Chicken Tractors Versus Permanent Coops: The Pros And Cons

Tractor or permanent coop? Let's look at the pros and cons of each...
By Chicken Princes · Dec 2, 2012 · Updated Dec 2, 2012 · ·
  1. Chicken Princes
    Tractor vs. Permanent Coop - the Pros and Cons
    Briana Farrell
    One of the first questions you will (hopefully) ask yourself before you bring your chickens home is: Where should I put them and what will I put them in? There are certainly many different styles of housing for chickens. The two most common options are the Tractor Coop and the Permanent Coop. Both have many advocates, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Tractor coops are great for small numbers of chickens and large spaces. They are basically big movable rectangular frames with chicken wire over the sides, and are usually floor-less. Often constructed of wood, PVC pipe, or metal framework, they usually have a coop with closed-in sides at one end with nesting boxes and roosts where the hens lay their eggs and sleep, so they can be left there all day and night. They have daily access to fresh grass and peck around and eat bugs and fertilize and scratch the manure into the ground while they’re at it. The grass loves it, and ours is growing like crazy even in the middle of winter. The chickens are never in the same spot for more than twenty-four hours, therefore avoiding nasties like coccidiosis and parasites. You never have to replace the bedding or clean out the coop, and it never smells bad. Many chicken keepers opt for the tractor coop for the many benefits it provides.


    The major downside with the tractor coop is the need to move it daily, which can be especially unpleasant in inclement weather. Since it is portable, the coop must be light and easy to move (and therefore small), so it has room only for a few chickens. And unless you have a big enough space to move it around to a fresh spot every day, your yard will soon be scratched to bits and all the grass will be gone. Since the coop is always open to the outdoors, hanging a light in the coop during winter to help with laying will not work. Also, since tractor coops need to be lightweight and portable, they tend not to be as strong as permanent coops, and therefore easier for predators to break into. Animals that can dig (such as foxes) could have easy access to the chickens and eggs, owing to the fact that chicken tractors are usually floor-less.

    Permanent coops are essentially a basic house/shed-like structure, usually with a fenced-in run. They are easy and simple to set up. You build or buy a chicken coop, put a fence around it or attach a run, and there you go. You will never have to move it, and if you use the deep-litter system, you will have a steady supply of fabulous compost for your garden. Since it does not have to be portable, the coop can be more solid to keep out predators and temperature extremes, with sturdy walls and floors. You can hook up an outlet to provide electricity for lighting and a water supply for running water. Permanent coops don’t require much space. They are very secure and are better suited to cold climates than tractor coops. For many, permanent coops are the favored option because of their security from the elements and predators.


    The biggest disadvantage to housing your birds in a permanent coop is the maintenance issue. At a minimum of a few times per year, you will have to clean out all the old bedding and chicken manure. If you use the deep-litter system, the coop will need to be cleaned less often, but still at least once annually. Another major disadvantage is that the chickens will always be in the same place, so any ground that they have access to will soon become bare dirt. Parasites such as scaly-leg mites can be a problem. And the smell can be an issue with your neighbors. The chickens will have to be closed up every night to protect them from nocturnal predators, a chore that can be a nuisance in bad weather. The coop itself can be expensive to build, because it will require more lumber (or whatever other material you plan to use) than a tractor coop. If you want to buy an already-built permanent coop, they tend to be much more pricey than smaller, lighter chicken tractors.

    There is a dazzling array of available chicken housing out there, ranging from building plans for both kinds of coops to pre-built structures that are readily available in feed stores and on the internet. Permanent coops and tractor coops come in all varieties, sizes and designs. Based on your own personal criteria, environment, and available space, either kind of housing may be just right for you. I hope I have shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of chicken housing, and helped you decide which is best for you and your chickens!

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Recent User Reviews

  1. ChickNanny13
    "First Sentence MOST IMPORTANT word "before""
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 26, 2018
    One of the first questions you will (hopefully) ask yourself before you bring your chickens home is: Where should I put them and what will I put them in?
  2. Flamens Farm
    "Right to the point"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed May 24, 2018
    I definitely like the article. It contained good information on both sides of the debate. It relays a plain and simple message to anyone who is trying to decide which would be best for them and their lifestyle. Excellent layout for the Pros and Cons.
  3. Macchickenman
    "Clear and easy"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 19, 2018
    Very clear and easy to understand... For a new chicken person like me....


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  1. WildWyandott110
    Question for anyone who knows- Chicken Tractors- In the above post they stated that they aren't good for winter laying, but what about winter survival? I use an uninsulated tractor in summer, but would the chickens survive a harsh winter (-30 Celsius or so) with that lack of protection, even if using cold-hardy breeds such as the Chantecler? Also, wouldn't snow get in, and make moving the said tractor a practical impossibility? We get five or so feet of snow at any given time in winter.
  2. Ms Biddy
    I know it can be hard to choose so if you have space, I recommend both a coop and a tractor. The tractor comes in handy when we need to separate birds, is great as a grow out pen for youngsters, and can also be used as a quarantine area if needed. If I could only choose one, it would be a permanent coop for the security and larger size, but I love that the tractor is "self-cleaning."
      HeiHeisMom likes this.
  3. Savanna’s chickens
    We just put skids on ours and move it every few weeks or months even
  4. BeeHoney
    Thanks for sharing the info.....
  5. 64chevy
    thx. for this info.
  6. machinfarm
    What we have is essentially a hybrid. We tried to make a tractor but were so terrified of predators + wanted to be able to walk in without having to bend over, so what we have is a heavy, semi-hard-to-move tractor, or from the other angle, a decently mobile coop. The 'coop' is 8x8x8, and roosts/nesting boxes/feeder/waterers are all hanging or attached to the walls so everything moves with little preparation, just lots of muscle! They have a 16x10x3 foot uncovered run that's just hog panels held together with bungee cords. Their wings are clipped and they are heavy birds so they don't try to go over the 3 foot panels. I lock them in at night, let them out in their run during the day, and before the land gets poached or I have to consider shoveling poop, we move them to new ground.
    During the winter, we'll have to winterize it by adding some plastic sheeting around the drafty areas and maybe doing a deep litter in order to leave them in one place for the duration of the very cold season. But otherwise, they keep the grass mowed pretty well and we've been able to have them help us fertilize areas we intend to till and plant vegetables in next spring!
      Dayrel likes this.
  7. pastryman
    You dont need that much space to have a tractor. You just need two times the space of the tractor (bur more is better).
    I have a tractor. But it stayes on the same spot all winter. I just fill the buttom with straw until spring when grass is growing again. A good place in winter time could be in the kitchen garden, for growing greedy summer greens like squas, corn or pumpkin.
    If my lawn was smaller I would have it on the same spot more often. My tractor is more than double the size of that permanent coop above and I have 7 large chickens in it. Just use light materials and wheels.

    I have foxes where I live (Denmark), but for some reason, they dont dig.
    1. ElysianBlight
      Since you said you only need two times the size of the tractor - doesn't that mean you would just move it between two spots?
      How often would you move it then, to keep grass from being killed?
  8. RezChamp
    To add. The eggs are much tastier and such a nice color. Just like the eggs from Pampa and Nana's farm and Granny and Grampa's farm. And the flavour of the chicken thatt was either roasted, fried, baked pie or soup made from the chickens raised there too
  9. RezChamp
    Yes I totally agree, both have their merits. More over, pros and cons per say.
    Where I live the advantage is I have plenty of space to utilize both.
    I've heard many comment regarding how green my lawn is when everyone else's is either heat brown or fall yellowed. My. Secret weapon.....chicken poop. Ooooohh!!! And the tomatoes. Mmmmmmm. There again, my secret weapon??.... chicken poop.
  10. birdman55
    great article
  11. dogfish7
    Very informative!
  12. collingwood
  13. 273816
    Thanks for this, it was very helpful. I have three chickens but I'm hoping to get another so I'm planning to build a tractor. Will take all of this into mind in the future!
  14. farmhouse1888
    Nice summary of pros & cons. Well done!
  15. Mountain Peeps
    Great article! Good job:)
  16. Sizhasasilke
    that's a nice coop pen!
    My problem: No coop=no chickens. This is a good article. My Mom and I aften debate about wich kind.

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