Tractor Vs Permanent Coop The Pros Cons

By Marty1876 · Nov 2, 2012 · Updated Dec 3, 2012 · ·
  1. Marty1876
    We all love our hens! Everyone wants to have the perfect place to keep our special friends. Some are expensive pullets, some we've cared for since they were barely bigger than the egg they hatched out of, and some have been in our care since their arrival from their mother hens to our hands for incubation. No matter where you got your birds, they are special to you, and you want them to be housed in the best possible situation for them.

    While many choices from a world of chicken keepers abound, most of us choose to either house our chickens in a Chicken Tractor or a Permanent Coop. Both abound with real advantages (The Pros) and even some disadvantages (The Cons). Since the educated owner can make better choices for the birds, I would like to enthrall and enlighten you, my fellow chicken keepers, with the low down and highlights, on these two favored coops.

    The permanent coop is a long standing favorite for sheltering your BackYard Chickens. Even my 134 year old picture of my house has a pic in the background of a wood frame coop, complete with hens wandering the front yard. Essentially, the permanent coop is a solid structure (usually wood, stone, brick, plastic, or any other long lasting material) where your hens and roosters go for shelter and protection nights, and days in some cases. The biggest advantage of the permanent structure, is the simple fact of its permanence. Come wind, snow, sleet, wind, and hail, your hens can be safe, dry, and reasonably warm and comfy. Another nice advantage is that this type of coop keeps food, roosts, and nests safe from elements and temperature fluctuations. A securely built Permanent Coop, with tight floors and corners, is great protection from predators on the wing or padded foot alike which is a real Pro. Another bonus, A coop with an electrical outlet can be used to safely attach a light for winter heat and to keep up egg production, in the safest possible way, well attached and out of all possible weather damage. This Pros speak volumes of the positive qualities of the permanent structure.

    [​IMG] This is my friends "French Chicken House" built from a large skid from France, recycled barn wood, a house window, and metal and framing from an old shed.

    Permanent structures are great, and their advantages are very real. However, their disadvantages keep some from being able to consider this as an option. The list is short, but if it's a limitation beyond you, you need to know now. The biggest Con to this coop is the price of building it. Wood, stone, brick, and block tend to be expensive. It is not unreasonable to expect to pay between $300 to $1000 or more just for materials, based on material selections and size of your structure. The next limitation is that you need to build a permanent coop that's weather and predator tight, on a foundation of some sort, and include a roof and doors (or even windows). If you can't build it, you are going to have to pay or trade somebody to do it for you. The final significant con of the permanent structure is that it will require maintenance. I don't mean painting and keeping leaks at bay, I mean you will need to clean your chickens' fecal matter out of this building on a regular basis, for the health of your birds and you. This means either more labor for you, or more money to pay somebody else to do it for you, perhaps an investment in a system to keep the cleaning easy and effective.

    The Tractor coop is a new solution on the scene, in terms of poultry history. It has increased in popularity along with the need and desire for a tidy back yard, and a tidy group of BackYard Chickens. Arguably the greatest Pro of the Tractor coop is that it is highly mobile. Your hens can be over a bug infested area today and then move to garden clean up tomorrow or even 5 minutes from now. Some tractors have an open area or a fenced hoop house that may have only tarp or some other material to provide a dry space to the residents. A special Positive is this type of coop also is ideal for pressing used or recycled items such as wooden crates and some fencing and leftover or recycle lumber (or re-bar, plastic pipe, and etc) into service for a super quick portable tractor type coop. One can have a physical shelter and pen in just a few hours for little or no money, if they are handy. A bonus for the tractor, is that fresh clean air is usually just not a problem, and frequent flooring change (moving the coop) means less disease in the flock. A final Pro is that since well designed Tractor coops are either light enough to be easily pulled or rolled around the yard, this keeps one from needing to clean coop floors and allows for fresh grass and snacks as often as the coop is moved. Chickens seem to love this partial freedom.

    [​IMG] This is the "Water Tank Tractor" built from a plastic water tank, old swing set frame, some 2 x 4's, small piece of plywood, hen wire, and a small tarp. Cost? Hen wire. Everything else is recycled!

    A tractor coop is easier and faster and often less expensive to build, but there are also some real disadvantages. Con, tractor coops are usually not air & water tight. Some may keep out most rain, but not cold weather and wind necessarily. This may put food at risk for getting wet, and egg nests may be harder to arrange. Another Con, the lack of tightness may allow easier predator break in, which is clearly a bigger problem the closer you are to wildlife. When it's time to build, you may need to hire help if you aren't handy at cage/coop/fence building, which can increase costs. The final real Con to the tractor coop, is that it's not a 4-season coop, without some work. If your winters get to freezing and below, your tractor will either need to be winterized to block wind, rain, snow, and other inclement weather, or brought inside a building or garage, with something under it to protect your floors (and to make for easier spring cleaning).

    Like life, chicken keeping is a constant work in progress. What works for you today may not be best for you and your hardworking hens in a couple of years. Plans and prefabs of all sizes are available through hardware stores, farm supplies, and the Internet. Both permanent and tractor type structures are popular, and very much in use today, all around you. A tiny 4 x 6 bottomless cage with a water resistant top may be all your trio of birds will need (aside from creative planning for egg laying and food and water) if your weather is lovely year round, and your back yard is completely secure from predators. If you have -40 degrees F every winter at some point, you'll be wanting to be sure your chosen shelter is up to task, for the love of the birds inside it. All birds need some shelter suited to your seasons, food, and water. I hope you feel more confident now to go with your own thoughts and inspirations forward into your own BackYard Chicken housing. Good luck, and happy planning!

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Recent User Reviews

  1. ronott1
    "Nice Article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 26, 2018
    Good points on both options!
  2. CCUK
    "Pros and cons"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 29, 2018
    Both are good for the environment you use them.
  3. N F C
    "Food for Thought"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 23, 2018
    Overall, a good article on the pros/cons of housing chickens. A couple of areas I don't completely agree on are, 1) having an electrical outlet to heat a coop (it would be helpful for having a light though) and, 2) the cost of building a coop (cost can be significantly lowered using recycled/found materials). Other than that, the author presents some good food for thought on which type of housing would work best for the reader.


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  1. kevandtara
    I think the water tank tractor is the solution for us. Thanks! I've been scratching my head trying to figure out what to build for our future hens. The previous owner of our house left a somewhat shabby swingset that we were planning on taking to the dump. Rather than using a water tank, I think we could put siding around the 2 story climbing structure/platform attached to the swingset frame. Thanks for the inspiration!
  2. dvdbuchholz
    I actually saw the coolest tractor a while back online it might of even been on this site but it was a chicken tractor that was made to look like a john deere. So if you get creative they can be just as appealing.
  3. cstronks
    I like my stationary coop. Even if I had a tractor, I do not have a yard big enough to move it around, so it would just make no sense. I also think the stationary coop is a lot more visually appealing.
  4. Hooligans7
    Correction: I used 10 10-foot 2 X 6s that I ripped for the coop framing. They were less expensive than 20 2 X 3s. I also bought nails for my nail gun, and 2" and 3" screws.
  5. Hooligans7
    For a real four-season chicken tractor, I have found that the extra work and effort is well worth the result. As the author said, a weather-proof and predator-proof shelter is desired, and those features are possible with a well-designed tractor. I designed and built mine mostly from discarded materials that I recut and used. Purchased items were 10 10-foot 2 X 4s that I ripped in two for the coop framing, a sheet of OSB, welded wire, padlocks and door hasps, and heavy-duty wheels with high-pressure tires.

    Key to moving such a sturdy structure by hand is easily deployable wheels positioned directly under the coop's balance point. That way none of your energy is used for lifting, only moving. Detachable handles for moving the tractor make it easy, as long as there are no steep inclines to navigate. In that case, a lawn tractor hitch may be fabricated. My property has a few small inclines, but I've been able to move the coop up and down them by hand. Again, balance is the secret to effortless moving of a heavy-duty, four-season chicken tractor.
  6. SilverDragon
    Strait forward and to the point. A wonderful article for both the experienced and inexperienced chicken-lover
  7. JulieNKC
    Love it Marty!
  8. Marengoite
    Well done. And fast!
  9. willowbranchfarm
    Great article!!!
  10. TheReadyBoys
    This is great! Good luck in the contest!
  11. sezjasper
    Great information, well thought out and beautifully written!

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