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Posts: 5
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… Make a mobile coop framed with metal pipe, like a giant tinkertoy set?   It would be an A-frame with no walls but a roof, and electric fencing around it.  

Is there a reason I'm not seeing other people doing this on image searches?

Thank you for your input.
 
pollinator
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B. Hicks wrote:… Make a mobile coop framed with metal pipe, like a giant tinkertoy set?   It would be an A-frame with no walls but a roof, and electric fencing around it.  

Is there a reason I'm not seeing other people doing this on image searches?

Thank you for your input.



Do you mean an A-frame chicken tractor? I have seen those in wood, pvc and even metal pipe. Here’s one:

https://www.grit.com/departments/how-to-build-a-chicken-tractor-zm0z12ndzgou
 
master pollinator
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Might be heavy.  I have had a problem with mobile coops being too heavy for feeble little me to move...
 
Myrth Gardener
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Might be heavy.  I have had a problem with mobile coops being too heavy for feeble little me to move...



That’s why I quit using chicken tractors. I had a back injury and suddenly dragging a heavy tractor everyday over uneven ground got to be more than I could handle. They work great for soil building when you’re young and strong, though!
 
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Weight is the biggest issue I see. Ive seen A frames before. Im guessing the electric fence is so you can let them forage outside of the tractor, while the structure is shelter especially at night. Makes sense. Though if they are only shut in at night, it wouldnt need to be as big as if they were in there all the time.

We made one out of wood that turned out to be i credibly tough to move because of its weight. The slightest incline made managing it just not a simoke matter. It also meant that my wife and kids couldnt take part in thst chore so it could only be me
 
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Weight is the biggest problem with metal pipe that I can see.  Cost would be the other issue as it's likely to be more expensive than PVC or wood (especially if you have scraps of the latter, and/or need to buy tools to bend/form/join the metal).  But, if you have access to thin wall pipe and fittings/tooling for cheap go for it!
 
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I know my way around metal pipe fairly well.
I would only use EMT conduit for this,  to keep the cost and weight down.
I favor hardboard and 1/2" metal hex fencing to skin my coops.
Hardboard is cheap, light and weathers well,but you can put a fist through it.
The 1/2" metal hex fencing I use is cheaper than hardware cloth but still has small holes to keep grabby raccoons from pulling my chickens apart through the mesh.

I don't use metal roofs instead I use tarps,  for weight and cost reasons.

I have a lot of blankets and extra tarps to block cold drafts and wetness during the winter.

I wish I had some used carpet to put on the roof,  to protect the tarp from sun,wind and punctures   but that stuff is hard to come by anymore.


I tend to build on wheels to bypass city regulations on structures for animals, and if you are letting them out everyday, you might as well do the same,and save your back.

A single derelict bicycle donated two wheels to my latest coop,  they work great.
My daughter calls our wheeled coops,  chook-wagons,  instead of chickshaw - we are big fans of Justin Rhodes(aka Mr.  Browns Dad).

For our next chook-wagon,  I hope to use an IBC tote.
The cage is a gavanized steel pipe structure, ready to be modified.
The tank is light and water proof.


 
pollinator
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Check out John Suskovich’s “Stress Free Chicken Tractors” for meat birds or Justin Rhodes’ “Chicksaw” coop for small numbers of layers that won’t use the coop except for sleeping, laying, or cover from raptors. I’m a big fan of innovation, but it’s also good to learn from those who have already “invented the wheel,” so to speak. Saves a lot of floundering around, then you’ll have a better idea of how to do it more to your liking the next time.
 
B. Hicks
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I sure appreciate the input, everyone.  You are all quite generous with your time and expertise.
 
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B. Hicks wrote:… Make a mobile coop framed with metal pipe, like a giant tinkertoy set?   It would be an A-frame with no walls but a roof, and electric fencing around it.  

Is there a reason I'm not seeing other people doing this on image searches?



- You need the terrain to support such big chicken tractor (flat/etc)?
- You might need a tractor or alike to move such a beast regular?
- One needs to have the experience/tools to built such a construction so it lasts at least a couple of years?

So to sum it up and I have built a small one on my own, there are several reasons not to built a large chicken tractor at all. All depends on your situation. I suspect in addition that even in a larger chicken tractor it needs quite some extra supplied food, to keep the ladies happy? Sure it depends on the hens, I suspect many of those modern hybrid-hens not that much suitable, sure they lay eggs like a machine, but those more "natural" lines tend to better forage on their own?

We found that if you keep your hens lucky, they will even lay eggs during winter times when others do not get eggs at all!
 
Cindy Skillman
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Mostly chicken tractors are for meat birds. I’m planning one for meaties and another for layers, a third for turkeys. They’ll be surrounded by poultry netting so the birds can go out and forage during the days and return to the tractors/portable coops at night, then next day I’ll move them to the next paddock. They’ll be following the cows as they’re moved daily for rotational grazing. The tractor and portable coop I referenced above were designed to be very light-weight.
 
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B Hicks: You haven't really said what sort of size you're looking for, or whether this coop is intended for meat chickens or layers, so I'll just try to give you some ideas of what to consider.
1. Layers will use a shelter for several years (partly depending on the breed). I've met too many people who's coops, portable or otherwise, were impossible to thoroughly clean to prevent or treat a mite or lice problem. That's my big problem with "A" frames. We build ours with hoops and knee-walls.
2. Our climate is *very* wet, and at this time, wood must be purchased commercially, so most of our portable shelters are PVC pipe. It can get brittle when it's cold, but our shelters are light enough that the boys let two of them fly during a windstorm even though I warned them. On the plus side, they can be power-washed!
3. We've done the wheel thing for our 10x12 ft shelters. (~3 meters by 4 meters). That's fine for adult birds, but since the bottoms are open, small birds/chicks can duck out if the ground isn't level. The wheels are removable, but that takes two people.
4. Sooo... my one mostly metal shelter has 2"PVC pipe base, so it slides well, and EMT and similar salvaged pipe for the frame and salvaged sheet metal for the doors (one pop, one people, but we mostly just use the people one) and no wheels. It's approximately 8x10 ft and it's only used in the summer when we have Mom's and ducklings that need to "meet and greet" the flock before being allowed out for the day and who get locked up there at night instead of the usual duck shelter because of their size.  It started out as chicken wire covered, but the lower panels were mostly replaced with hardware cloth because chicken wire is too wimpy and got holes.
5. We make all the infrastructure - feeders, waterers, perches, nest boxes etc removable for cleaning. The perches require a couple of wrenches to remove, but most of the rest is clipped/hooked etc. The electrical plugs into shore power and runs electric fencing on the outside to keep the coons at bay.
When I get to my "perfect" set up for chickens, we'll have a set of paddocks with lots of good chicken forage in it, and the wheeled shelter will get moved up to each paddock on about a  weekly basis. It's too much work moving them daily once you get to a certain size. I'm a 120 lb wimp, and I can move these shelters, but only just.
 
Jay Angler
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I took a few pictures today:
mesh-shelter.JPG
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MS-corner-detail.JPG
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MS-door-detail.JPG
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This might give you a few ideas.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Here’s my new one. Summer residence only. Two more to go...

C09B2C16-C63C-4B9D-B795-1E5E88C3B067.jpeg
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Jay Angler
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Wow - awesome job!
One thing to be aware of - raccoon can climb, so they recommend that the latch mechanism be spring activated as they are pretty smart. I use a "boat hook" on my stationary run at night, and my friend uses locking carabiners. If you move your shelter daily, there's less risk, as the movement alone seems to make the predators uncomfortable. If you have a dog in the area, I wouldn't worry either. I wouldn't use the little spring hooks they sell for the purpose because a) they rust and b) they're annoyingly fiddly IMHO. If you can find a stainless dog leash clip they can be adapted for the job also, but we can no longer find stainless ones and the plated ones rust and then jam.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:Wow - awesome job!
One thing to be aware of - raccoon can climb, so they recommend that the latch mechanism be spring activated as they are pretty smart. I use a "boat hook" on my stationary run at night, and my friend uses locking carabiners. If you move your shelter daily, there's less risk, as the movement alone seems to make the predators uncomfortable. If you have a dog in the area, I wouldn't worry either. I wouldn't use the little spring hooks they sell for the purpose because a) they rust and b) they're annoyingly fiddly IMHO. If you can find a stainless dog leash clip they can be adapted for the job also, but we can no longer find stainless ones and the plated ones rust and then jam.



I second those sentiments.

Rats, as an example, are often not caught in rat traps until they've been in one spot long enough that the rats don't perceive the traps to be dangerous. Predators, especially ambush predators, get spooked when things are changed. They need to reassess the situation, and it often takes more than a day, unless they're driven by starvation.

And raccoons are dastardly clever little beasties, but stupid little shites, too. I found one starved to death with one front paw stuck in a small crack in a garbage bin. He got it in, so he obviously could have gotten it out again, but it looks like he refused to let go of whatever he was trying to get.

I often wonder if it's possible to turn chicken tractors into predator traps. Imagine if every little thing that tried to get in at night was caught, trapped, perhaps even killed. You could suspend the carcass from a rope under the peak of the chicken tractor, covered by a bucket, so that local decomposers could turn it into chook food. The predator problem becomes a protein source.

As to weight and moving tractors around, I don't get it. I mean, I know, I'm still in my late youth (not quite 36), but I would have devised a system that doesn't require one to lift, disassemble, or strain anything to move.

I love the wheel ideas, and if they were centre-mounted and the tractor was made to roll by applying slight downward force on long handles, that sounds much easier than grabbing such a construct by one edge or corner and trying to shift/drag it.

Does anyone know if anyone has built a larger tractor to work in conjunction with a track system, even just intentional ruts to guide tractor-mounted rails or wheels? One could use a come-along, those straps with the ratcheting manual winches, to move the shelter down the track, or a conventional winch, or a block-and-tackle. All you'd need is a close-enough fixed point in the direction of travel.

My solution will involve bicycle mechanics.

If I have a large enough open space, as opposed to narrower corridors, I want to build a wedge-shaped tractor with a pivot on the point of the wedge, formed by a hollow pole with a spike that is dropped into the ground to anchor it. The sheltered part of the tractor will be in the narrower half/third (depending on the size of the structure), and on the "leading corner" of the wedge, I will mount a bicycle. I was actually thinking about mounting a larger tire, maybe motorcycle or car doughnut, such that the bicycle tire turns the larger via friction, and so I have full range of gearing, such that I can peddle comfortably at any pace, and the tractor will advance to the next ungrazed position on the circle of paddock.

The wedge-shaped tractor would progress through a complete circle around the pivot point. Once the last position on the circle has been grazed, the spike is lifted, and switched to a similar post in the corner not occupied by the bicycle and tire assembly. I would use a long lever only used for this purpose attached to the original central point to move that point to an entirely new circle of grazing. Then the spike would be returned to the narrow point, and the tractor could continue to be shifted in a circle, until it is time to move it again.

Conversely, if I was using, say, an alley-cropping arrangement between strips of food forest plantings, I would probably install tracks to either side of the alley, and build my tractor to the width available. Once a day, I would hop on the bicycle seat and peddle. Whether this would turn a wheel to advance us along the ground, or whether it reeled up a rope that pulled us, eventually, to the end of the row, is really a situational thing.

Incidentally, I love the idea of installing any wheels or casters that I use such that they can be raised by lever to an "up" position when stationary, effectively lowering the structure to the ground.

As to the tinkertoy idea, it might make spray-washing easier, and disinfection by laying the pieces out on a sunny day, but I don't know that I would want to build a heavy, ungainly structure like that from many smaller pieces that could come apart unexpectedly. The individual pieces would need to be larger, for ease, and there would need to be a locking mechanism so things don't come apart unless you mean them to.

Imagine building a large, long structure out of lego or actual tinkertoys. Past a certain point, everything starts to flex, pulling pegs out of sockets, and everything collapses.

To answer the OP's question, you wouldn't build out of metal pipe if you have to move it by hand and/or had to be big enough to house more than a half-dozen hens. You can build more heavily, but it's not a practical design if it doesn't allow you to move it easily.

-CK
 
Jay Angler
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Chris Kott wrote:

As to weight and moving tractors around, I don't get it. I mean, I know, I'm still in my late youth (not quite 36), but I would have devised a system that doesn't require one to lift, disassemble, or strain anything to move.

I love the wheel ideas, and if they were centre-mounted and the tractor was made to roll by applying slight downward force on long handles, that sounds much easier than grabbing such a construct by one edge or corner and trying to shift/drag it...  Incidentally, I love the idea of installing any wheels or casters that I use such that they can be raised by lever to an "up" position when stationary, effectively lowering the structure to the ground.

The issue is complex, so I'll list just a few of the factors:
1. Size of operation - what works for a 1/2 dozen backyard chickens, doesn't work for larger operations.
2. Flock needs - the needs of a Momma Muscovy with a dozen day old ducklings isn't the same as what a flock of 20 laying chickens needs.
3. Outside standards - there are people out there claiming layers only need 2-4 square feet of space but many beginners don't realize that's just "safe sleeping space", not "we get to live safe and happy lives with interesting places to browse and play space". (Yes, animals "play" - at least I've seen it and I suspect many permies have.)
4. Environment - a)Joel Salatin has his own saw mill and builds everything out of wood that he can because for him, that is cost-effective. We live where it's wet all winter, and wood rots *really* quickly and has to be purchased, so we build with more plastic than I'd like and my metal shelter was mostly salvaged (and has had to be re-enforced in a key location due to rust!)
b) Different predator pressures also impact on the design. What defeats a coon won't defeat a cougar, although thankfully, cougars are generally happier to hunt the local deer.
5. Weather - We get high, gusting winds in the winter. Our ~2 acre field is surrounded by 150 trees and so the gusts can turn into a vortex and regularly reach 70 klicks. The 90 klick ones before Christmas damaged two shelters that were an older style - we do learn from experience even if slowly...
6. Available humans - My 25 year old BSB (big strong boy) has been able to move our 10' X 20' layer shelters independently since he was 16 and can move 5 of them in a row, although he finds that pretty tiring if they aren't easy straight line moves. I'm a 60+ year old wimp with a slightly gimpy knee from an old injury and I can move 2 shelters in a straight line but the third is likely to hurt something. My 65 year old spouse is having a tough time realizing that he can't do what he used to do a decade ago and keeps promising to come up with a better wheel system for the shelters but cost and efficiency are just two of the issues. I'm trying *really* hard to convince him that a series of paddocks seeded with chicken feed and shrubs with an alley for the  shelter to move in a straight line from one to the next on a weekly basis would be a logical progression, but he's not a permie and can't vision it yet. Life is *all* about compromises.
7. Breed of chicken - not all chickens are created equal. Some are better foragers, some are better moms, some are more aggressive which makes them safer from predators, but they need more square feet of coop and paddock space to avoid pecking order issues.

This is why so many people try so many different chicken keeping practices. Having had chickens for ~20 years, and seen lots of examples of large and small operations, everything has a compromise somewhere and different people are willing to compromise in different ways. I have long decided that there isn't a perfect chicken raising situation simply because there is too much variability in all those factors. I support anyone who's willing to raise their chickens ethically, regardless of what that looks like, so good luck on your design and build and I look forward to pictures of your happy chickens when you get there!
 
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I have this idea for wheels which I have tried to attach a diagram of.  You have a wheel mounted on a bar which is pivoted at point A, at the end of the tractor.  When you want to move the tractor, you lift it slightly and lower the bar so the opposite end can be slipped under fixing point C. When you get where you want to be, you can then lower the tractor back down off its wheels.  You'd need to remove the birds whilst doing this.

OK so the diagram came out tiny but hope you can see what I mean.
wheels.png
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Jay Angler
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@ Hester - I can sort of picture what you're saying, but a series of diagrams would be helpful.

Issues I'd watch for as you develop your idea:
1. Do you plan on either a solid floor, or a wire floor which would keep the birds inside while you move the shelter, or is the floor open to the dirt, in which case you have to concern yourself with how to make sure birds don't sneak out or get squished during the moving process.
2. I've tried a number of wheel systems designed to be on and off or pivoted, and I find that the "lifting" part of the equation is often much easier than the "putting back down". For example, wheels that I could slip on one-handed, just pivoted when I tried to slip them off with less than two. An intriguing system I saw once, used gravity to position the wheels for movement, but would have needed a bungee or spring to return them to the down position as I've only got the standard human body - no spare arms here! I had never considered how much the "undoing" process can need more hands and be more awkward than the "doing" process, but I've experimented enough to be skeptical, but not to loose hope.
3. Keep tabs on the overall weight. What can be done at one weight, doesn't always work when a shelter is fully loaded with birds, perches, nest boxes food, water, oyster shell etc. Taking all those things out to move the shelter, only to have to put them all back in, will discourage people from moving the shelter regularly (our goal is daily - but I'd like safe runs so I could move the shelter less often.)
4. Consider your available helpers. My husband and son can both move our production shelters independently, but I'm built small and simply don't have the mass or the hand strength to do so independently. That means for hubby to go away if son's unavailable, I have to import help. Luckily, lately I've been able to invite an old school friend to visit and she and I together can do what I can't do on my own.
5. What your shelter's made of, the type and amount of cross-bracing, what's the weak point in the design, the overall size, will all factor in to the final success. Even more important is to analyze any failings so that you can improve on that success!

Good luck!
 
Hester Winterbourne
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I'm thinking that even in a tractor, most birds will need some sort of sleeping quarters, and they could be shut in there when the move takes place.

OK, let's see if this diagram works better.  A bar B to which the wheel is attached pivots at point H on the frame of the tractor.  P is either a removable peg, or the bar when swung down to horizontal is flexible enough to be sprung away from the body of the tractor slightly, to allow the bar to fit underneath the peg.

I am quite ready to have it pointed out that I have defied the laws of physics somehow and am trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps!
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Cindy Skillman
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Mine has two 9” cart wheels. The bottom rails extend beyond the back end about 8”. There’s a 10” (or so) carriage bolt inserted through each 2x4” from the outside to the inside and affixed there with washer & nut. You slide the wheels on when ready to move the tractor (this involves some lifting, but it’s not too bad). On the front there’s a rope from one side to the other of the bottom rails. You pick the front up with the rope and pull it. It only needs to lift a few inches. Again, not too hard. The chickens kind of bunch up in the back when I’m moving them. They’re still pretty small, but it hasn’t been a problem, despite there being no floor. Like most (maybe all) tractor-style portable coops, this works best on relatively flat ground. I’d take some pics, but it’s all mired down in snow at the moment.

Edited to add: You have to take off the wheels once you have it moved. Otherwise there’s a gap underneath the back end. The chickens won’t get out but nasties could get in. You can also encircle the bottom of the tractor with a strand of temporary (solar is most practical) electric fence a couple inches above the ground, if your predator load demands it.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Just an update on my tractors...

The one pictured in my earlier post now has Cornish Cross broilers inside. The red broilers are delicious but I wanted to try CX too. I fed the reds (“Color Yield” breed) 24-7 and while they did well enough, they got pretty awkward toward the end and I had a hard time moving the tractor because they weren’t moving out of the way very well. I’m feeding the CX for an hour or so in the evening and moving them twice a day. They’re not growing as fast but they’re very lively and funny. I have a hard time getting into the tractor to put their food down (I have it tied up to the ridge pipe when not feeding) without stepping on someone. They’re constantly swarming over my feet... they’re so eager for their food. They have no trouble moving along when I’m moving the tractor. The other tractors with layers, turkeys & ducks aren’t a problem either, even when the birds were small. Here the CX are in the first photo. The second photo is of some of my other birds. They get a paddock of electric poultry netting to graze in.

They do absolutely need the tractor moved daily, though, even though they only sleep there (on roosts—except the ducks in one of the tractors) and use it for shade in the daytime. Otherwise it gets pretty fragrant inside and the nitrogen load would hurt the grass. I move them inside the paddock until I think they’re done with the space, then move them to a new area (usually adjacent and not far), redo the paddock in the new area, and then let them out.

I made nest boxes. One thing I would warn about... if you add nesting boxes it gets heavy quickly, so be careful what materials you choose. Someone suggested I use a more secure latch. For me the barrel latch is fine. Our main predators are coyotes and raptors; we don’t have raccoons. If you do have raccoons you need to choose a latch or two that they can’t defeat (they could totally open mine... except when it’s wet and the wood is swollen and I myself can barely open it!)

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Jay Angler
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Great update Cindy!
A suggestion regarding your problem with lowering their feeder. If you keep a small bucket of pellet feed handy and take a handful and broadcast it deeper in the tractor, the chickens should learn to run and find it and that will leave the area near your feet free. I used to do that when I was trying to get our ducks to bed and they trained very quickly and it keeps them happy hunting for the feed. Both our ducks and chickens do a *very* thorough job of cleaning up chicken pellets.
 
Cindy Skillman
pollinator
Posts: 158
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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Great idea. Thanks! I’m gonna do this tonight. 😀
 
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