more, or at least not much more, than building the tractors) get a fence charger and a roll of electric poultry netting; provide something for a semi-portable shelter inside the netting; and 'day-range' them.  Paul (the list owner here) will tell you that's the best way to do it, and I think he's probably correct.

Kathleen
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
I also support the easily rearranged paddocks.  We have a mobile nest box for the girls and a mobile roosting shelter and then I just move them to different areas of the yard where I have set up temporary fencing or netting.  I haven't used any sort of electric fencing (so far no issues here with predators.)


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Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 966
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
It's a good idea to use the electric fencing, though -- you probably won't know you have predators until you start losing birds, but they can decimate your flock in one night.  Maybe that's not a big deal now while you can still replace your poultry fairly easily, but there may come a day when that isn't possible.

When I was still living in New Hampshire, we lost two whole batches of chicks.  First an entire batch of half-grown meat birds (to a two-legged predator, I'm sure, as my ex had insisted on leaving their pen too close to the road); then a batch of young layers to weasels.  Here in Oregon I've lost quite a few birds to raccoons (although not a one this last summer, for a change), and a lot of eggs to skunks!  I've been managing without electric fencing, but am preparing to get some breeding quality Salmon Faverolles, and electric fence is on the list!

Kathleen
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Yea, we are probably living dangerously but we are also in the sub burbs and since we have no roosters, it isn't like we are preserving breeding stock.  Our methods will probably only last till a neighbor complains to code enforcement and we are forced to get rid of all our birds since apparently in our county only pets are allowed on Residential zoned property and it seems that it is only a pet if you bring in inside the house.

In any case, a large number of birds inside a "tractor" can pretty quickly do in a patch of ground so make sure they are easy to move often, or consider a smaller number of birds.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
if you are renting I can see where you might need some special considerations as far as keeping things pretty temporary and might even have some aesthetic considerations. building a tractor large enough for 12-15 birds is possible. I think getting one lightweight enough to move often and having an appropriate size at the same time will be the trick. dont' get sucked into the pictures of tractors packed with birds. yeah some people do that but it sorta defeats our purpose in trying to get some greens and provide good living conditions for them. for instance in this picture I found ......http://www.lilligren.com/homestead/pix/pasturedpen.JPG
i can count at least 50 chickens. I would cut that in 1/2 at least and probably more like 1/3 to 1/4 just so i didn't have to move the pen twice a day.

I think my next tractor will be similiar to this.

http://www.pvcplans.com/pvc-pastured-poultry-pen.htm

I can see already in that particular design that it needs some cross pipes at an angle for stability. there is a variety of pipe fittings that could accomomodate that need. pvc would need to be painted to protect it from the sun also and keep it from deteriorating.

I differ then alot here. I am not a huge fan of portable fencing. I would rather move a large tractor daily rather then mess with moving portable fencing. electric is ok but you have to have a good ground and a good charger access wherever your moving your fence to. this can be limiting as to where you can move your pen anyway. or leave you with a long run of electric fence or insulated wire going across the ground to your new desired paddock area. to me a large tractor is more versatile. It can go anywhere there is open somewhat level ground, be moved by simple picking it up and rolling it (no pulling up an moving lots of step in posts and tangled fencing, which having just remved a large portion of electic fence I can attest to being tedious and time consuming) and if desired can serve the exact same function. If one were trying to raise large numbers of birds then I can see where a large paddock/pasture system or movable fence is neccesary. building a tractor for 100 chickens just doesn't seem reasonable. 



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"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
I've only got 11 chickens and they will destroy a 10' by 20' area of small vegitation in soft ground in about a day and a half.  They currently have a paddock space of about 100 feet long by anywhere from 10-30 feet wide.  They love to roam around scratching and chase bugs.  I think I would only go back to a small space for them if I was having them intentionally work a garden bed for planting for me.  In which case I would still need to do it with portable fencing since I doubt a tractor would go over my garden beds very well.  It only takes them a very short time to really re-work a soft garden bed for me.  And now that I'm converting over to more perennial food forest type growing as I can, there will be fewer places I could put a tractor.  Chickens actually prefer forest conditions more than a patch of pasture.  I wouldn't be able to put a chicken tractor over my bamboo line along the property line but I can run the temporary fencing along there and the chickens have done a wonderful job of weeding and cutting the grass around the bamboo and trees which would have been quite the chore for us to do.

I suppose I can understand not liking to mess with the portable fencing but my girlz love new spaces to hunt for food so much that I guess moving the paddocks around has become a labor of love, the joy of giving the girlz special treats in a sense.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I can definitely see both sides here. I would really love to have a huge area for the chickens to roam, but it is just not feasible at this time. I have about a 1/2 acre of woods with a fairly good amount of vegetation. I would love to utilize this area. I am planning a design for a tractor that would be adequate for 25 birds and would be able to be easily moved by a garden tractor. I am a pretty busy guy and would be able to move the tractor twice a day quite a bit easier than tearing down and rebuilding an electric pen every so often. Also, I am not a big fan of relying on electricity, as my goal is to be as self-reliant as possible in the end.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
stully wrote:
I am a pretty busy guy and would be able to move the tractor twice a day quite a bit easier than tearing down and rebuilding an electric pen every so often. Also, I am not a big fan of relying on electricity, as my goal is to be as self-reliant as possible in the end.


There are solar powered electric fence systems on the market. A farm I worked at had them and it worked well. And I'm not sure if it'd work with a chicken fence but we rotated pigs using pegged metal posts that were easily moveable. Our chicken tractor on the other hand was a big pain in the ass to move.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Moving a chicken tractor twice a day, how much is that going to take in reality?  Well if you don't have to do anything other than pull the tractor forward 15 feet and then stop, it might not be a big deal.  However, most chicken tractors are not quite as easy as all that (how do you get the chickens to not get squished in the trailing edge?

As far as adjusting the netting or fence we have, (not electric) it doesn't take all day or anything like that and it isn't as if we are doing it every other day.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I have looked at both sides of this, and have decided to take the majority vote. Sort of. This topic has inspired me to take a trip through the wooded area of my property and I think I have found a pretty good solution. There is an area that is relatively flat (hard to find in westen pa) has 4 large trees(the lowest branches being 20 ft), a few smaller trees and is overgrown with green vegetation. It also has a dry ditch that is just overgrown with grass and weeds. The way I figure it, I could get a few rolls of garden fencing down using the four main trees as fencepost which will only require me to put maybe 8 more post in. My main questions are: how high should the fence be ideally? There are very few predators left as far as coons and skunks are concerned, but I do want to keep the chickens in. I don't want a four hour easter egg hunt everyday. Also, I was thinking about a huge net to cover the top, but I would really love to pass up on this if I could. Remember, my concern is not predator's, it's keeping the birds in. My dog takes care of the predators, at least the ones on the ground. The area is if I had to guess( which is difficult because it is irregular) is somewhere between 2500 - 3500 square feet. That's a  pretty conservative estimate. I will be putting somewhere between 35-50 birds in there, but after I cull the meat birds, I'm only looking at 25 birds. I am getting heritage breed birds because I am sort of a traditionalist, plus I pretty much want to let them go. Is it feasible to believe they will be able to reproduce in the spring with little or no interference from me? I would love not to have to order chicks every year. 
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
I only had 11 Rhode Island Reds (couple NH reds.)  They don't tend to fly but they are perfectly able to get over a 5' high fence if they want to.  My fence/netting is anywhere from 3-7 feet high.  They only start jumping the fence when they get board with what is left inside the fencing.  Chickens are capable of eating all the greens in a restricted space.  Most of my fencing is put in using little step in stakes, not fence posts.  I usually only bother with overhead netting when I put them in an area without trees/cover overhead.  So far we haven't had any trouble with predators though I know we have hawks that live in the area (thus the overhead netting when they are ranging in a very open area.)

Every so often with the netting or plastic garden fencing I find that some critter has chewed through it.  Rabbits, rats, opossum, skunk, squirrel, etc can all easily chew through netting.  On occasion these holes appear and we have to entice the chickens back into the run and figure out where the hole is to close it up.  (Having some extra garden fencing and stakes handy to contain them when you lead them back in with some scratch.)

As to egg hunts, I suppose it will depend somewhat on the breed, but if you give them a nice nest box that they like, then they are likely to lay eggs there rather than all over the forest.  I decided a chicken tractor that would be a complete coup was just too big to move easily.  Now I have a mobile nest box that is separate from their night time perch house which is also portable.  This way we can situate the nest box so it is easy to collect eggs and place the perch house in different locations to fertilize different patches of ground.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I actually have 3 areas this size that I would be able to rotate around a central point. Like a fan with tree blades, I would just rotate the run around the coop as the coop will be fairly large. Thanks for all the advice from everyone. Working on the coop design is next. Actually I think I will start a new thread so people can show off pictures of their coops or anything else they use.
Brian Bales


Joined: Jan 13, 2011
Posts: 90
One of the million projects I have in the works is keeping chickens. I want to keep them in tractors and I want to use a duel purpose type so I can get eggs and meat. My plan is to keep 3 tractors and rotate the roosters. 2 tractors for meat birds and 1 for eggs, jobs will change yearly.

I need a tractor that will hold 8-12 birds, be predator proof, must be durable and able to house chickens year round. It also has to look good so no one has a problem with an "eye sore" in the yard. I found plans for a tractor that meets all these requirements but its different from any tractor I've seen. Has anyone come across this tractor before? Any thoughts? http://diychickentractors.com/home
 
 
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