Chicken Tractors

ctract2Chicken eggs are an important renewable source of fresh protein that every prepper should consider.  Of course they are also a great source of meat!  Free range chickens (letting your chickens run loose during the day to eat bugs and plants) not only cost less to maintain, they provide richer eggs – which is evident in the yolks of truly free range chickens.  However, if there are lots of potential predators around such as dogs, hawks, skunks, etc. Free Ranging your chickens could be quite dangerous to their health! You also need to take special care to fully fence your garden areas. Chickens love to eat freshly sprouted plants which can quickly lead to ruin for your budding garden. That’s where we turn to the Chicken Tractor.

Chicken Tractors are basically a portable cage that can be put in a pasture or field and moved on a regular basis.  The tractor and your pasture will develop a symbiotic relationship as the tractor provides protection to your chickens while the chickens weed the pasture, fertilize it and eat bugs.  During the winter you can move the tractor to the garden and by putting down straw or other bedding, the chickens will produce a wonderful nitrogen rich pad that can be turned into the soil when planting season comes back around.

In typical me fashion, I severely overbuilt my chicken tractor – the thing is a tank!  I still need to paint it red – my wife wants me to stencil “Hot chics inside” on the side of the house :)  Here’s a pictorial of building ours (by the way, my teenage son helped me build it – any flaws you notice in it are his fault! ;) ):

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Building the main cage frame.

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Cage wired up and the house framing done.

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Sheeting on the house, nest boxes installed.

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Construction finished.  We used the wheels off a small bike.  In this picture you can see the access door is open for the nest box.

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Out in the pasture, the birds are checking out their new digs!  There is a plank ladder going down from the house into the cage.  There are several roosting rods throughout the house.

As you can see, we built ours basically like a huge wheelbarrow.  It’s quite easy to lift and move it.  The horses were immediately curious about it and spent the rest of the night worrying it.

14 Replies to “Chicken Tractors”

  1. Thanks matthiasj! I’m pretty sure it’ll hold through winter without any problems :)

    angela: I have a dozen birds in there right now and it’s not overly crowded. The design also accommodates adding an extension to the cage attaching on the left or right side by the handles. I plan to extend the length of the run later this month. (follow up post).

  2. Thanks matthiasj! I’m pretty sure it’ll hold through winter without any problems :)

    angela: I have a dozen birds in there right now and it’s not overly crowded. The design also accommodates adding an extension to the cage attaching on the left or right side by the handles. I plan to extend the length of the run later this month. (follow up post).

  3. As a youth, I worked on a rather large aviary at our home (it’s not a job, it’s family!). My dad would have loved this design for a lot of varieties of birds. Though most of our chickens were in a much higher count than would work with these (not the average family sized farm).

    1) do you have a way to latch that bottom access the birds have to outside? I know too many critters could take advantage of that at night.

    2) any plans for adding any kind of heating element or such inside for winter time?

  4. As a youth, I worked on a rather large aviary at our home (it’s not a job, it’s family!). My dad would have loved this design for a lot of varieties of birds. Though most of our chickens were in a much higher count than would work with these (not the average family sized farm).

    1) do you have a way to latch that bottom access the birds have to outside? I know too many critters could take advantage of that at night.

    2) any plans for adding any kind of heating element or such inside for winter time?

  5. Jayce:

    1) Yes, the ladder is hinged with a rope on the end of it. It not only allows me to shut it at night but also secures the birds in the house while I’m moving it.

    2)Yes, In the winter I’ll hang a warming light inside the house and run power to it (it will be in the garden during the winter). There are multiple roosting levels inside the house so they’ll be able to self-regulate how much heat they are getting.

    My birds are still only a couple months old. I think that by the time they’re full grown that a dozen will be about the right amount for this cage. We’ll see though.

  6. Jayce:

    1) Yes, the ladder is hinged with a rope on the end of it. It not only allows me to shut it at night but also secures the birds in the house while I’m moving it.

    2)Yes, In the winter I’ll hang a warming light inside the house and run power to it (it will be in the garden during the winter). There are multiple roosting levels inside the house so they’ll be able to self-regulate how much heat they are getting.

    My birds are still only a couple months old. I think that by the time they’re full grown that a dozen will be about the right amount for this cage. We’ll see though.

  7. To ensure thriving chickens, the general recommendation is 4 sq ft per bird inside, and 10 sq ft per bird in the run. You can get by with less while they’re small and during the summer if you let them out to roam, but these quarters will become cramped in the winter. You might consider making a second tank tractor, or be prepared to trim beaks to prevent infighting and egg-eating.
    We fenced in an orchard area for our flock of 24, after the third neighborhood dog came for lunch, and we found that in order to keep the elusive birds contained we had to trim their long wing feathers down to size, because a few of the ringleader birds started teaching the others how to vault the 8 foot fence in a single bound.

  8. To ensure thriving chickens, the general recommendation is 4 sq ft per bird inside, and 10 sq ft per bird in the run. You can get by with less while they’re small and during the summer if you let them out to roam, but these quarters will become cramped in the winter. You might consider making a second tank tractor, or be prepared to trim beaks to prevent infighting and egg-eating.
    We fenced in an orchard area for our flock of 24, after the third neighborhood dog came for lunch, and we found that in order to keep the elusive birds contained we had to trim their long wing feathers down to size, because a few of the ringleader birds started teaching the others how to vault the 8 foot fence in a single bound.

  9. We love our chicken tractors, but I've discovered you need to make a few winter chicken tractor changes. (http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Winter_chic…) Basically, I swap the orientation of the tractor around for the winter so the birds keep getting lots of sun, and I'm also more careful with water and moving them frequently. That way, I keep getting orange yolks all winter.

  10. We love our chicken tractors, but I've discovered you need to make a few winter chicken tractor changes. (http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Winter_chic…) Basically, I swap the orientation of the tractor around for the winter so the birds keep getting lots of sun, and I'm also more careful with water and moving them frequently. That way, I keep getting orange yolks all winter.

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