Permanent coop vs. Tractor: pros and cons
With the rise of backyard chicken popularity, many different housing options, both homemade and manufactured, have become available. It is a difficult task to determine which coop would be best for your chickens. However, most coops fit into two categories: tractor style or permanent. Permanent coops are like sheds. They rest on the ground and are cannot be moved easily. In contrast, tractor-style coops are designed to be portable so they can be transported throughout a pasture area. Both tractor and permanent coops come in many styles and sizes. The price for both are similar, except when building a permanent coop with a foundation. When building your own, there are varieties of materials you can use, and the less expensive may be the tractor style, since you can simply use cattle panels and a tarp.
When determining which style coop to use, size is a huge factor. Wooden tractor coops should not be longer than 8-10 feet or wider than 3 feet or they become too difficult to move. Permanent coops can be any size, from small to a small barn. Since adult, standard size birds need at least 3 square ft. apiece, an 8’x3’ tractor could only house eight chickens. From my own experience, since most practical chicken tractors are not tall, tractor style coops cannot house standard birds very well. There is limited headroom and very little space to fly, as well as difficulty with the perch spacing. Even though some tractor coops are quite large and have plenty of headroom, these can only be moved with a tractor. Small chicken tractors can be used as alternative brooder coops or as bantam coops.
This coop, being used for Narragansett Turkeys, can only be moved by a tractor.
It is a practical, less expensive option using panels and a tarp, and is great for larger flocks.
The main idea behind a chicken tractor is the ability to move it anywhere. The chickens get fresh grass and bugs, and your pasture or garden is tilled and fertilized. In the run of a permanent coop, the chickens can tear up the grass at an alarming rate. Housing your chickens in a tractor is like letting them free-range without the predator risk. However, you must have enough space to move the tractor and must have a way of moving it. I hardly ever move my coop because it is so heavy, so unless you have something to tow it with, or build a small, lightweight tractor-coop, you may find the chickens still tear up the grass. But if you have lots of hawks or other daytime predators and cannot free range your birds, a tractor coop is a good alternative. You also need plenty of land, for even in one day of scratching chickens can dig up a lawn. The coop needs to be moved at least every other day, and should not cross over the same plot of land twice in a week. Keep in mind the bird droppings are still left behind, so if you do not want droppings in your backyard, the tractor coop is not a good option for you.
Both coops come in a wide variety of styles, so if your land and budget can support either a permanent coop or a tractor coop, you may buy whichever coop catches your fancy. And for the do-it-yourself and save-some-money people out there, you can build either coop any way you desire. If you build your own coop, or even when buying, be sure to pick a design with windows for light, ventilation but no draft, a spacious interior, and a way to clean the coop easily.
Here are some fun pictures to perk your creativity:
This 2-story tractor coop is not recommended. We had trouble building a ramp to reach the bottom level without compromising security. There was very little headspace, it was hard to keep clean, and it was drafty and the ventilation poor. Also, the plywood construction with multiple “flap” doors was flimsy and prone to leakage in rain. The only advantage I see is the protection from snow in the run; with some basic design changes to allow for a ramp, this coop could be good for bantams.
This is a practical wooden chicken “arc.” I got the building idea from Practical Poultry magazine. It works very well for two or three chickens, but there is very little indoor perching space, and larger birds cannot fly. It is also heavy and cumbersome, but this could be corrected with a set of wheels. The top design didn’t work as well as I wanted, so there is a makeshift “roof” to keep out rain.
Other designs of chicken tractor can be square, small, or large (moved by a tractor.) Sometimes they have a hitch and pull, much like a wagon.
Styles of Permanent Coop:
This is a plain and simple homemade coop. It’s functional for a small flock, and attached to an existing shed for ease of building. A spacious run extends into the yard. There is easy access for cleaning through the human sized door in the front, a little pop-hole for the hens, and a human-door leading into the run. Two windows and vents (the other on the opposite side) provide fresh air and light, and inside there are two nest boxes built into the wall, a perch, and storage space in the tall part of the slanted ceiling. It’s a very sturdy and well built coop, and I am sure my birds will be safe in it. All the necessities, but little “prettiness”.
I just loved this unsymmetrical coop with its little windows and crooked door. A very attractive coop, but also very practical, and could house a medium-sized flock of standard bred chickens. For those of you “city chicks,” this could be a good, cute, inconspicuous option.
If you plan to have a large flock, one large barn is easier to care for than many little coops. However, if you plan to breed seriously, you may need multiple coops to control breeding. For a small barn design like this, you could purchase or build a simple shed, and, with a few modifications, have a spacious coop and run. If there are no windows on the other side of the coop, a few might be nice for those days when the hens are stuck inside.
Small coops are easy to build yourself, do not cost much, or take many materials, and can easily fit near the back of your garden. However, they are best for bantams or broodies since they are quite tiny.
Neat and tidy:
This one looks like a small cabin. It has great security and the professional factor. The nest boxes on the outside are great for convenience.
Or, my personal favorite, you could choose a hobbit hole:
The Hobbit Hole runs over $2,000 and is small; however, for those Tolkien fanatics, must-haves, and landscapers out there, this may be the coop for you. Again, the external nest box access is great, and it appears to have great ventilation, light, and ease of cleaning.
The bottom line is, when designing or shopping for your coop, outline how large you want your flock, what breed you are getting (bantam or standard), where you live, how much land you have, and how much you are willing to spend. There are many more designs out there that may catch your fancy, so have fun in your search for the perfect coop!
Describe 'Tractor Coops vs. Permanent Coops: the basics' here