Mobile chicken tractor or static coop/house

Discussion in 'Poultry, Domestic Livestock, Pets, & Bees' started by Steve, Mar 15, 2015.

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Which do you prefer: Mobile Chicken Tractor or Static Chicken Pen/Coop

  1. Mobile Chicken Tractor

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  2. Static Chicken Pen or Coop

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  1. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Well I have a vision/idea that I must have got from somewhere to run fruit trees and vines (grapes, passionfruit etc) along in rows pruned/trained in 'Espalier' style.
    At the property we have just bought I have an area where I think i should be able to get maybe 3 rows of this style set up. Then the idea is to run the chook tractor up and down between the rows which will not only keep the chooks happy with new ground to explore and cultivate on a regular basis, but also provide fertilisation for the trees once the rains come and wash the manure down to the tree roots. Any maybe reduce my mowing????
    Here's an example of Espalier style with apples being grown. I think they look awesome. And i see commercial growers use this style too as its easier to pick and maintain and the crop is still substantial.
    I dont know if the idea will work or what problems I might encounter but its stuck in my head and is being churned over and over.

    Espalier Apple 1.jpg



    Yes i agree those old latches were useless. In fact i still have the original style latches but I think they are the 3rd or 4th ones i put on it. They were so easy to snap off and bend. I don't even use them anymore as they are more trouble then their worth. I'll go the hasp and staple too if I ever have the need to secure it again. I still have all the unit markings (the unit christmas tree I think they called it) with all the different colours. I think my trunk has about 5 layers of paint on it as every trip I did they wanted a fresh coat of paint with new unit markings. Yeah memories....
     
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  2. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    This conversation was moved from DIY chicken feeder thread to here because it deserved it's own discussion...
     
  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Funny you should mention espalier apples because after this past season I'm seriously considering changing my apple trees from vase type to espalier! I think this is a better way to grow them and grapes, other vines, etc.

    Yes the chicken tractor moving up and down the rows definitely has its merits. When we had ours you could tell where the tractor had been because the grass was green and lush! Also, when you are first getting into chickens and developing a property you may not be absolutely sure where to build a permanent chicken pen so having a chicken tractor can be a really easy way to house chickens in the meantime. Plus, chicken tractors are safe from predators and you can still let the chickens out of the tractor to roam the property for short periods (if conditions allow) and they will happily go back into the tractor on dusk or they will follow a bit of bread etc thrown in if need be to lock them up early.

    There are some other things to consider about chicken tractors and it's mainly in comparison to the old fashioned chicken pen or coop/house:
    • Weather - In the subtropics, it gets pretty hot under a tin roofed chicken tractor out in the open (especially in summer) so I found myself moving the hens into shaded areas and this is one reason why my tractor eventually ended up down the back of our property under trees. Hens can quickly die of heat stress and although our tractor was top of the range in design there were runs of several days in a row when I was sure if I didn't keep the tractor in the shade the hens would die. Also, on blowy rainy days I needed to tie a tarp over our tractor as added protection from the elements because the hens just weren't getting enough protection. In the end, I made the chicken tractor into a semi-permanent coop and then I threw a temporary fence around it for the hens to get out - all of a sudden I had the beginnings of a chicken pen and the rest is history. :D
    • Number of birds limitations - Because a tractor is a confined area and there's only so much feed and water the thing can comfortably carry tractors are limited when it comes to how many birds you can keep. We found our chicken tractor built for up to 8 birds was really only fit for 4 - 6 max. A static pen or run with a good sized hen house is much better if there's possibilities or plans of flock expansions.
    • Feeders and drinkers - Our tractor was designed with the feeder and drinker hung centrally in the middle and although this was a good spot for the chickens it meant we had to bend over and crawl in to refill or change the feed/water. Must get a design whereby the feeders and drinkers can be accessed from the outside.
    • Convenience - Most chicken tractors come with small trolley type wheels which are ok to pull around on flat hard ground but soon become boggy and difficult to pull in the wet or on lush lawn/paddock or uneven ground. I would buy or build a chicken tractor with the widest and highest wheels possible if I had my time over again and probably make it so it can be towed with my ride-on mower. Also, moving the tractor daily can become a bit of a pain
    • Cost - For the price of a good chicken tractor you can build a totally rippa static chicken house with all the bells and whistles!
    • Manure and mulch - Yes a chicken tractor fertilisers the ground as it goes but in a static pen the mulch floor and nesting areas mixed with manure can be gathered and targeted around the vegetable garden or the fruit trees to great effect.
    I don't want to sound like I'm try to convince you Steve or anyone not to buy a chicken tractor - I think they are a GREAT piece of kit, I'm simply putting my thoughts and opinion out there to help people make their decision. Personally, I may again buy another chicken tractor like if we downsize to a smaller property in retirement or something but on a larger property my vote is for a static pen or chicken house.
     
  4. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member GOLD

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    don't forget my idea of having a solar panel on top.. small battery. . timer and power Window motor. . so the tractor automatically moves small amounts during the day. :tease:
     
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  5. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    That's not silly at all - I reckon it's a top idea and would work nicely along a row of vines or apples ;)
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    You have some good points there Mark and I take them all on-board.
    I suppose at this stage it's just a concept that has issues that need ironing out.

    The weather is probably a big issue with the heat we get. In my head I had a pretty big looking tractor with a high roof to give a decent amount of shade and air flow. I even thought of an insulated roof. I also wanted to put in a decent protected roosting area (terminology??) so in a storm they could take cover. Maybe I need the tractor as well as a permanent house so I can move them if the weather turns bad.

    I really only wanted 3 to 5 chooks so a tractor should be able to hold that. But a good point that the size is definitely an issue as I need to be able to move it and with all my ideas and over-engineering it will probably end up so big and heavy that I cant drag it along. Right, that means I need an engine hooked up too :idea:

    I dont think I'd be able to find a tractor with all my ideas and needs incorporated so some home engineering might be in order. :sawwood:

    I am still some way off putting this plan into practice and a lot of water will pass under the bridge so who knows where I'll end up.

    And yes stevo I like the solar idea and it will just add to the amount of engineering that goes into it. :heat: Remember the show called 'Home Improvements' where he was always tinkering with things and giving them more power? That's gonna be me.....
     
  7. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Well it sounds like a great project then! If you pull this off please make a YouTube video it'll go viral :D

    At least you have the mechanical background to engineer and build something that suits your vision. If you could make a tractor that has all the built in features of a regular static pen (in particular to handle our hot summers) and make it easy enough to move then go for it - it's definitely possible.

    Hmmm, that's what I said when we got our first 4 chooks... 16 chickens, 8 ducks, quail... later :rolleyes:

    True though, a nice sized mobile chicken tractor is a perfectly good home for 3 - 5 birds.
     
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