Is a Chicken Tractor Safe for Chickens to Live in?
Chickens are fantastic pets but when they rip up the lawn, you find yourself wishing for a better way to contain them. Well, a chicken tractor is the answer!
It’s a portable chicken coop with wheels, but without a floor, so you can easily move your chickens around the yard allowing them to forage without scratching everything up in their path.
If you want to know what a chicken tractor is and whether it is suitable for backyard chickens to live in, our ultimate guide explores everything you need to know from its safety and purpose to building your very own tractors for chickens.
Let’s start by looking at what tractors for chickens are and whether your flock can live in them.
What is a Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is a mobile chicken coop that is built on wheels. It is fully enclosed with wire mesh and a roof but does not have a floor allowing poultry to forage in the safety of their portable home.
You can move the chicken tractor around to prevent chickens from scratching and pecking up grass which helps to salvage your yard!
The chicken tractor is the best way to contain poultry while providing them with grounds to forage for food and time for damaged lawns or garden areas to regrow.
Chicken tractors consist of a chicken run that is covered with chicken wire to protect birds from foxes, coyotes, raccoons, dogs, and cats. Handles attached to the wooden frame chicken tractor make pulling the structure easier and more comfortable. To maintain the lightweight design, PVC pipes can be used instead of a wood frame to secure the wire.
What is the Point of a Chicken Tractor?
Chicken tractors are essentially mobile coops for free range chickens. The idea is to create a secure chicken coop with nesting boxes for laying hens, a door, and a small run that fowl can move around in.
The chicken tractor has two purposes, the first being the option to move the coop while allowing poultry out of the tractor during the day to free range and then return to the coop in the evening.
The second purpose is to keep birds confined and predator free while preventing them from destroying the lawn or finding their way into a vegetable patch or flower bed. Chickens will scratch and peck at the ground damaging plants and grass in their path. Confining them to a portable coop helps to keep them in designated areas while protecting delicate plant matter.
If you don’t want to create a permanent chicken coop or you wish to move the coop to a sheltered area in winter, chicken tractors make this possible.
Tractors provide a secure run to contain the flock while giving them access to fresh grass, bugs, and grit.
On the positive side, chicken manure is a great source of nitrogen and phosphorus which means that your flock can naturally fertilize the ground while inside the chicken tractor. Because tractors don’t have a floor, the flock can spend a day or two scratching at the ground before being moved to a different area.
The process of using poultry to till and fertilize the soil and then moving them to different sections of the backyard is also the reason these styles of chicken coops are called chicken tractors!
Can Chickens Live in a Chicken Tractor?
Yes, chickens can definitely live in chicken tractors provided their safety is prioritized, they have enough space, and a nest box is provided for hens.
Chicken tractors are beneficial for small flocks or chickens kept in a spacious backyard with enough area to move the tractor around. Ideally, chicken tractors should provide 4 to 5 square feet per medium-sized bird such as a Leghorn or Plymouth Rock. For larger hens including Orpingtons and Wyandottes, increase the area to 5 to 6 square feet per bird.
For chickens to live in a tractor, it must be secured against predators.
For a wooden frame chicken tractor, you can attach hardware cloth to make it predator-proof. The tractor must include a shelter with a hen hideout to protect them from the elements while giving hens a private space to lay eggs. It should also provide enough space for feeders and waterers for the backyard flock.
If you are raising meat chickens, the chicken tractor offers the perfect type of housing. It allows them to free range and benefit from the fresh air while keeping them contained and safe from foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. When meat chickens forage outdoors, the weeds and bugs supplement their diet helping to manage their feed costs.
Does a Chicken Tractor Need a Floor?
Chicken tractors are not built with a floor because it is moved to different areas of lawn or grounds for poultry to forage and fertilize.
If the chicken tractor is to remain stationary, then soft sand is a suitable medium for the floor as it is easy to clean and offers an area for them to enjoy a sand bath.
Sandbathing is necessary for poultry to keep clean and repel pests such as lice and mites.
How Tall Does a Chicken Tractor Need to Be?
Chicken tractors are large bottomless pens that are designed to house a small flock of 4 to 8 chickens and they should have a minimum height of 3.5 ft.
The nest box should be elevated above the chicken run providing more room for birds if they are going to remain in the tractor and not be moved to a separate coop at night. Elevated nest boxes also make it easier to collect fresh eggs every morning without crawling into the pen.
The height of a chicken tractor is determined by the height of the nest and run area. Once you have built the frame chicken tractor sides need to be installed. If you are adding a nesting box, then you’ll require at least one 12×12 inch box for every 3 hens with 4-5 ft of vertical space.
As a rule of thumb, provide hens with 4 square feet of floor area per bird with 3.5 to 4 feet of vertical space on the lowest side of the tractor.
Can Chickens Live in a Chicken Tractor in Winter?
Poultry can live in tractors during winter but it does require a little bit more work, especially during heavy snowfall. The chicken tractor should be covered with a secure tarp before it snows to prevent frost from accumulating inside the tractor.
Poultry will also need straw or leaf matter as bedding and insulation against the cold and the tractor should be moved to dry ground to prevent the frame from becoming trapped in ice and snow. It is best to keep it stationary in winter in a warm, dry spot so you won’t have to trudge through snow to reach it or risk damaging the frame by moving it in frost.
Does a Chicken Tractor Need Nesting Boxes?
Yes, when raising chickens in a chicken tractor, hens need a safe place to produce eggs during the day. By adding nesting boxes, egg-laying hens can enjoy free-ranging and foraging in the safety of their tractor.
Are Chicken Tractors Worth It?
Whether on a farm or in a backyard with a spacious outdoor area, a chicken tractor is a fun way to raise poultry. These mobile coops can be designed in rectangular, hoop, triangular, or barn styles with a wooden frame, secure door, and an area for hens to nest in.
You can paint a wood frame chicken tractor to seal it against moisture damage but choose an exterior paint that is low in Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
VOCs in the paint can cause respiratory problems in poultry, so it is best to look for environmentally friendly products when painting the coop.
Mobile coops should be large enough to hang waterers and feeders allowing poultry to comfortably spend their time outdoors.
Chicken tractors provide the added bonus of naturally fertilizing the land as chicken manure is high in nutrients. Move the coop as desired to prevent your chickens from scratching and pecking at lawns, vegetable patches, and landscaped areas.
If you don’t want to keep a small flock inside a coop but you need to safeguard them from predators, then the chicken tractor is certainly worth it. Poultry will enjoy the time spent outdoors while foraging and free ranging for food under the protection of their portable enclosure.
How to Build a Chicken Tractor
If you have a knack for small scale building projects, then you can try your hand at making your own DIY chicken tractor with a few basic components. You’ll need a wooden frame that you can build according to a chicken tractor plan and remember to keep it lightweight so that you can pull it around.
If you need some design inspiration, there are many creative chicken tractor designs online from traditional rectangular coops to triangular and barn tractor styles. Whatever shape you decide to build, the materials list for your own chicken tractor should include the following:
- Chicken wire
- Nesting box (or you can build your own)
- Tin roof panels that are lightweight
- Heavy-duty rope or cabling for pulling
When you need to pull the frame chicken tractor handles may consist of rope, chain, cable, and long solid handles. Small tractors of around 4 ft can be pulled using wood, stainless steel, or PVC handles attached to the frame that are easy to grab onto, much like a wheelbarrow.
Securing the Tractor
To enclose the tractor, use chicken wire, preferably hardware cloth which is a galvanized steel mesh. The galvanized steel is weatherproof so it won’t rust and it is thick and durable to prevent predators from getting into the mobile coop. Don’t forget about the roof! Chickens are easy pickings for aerial predators such as hawks so installing a secure roof is a necessity.
Use PVC pipe to create a frame for the wire instead of wood. This reduces the overall weight of the frame and the PVC can be curved into hoops for a unique design.
The wheel size is determined by the dimensions of the portable coop. For a small frame chicken tractor lawnmower sized wheels are suitable while larger tractors housing 8 chickens would need wheelbarrow size. A heavy wood frame is best supported by double or tractor-sized wheels.
Chicken Tractor Design Ideas
You can transform a bantam house into a chicken tractor by attaching a chicken run to the tiny hen house. When building the frame chicken tractor sides are 2 ft in height to accommodate the small size of bantams including Silkies and Sebrights.
The chicken menagerie is a popular design that consists of a fully enclosed wood frame chicken tractor with elevated nesting boxes and a run. It is the luxury version of a mobile coop with an upper floor for hens and a “chicken porch” on the lower level to accommodate more birds.
One thing to remember when designing a mobile coop is where the door will go! It should be easy to open and secure against intruders such as pesky raccoons. Include a raccoon-proof lock on the door to stop them from invading the coop.
A chicken tractor is a mobile chicken coop that you can pull around and because it doesn’t have a floor, poultry will have the freedom, within the confines of their coop, to feast on the grasses, grit, and grubs in their environment. These portable coops are growing in popularity because they offer a simple and fun way to contain chickens from the backyard to the farm.
Many poultry keepers are taking on DIY chicken tractor projects to create their own portable coops. A wood frame chicken tractor is sturdy and you can add elevated nesting areas for laying hens which creates more floor space for the flock. Just don’t forget to add a secure coop door to prevent raccoons and foxes from reaching your hens.
Advantages of a Chicken Tractor
The chicken tractor offers a multitude of benefits for poultry including protection against predators, access to fresh greens, and containment during the day. It also gives lawns a chance to regrow because chickens are rotated and don’t spend all of their time scratching in one spot.
Feel Free To Share!
If you’ve enjoyed reading our chicken tractor guide or wish to inform other poultry hobbyists of the uses and benefits of chicken tractors, please share our article with them. We hope that you are one step closer to finding or creating the ultimate mobile coop for your backyard chickens.