There are various options for housing chickens on the homestead in your backyard, and a chicken tractor is an option you should consider. But what exactly is a chicken tractor, and how do you build one?
A chicken tractor is essentially a mobile chicken coop with an attached chicken run to provide housing and foraging opportunities for your chickens. The tractor can be moved periodically, providing fresh forage spots for the chickens, and distributing their manure across the garden, providing fertilizer.
We will explore the chicken tractor concept, its benefits, and a step-by-step guide on how to build a DIY chicken tractor. Building a chicken tractor may seem daunting, but with the right design, appropriate materials, and a bit of time and some effort, you can create a safe, comfortable, and convenient home for your chickens.
What Is A Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is a portable version of a chicken coop that can be moved around your property. Unlike a stationary chicken coop, a chicken tractor doesn’t have a floor, allowing your chickens to forage on fresh grass and soil underneath.
It’s an innovative solution that combines housing and free-range grazing for your chickens. The benefits of a chicken tractor are numerous, from providing fresh forage for your chickens to helping with garden pest control.
It provides a safe and secure shelter for your chickens while also giving them access to fresh, natural forage. This not only contributes to the health and happiness of your chickens but also helps in pest control, as chickens are natural insectivores.
Another advantage of a chicken tractory is the “automatic” dispersal of chicken manure below the tractor as the chickens forage. The manure is rich in nitrogen and makes a great fertilizer for your garden or pasture.
Chicken tractors come in various designs, each with its own set of advantages. Your design will largely depend on your specific needs, the number of chickens you have, and the space available.
Regardless of the design, the primary function remains the same; to provide a safe, movable shelter for chickens that allows access to fresh ground regularly.
Best Size For A Chicken Tractor
There are several factors to consider regarding the best size for a chicken tractor. The number of chickens you plan to house, the breed and size of the chickens, and the amount of space you have available are all crucial considerations.
As a general rule, each chicken should have at least 10 square feet or 1 sq meter of space within the chicken tractor.
This ensures the chickens have enough room to move around comfortably and access fresh forage. For example, your chicken tractor should be at least 60 square feet if you plan to house six chickens.
However, the size of your chickens also plays a role. Larger breeds, like Jersey Giants, will need more space than smaller Bantam breeds. Therefore, it’s important to adjust the size of your chicken tractor based on the specific needs of your chickens.
The available space in your yard or field is another factor to consider. While providing enough space for your chickens is important, your chicken tractor should also fit comfortably within your property.
One of the benefits of a chicken tractor is its portability, so consider how easy it will be to move around your property when deciding on the size.
Finally, consider your future plans. If you plan to expand your flock, it may be worth building a larger chicken tractor now to accommodate more chickens later.
Best Material For A Chicken Tractor
Choosing the right materials for your chicken tractor is crucial for its durability, functionality, and overall safety of your chickens. The materials you choose will largely depend on your budget, the weather conditions in your area, and the design of your chicken tractor.
- Frame. The frame of your chicken tractor needs to be sturdy and durable. Wood is a popular chicken tractor material choice due to its strength and availability. Treated lumber can withstand the elements well, but untreated wood is a safer choice if your chickens might peck at it. Metal is another option, especially for larger chicken tractors, as it’s strong and long-lasting.
- Siding. Wire mesh or chicken wire is typically used for the sides of the chicken tractor. This allows your chickens to forage and get fresh air while protecting them from predators. Make sure the holes in the mesh are small enough to prevent predators from reaching in.
- Roof. The roof of your chicken tractor should protect the chickens from the elements. Corrugated metal or plastic are good, durable, and weather-resistant options. You could use a transparent material like polycarbonate to provide more light for your chickens.
- Floor. Remember, a chicken tractor doesn’t have a traditional floor. Instead, the bottom is open to allow your chickens to forage on the ground. However, you might want to include a section with a wooden or plastic floor where you can place nesting boxes.
- Hardware. Don’t forget about the hardware you’ll need, such as screws, nails, hinges for the door, and latches to keep the door secure. Choose options that are weather resistant to ensure the longevity of the tractor.
When choosing materials for your chicken tractor, consider their longevity, cost, and the comfort and safety they’ll provide for your chickens.
How To Build A Chicken Tractor
Building a chicken tractor may seem like a complex challenge, but it can be a rewarding DIY project with the right chicken tractor plans. The process involves several steps, from planning and designing to gathering materials and construction. Let’s break it down.
1. Planning And Designing
Before you start building, it’s crucial to have a clear plan. Decide on the size and design of your chicken tractor based on the number of chickens you have and the space available.
Numerous chicken tractor designs are available online, ranging from simple A-frame structures to more complex designs with multiple compartments.
Your design will depend on your specific needs, the number of chickens you have, and the space available in your yard or field. Here are a few popular chicken tractor designs to consider.
- A-Frame Chicken Tractor. This is one of the simplest and most cost-effective designs. As the name suggests, it’s shaped like the letter ‘A,’ with a covered area for shelter and an open area for foraging. This design is lightweight and easy to move, making it a great option for small flocks.
- Box-Style Chicken Tractor. This design is essentially a rectangular box with a covered shelter at one end and a foraging area at the other. It’s a versatile design easily customized to suit your needs. The box-style chicken tractor is a good choice for medium to large flocks.
- Hoophouse Chicken Tractor. This design resembles a mini greenhouse with a curved roof. It’s typically made with PVC pipes and covered with chicken wire or mesh. The hoophouse design provides plenty of headroom for your chickens and is relatively easy to construct.
- Chicken Ark. Inspired by the traditional British design, the chicken ark is a two-story structure with a ramp connecting the sheltered area on top and the foraging area below. This design is compact and efficient, making it ideal for small spaces.
Wagon-Style Chicken Tractor. This design features a large, wagon-like structure with wheels, making it easy to move around. The wagon-style chicken tractor is spacious and provides ample room for your chickens to roam.
Each of these designs has its own set of advantages and can be modified to suit your specific needs. When choosing a design, consider the size of your flock, the space available, and your budget.
2. Gathering Materials
Once you have a design in mind, the next step is to gather the necessary materials. This typically includes wood for the frame, wire mesh for the sides, paneling for a coop, nest boxes, roosting options, and a variety of tools such as a saw, hammer, and nails.
Your chosen materials will depend on your design, budget, and personal preferences. We will suggest materials to cut your chicken tractor building costs.
3. Tractor Construction
You can start building your chicken tractor with your plan and materials ready. Follow your chicken tractor plans closely, ensuring each part is secure and sturdy.
The goal is to create a mobile, safe, and comfortable home for your chickens that can withstand the elements.
4. Finishing Touches To The Chicken Tractor
Once the main structure is complete, you can add the finishing touches. This might include painting the wood to protect it from the weather, adding a door for easy access, or installing perches and nesting boxes inside the coop.
Building a chicken tractor is not just about providing a home for your chickens. It’s about creating a portable, efficient, cost-effective solution that benefits you and your chickens.
Best Chicken Tractor On A Budget
Building a chicken tractor doesn’t have to break the bank. With careful planning and resourcefulness, you can create a functional and durable chicken tractor on a budget. Here are some tips to help you save money while building your chicken tractor.
- Plan ahead. Having a clear plan before you start building can save you money in the long run. Know the design, size, and materials you’ll need. This prevents you from buying unnecessary items and helps you estimate the cost upfront.
- Use recycled materials. One of the best ways to save money is to use recycled or reclaimed materials. Old pallets, leftover lumber, or discarded metal can all be repurposed into a chicken tractor. Check local listings, yard sales, or recycling centers for materials that you can use.
- Simplicity is key. A simple tractor design can be just as effective as a complex one. Simple chicken tractor designs often require fewer materials and less time to build, saving you money and effort.
- Do It Yourself. Hiring a professional to build your chicken tractor can be expensive. By doing it yourself, you can save on labor costs. Plus, building your chicken tractor can be a rewarding experience.
- Buy in Bulk. If you plan to build more than one chicken tractor or have future projects in mind, buying materials in bulk can be a cost-saver in the long run.
Building a chicken tractor on a budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the quality or the comfort of your chickens. With some ingenuity and resourcefulness, you can build a cost-effective chicken tractor that meets your needs and provides a safe and comfortable residence for your chickens.
How Much Does It Cost To Build A Chicken Tractor?
The cost of building a chicken tractor can vary substantially depending on the materials, size, and design used. However, we have supplied a breakdown of potential costs to give you a rough estimate.
- Materials. The bulk of the cost will come from the materials you choose. Wood for the frame can range from $50 – $200, depending on the type and quantity. Wire mesh for the sides can cost around $20 – $50. Other materials like screws, nails, hinges, and latches can add another $20 – $50.
- Tools. If you don’t already have the necessary tools, you’ll need to factor in the cost of purchasing or renting them. This can include a saw, hammer, drill, and wire cutters. The cost can range from $50 – $200, depending on the quality and type of tools.
- Optional extras. If you decide to add extras like a nesting box, perches, or a feeder and waterer, this will add to the cost. These can range from $20 to $100.
- Time. While not a monetary cost, it’s important to consider the time you’ll spend building your chicken tractor. This component can vary depending on individual skill level and the complexity of the design.
In total, a DIY chicken tractor can cost anywhere from $150 to $600 or more. However, these costs can be significantly reduced if you use recycled materials or already have some of the necessary tools.
Building a chicken tractor is an investment. While there’s an upfront cost, a well-built chicken tractor can last for many years and provide numerous benefits, from healthier chickens to improved garden health.
It’s also worth noting that building your own chicken tractor is often significantly less expensive than buying a pre-made one.
Tips And Tricks For Using A Chicken Tractor
We have included some tips and tricks for using a chicken tractor to help you if this is your first time contemplating this type of chicken housing.
Chicken Tractor Tip 1
Move your chicken tractor regularly to give your chickens fresh ground to graze on and to prevent overgrazing or soil compaction. You can move it every day or every few days, depending on the size of your flock and the condition of your land.
Chicken Tractor Tip 2
Choose a location with good drainage, adequate sunlight, and protection from strong winds or extreme temperatures. You can also move your chicken tractor around your garden to fertilize different areas or to control specific pests or weeds.
Chicken Tractor Tip 3
Check your chicken tractor daily for any signs of damage or wear and tear. Repair any holes or cracks in the wire mesh, roofing, or wood as soon as possible to prevent predators from entering or chickens from escaping.
Chicken Tractor Tip 4
Clean your chicken tractor regularly to prevent diseases or parasites from spreading among your flock. Remove any wet or dirty bedding, food, or water containers and replace them with fresh ones. You can also disinfect the coop and run with a mild bleach solution once in a while.
Chicken Tractor Tip 5
Provide enough food and water for your chickens at all times. You can supplement their natural diet with some commercial feed, grains, fruits, vegetables, or treats. You can also add some grit, calcium, or apple cider vinegar to their water to help them digest their food and prevent infections.
Building a chicken tractor is a great project for your chicken-keeping operation that offers numerous benefits for both you and your chickens. From providing a safe and comfortable home for your chickens to enhancing your backyard farming experience, a chicken tractor is a valuable addition to any homestead.
The key to a successful chicken tractor project lies in careful planning, choosing the right materials, and building a structure that suits your specific needs. Whether you’re a seasoned chicken keeper or a beginner, building a chicken tractor can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.