Chicken Tractors - How do they work ?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Dee Dee 2, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Dee Dee 2

    Dee Dee 2 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 8, 2012
    Tomball, Tx.
    I probably know enough about chicken raising to make me dangerous but I do not completely understand chicken tractors. Q. Do the chickens live in them all the time ? Q. If so how do you gather eggs ? Q. Where do you put the nesting boxes ? Q, Is there a floor ? Q Where do you put food and water? Q. How often do you need to move the tractor ? Q. Can you raise baby chicks in a tractor ? Q. If it has wheels and you are moving it how do you keep the chickens from running out? Q. How much sq. ft. do you need per chick ? I started with 12 chicks in May. I am down to 4. I thought my coop and pen were like Fort Knox but I had my roo and a hen break the netting on top and fly out (BAD IDEA) when 2 coyotes came up to the pen and frightened them so badly. Lost the rest when they were free ranging. I'm looking for a better way. All info. appreciated. Thanks !
  2. Puddin Fluff

    Puddin Fluff Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 30, 2012
    River Valley, AR
    Well, I am not am expert but have seen them at other locations. I understand that they have no bottom so that the chickens inside can graze on the grass below. When you move them you do it very slowly with the chickens inside and they just kind of adjust their positions as needed. You put water in and some feed as well. I have only ever seen them used for meat birds so there was no need for nest boxes. Your volunarability is still there for coyotees as coyotees dig and they could dig under and get the birds.

    I would recommend you reinforce your coop with sometype of hardware cloth (a thicker gage wire) replaceing the netting you have, or in addition to it.

    Good luck!
  3. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2008
    1. You can either have chickens live in them all the time, or let them out sometimes to free range. Totally up to you.
    2. We have a door in the side of the chicken tractor to reach in and get eggs.
    3. The nest box is attached to the side of the wall next to the little door, so it's easy to reach in and get eggs.
    4. Our chicken tractor was a little house attached to a little run, so there was a floor in the house. No floor in the run.
    5. We put food and water on the grass inside the run part.
    6. You move the tractor as often as needed, which depends on how big it is and how many chickens. Basically, when the grass in the run gets too poopy.
    7. You can raise chicks in the tractor IF you have a safe way to hang a heat lamp and not set the thing on fire.
    8. You keep the hens from running out by moving it slowly and not lifting it up too high. The birds get the gist pretty quickly. Or you do it when the birds are out free-ranging.
    9. At least 3 square feet of coop space and at least 4 square feet of room per bird in the run. You can do 2 square feet of space in the coop if you're doing bantams. The more, the better. Lack of space is one of the most important factors in chicken stress and behavior problems.
    10. If you had birds break through the netting, then you weren't using strong enough netting. "Chicken wire" is OK for separating birds, but will only deter predators. You need "hardware cloth" that has holes that are maximum of 1" across. You also want a way to shut the birds into the coop portion at night, or to put hardware cloth on the bottom of the run, too. Predators can dig under.

    Does this photo help?


    There are a lot of pullets in this photo. There's enough room for pullets, but that would be too many adult birds to live in that space. This tractor would only fit 3-4 adult birds. When our birds grow up, they go live in that big white hen house in the back of the photo.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  4. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2012
    Northern Virginia
    My Coop
    There's a section on Chicken Tractors at BYC that will show you different types of chicken tractors and answer some of your questions. You'll find it here >

    WalkingOnSunshine did a great job answering your questions, I would only add that we move our tractor when the girls are in the house portion, after they've gone to bed. We move it slowly so they're not thrown around in there and don't move it far. We've not had a problem doing that so far. My girls use the tractor only to sleep. They will stay in there when it's snowing, too. We do keep their food and one waterer in there but they have other sources for water in the yard. They have a larger paddock type area where they hang out most of the day that's connected to the tractor.

    The one major change I would make in our tractor is I would make the run portion separate from the coop portion so that they could be moved independently. This is mostly due to weight and the fact that the entire tractor is a bit awkward to move, especially if going over uneven ground. We could have made them separately with latches to secure them together after we got them to the desired spot.

    Another thing . . . now that I've had chickens for a while, I want more. That means I need a larger coop. My plan is to build a stationary coop and use the tractor as a quarantine for introducing new birds or for brooding.
  5. Hawgon

    Hawgon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2011
    Vancouver, WA
    I built a small tractor for our 4 Seramas and it works great. I move it maybe once or twice a week but we do let them free-range a couple times a week when our jobs allow. On weekends they free-range all day and return to their coop at night. I added a door to the front of the run that is not in the picture to open and let them out to free-range. I love the tractor idea but like many on BYC, chicken math takes over and your tractor would need to be to big to move before long. I also added a pvc pipe feeder. Best of luck


  6. GWCooper

    GWCooper New Egg

    Jan 8, 2013

    Here is what I started with. I found it to be a pain to move and the birds dug up holes and the grass in less then a week. My plan was to move it once a week when I mowed, now I moved it to a permanent location and made an addition to it with free fencing I got from my sister. This is my full cycling chicken compost egg-stractor.


    Covered run portion

    While the hight is not ideal for me getting in and cleaning compost out, I only clean it out once in the spring for the compost. The rest of the year it gets EVERYTHING put into it... Straw, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, coop litter from the roost, you name it it goes in for them to scratch and pick bugs and worms.
  7. Dee Dee 2

    Dee Dee 2 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 8, 2012
    Tomball, Tx.
    It has taken me far too long to get back and see all the information everyone posted. (Won't get into all of that.) Just want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone for the time you took to post pictures and write comments. It has given me a LOT to think about. A special thanks to the man in the Ozarks who took time to list all of the materials and instructions. It is wonderful to have a web site filled with such kind and helpful folks.
    Thank you all very much !
  8. Wlsngrl

    Wlsngrl Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 25, 2013
    I'm new to tractors and didn't know where to put a nesting box either. Especially in the A frame types. One side will all be open for the run and the other will have the ladder to go up to the nesting box and house. But how do you seperate the two areas so they don't sleep in the boxes? And how big does a tractor need to be for about 4-5 hens?
  9. Andrea72

    Andrea72 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 6, 2013
    Just finished our tractor. We shut the door to the coop at night then move it. Never move it when the chickens are in the run. Ours is a little on the large side but is not hard to move. [​IMG]
  10. colburg

    colburg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 10, 2012
    Loving, NM
    Chicken Tractors are kind of like some fast food slogan I heard once "Have it your way."

    Q. Do the chickens live in them all the time ? If you want them to. So far we've had no daytime predators so they free range all day and we shut the door at night.
    Q. If so how do you gather eggs ? I built nest boxes that only have access from the outside. Just lift a lid and git'em.
    Q. Where do you put the nesting boxes ? I recommend NOT on the side. If your moving it around any trees, you don't want to rip it off. I like mine in the back of the tractor.
    Q, Is there a floor ? In the roosting area, Yes. The rest of it, No, unless you want to put some sort of welded wire on the bottom. Then they can still pick bugs grass and weeds through it and still be 100% secure
    Q Where do you put food and water? I have a 6' long 8" dia PVC pipt cut in half longways that hangs from the cieling.
    Q. How often do you need to move the tractor ? Every other day because I don't want them digging any holes. The tractor is HUGE, 13'x32', but my wife can move it by hand.
    Q. Can you raise baby chicks in a tractor ? Yes, just make sure they can't get out of any tiny cracks or holes and that they have the recommended heat until they're 4-5 weeks, then no electricity needed.
    Q. If it has wheels and you are moving it how do you keep the chickens from running out? 2 ways that I know of: 1) Make it lift only an inch or two off the ground, 2) Have an internal door on the roost so that when they go up to sleep, you can close it then move it as far as you want.
    Q. How much sq. ft. do you need per chick ? In my roosting area, I will soon have 61 chickens in a roost are of 6'x13', 78sqft or 1.25 sqft/ckn. I don't close up the interior roost unless it gets below 20 degrees or want to move them a good distance. The run is the entire tractor of 13'x32', 416sqft or 6.8 spft/ckn. There's only been 2 times that they've spent an entire day in it without freeranging. However, 10sqft/ckn is the typical recommendation.

    I documented most of my build here Pics of laying nests will be there in a day or two.[​IMG]

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