Mobile chicken tractors vs fixed pen

by Liz Beavis

Chicken tractors are an alternative to keeping chickens in a fixed pen.  Find out more about the pros and cons of chicken tractors.  My eBook A Beginner's Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors has more detail about chickens and chicken tractors.  Get your copy here.

At first we had a fixed pen

When we first started with chickens, we had an old stable with a tack room, and converted that into a chicken coop, with long star-pickets and chicken mesh used to make a run.  As we got more chickens, we kept having to make the run bigger so they would have somewhere the scratch. It is amazing how quickly a few chickens can demolish a run full of grass. 

We used to let them out to free-range before we went to work, but then a few things happened.  First the dog started helping herself to chickens (we’d come home to find a very “sorry” dog and a chicken is varying stages of being eaten).  Then the chickens started crossing the road and scuffing up the neighbour’s garden

So we had to keep the chickens locked up to protect them from the “killer Kelpie” and threats to “call the council”.  Then we started to notice mice around the chicken coop.  The mice were not only eating the chickens’ food, but potentially attracting snakes to the area, and as the chickens were stuck in their run and creating a dustbowl.


The original chicken coop was a extended several times
before we decided to use chicken tractors

We started looking for another solution

Pete had already built a couple of smaller chicken tractors for our baby chickens to live in until they were big enough to live with the big chickens, and for fattening roosters to eat. 
If we were to get rid of our permanent chicken coop, we were going to need some bigger versions of these chicken tractors to keep 6-8 chickens in each.  Luckily Pete decided to size them to fit on the car trailer, because almost as soon as we finished them, we had to move them to about 200km! 
It was nice to know when we were looking at houses that we had accommodation for our chickens organised already, and wouldn’t have to rush to build something for them after we moved.  Actually the property that we moved into had a very messy chicken area in the house yard that we couldn’t wait to demolish in case it was a sanctuary for snakes. 

The original of the small tractors being used for the baby turkeys

More details about the chicken tractors

The chicken tractors measure about 2m wide by 3m long by 1m high.  The frame is made from box section, with corrugated iron over the roost and nesting boxes to provide shelter and shade, and chicken mesh welded to the rest of the frame.  The nest box is folded up from a sheet of galvanised iron, which means its easy to keep clean and free from mites/lice. 
The front has handles, and the back has large wheels, for moving it around.  They turned out to be a bit heavy for me to move on my own, but then we tried our trusty SuperCheapAuto trolley under the front and I have no trouble at all! 
We painted them with old green house paint, so that they blend in the scenery.  You can buy something similar from a few difference places, but I think we saved about half the price or more by making them ourselves (again, my contribution was limited to passing tools and cutting box section, Pete did all the hard work!). 

One of the large chicken tractors - sized to fit on the car trailer.
Inside the large chicken tractor
The side door of the large tractor
The back of the tractor has wheels for easy moving
and a back door to collect the eggs

Advantages of chicken tractors

Having the tractors means that we’re able to keep a number of roosters separated from each other, or rest hens that are looking scruffy, which we couldn’t do with only one pen.  Also we can move them around onto long grass or paddocks that need some extra fertiliser.  We still let the chickens out to free-range when we are home, but the tractors are suitably dog-proof to keep out the “killer Kelpie” and any wild dogs or foxes that take an interest overnight.

Do you use chicken tractors or a fixed pen?  Any suggestions or questions?

More information about chicken tractors:

My eBook A Beginner's Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors has more detail about chickens and chicken tractors.  Get your copy here.

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