Build A Chicken Tractor
Chicken tractors, or arks, or portable chicken coops, are small poultry housing structures that you can move easily around your yard or garden.
Because they need to be light and easily moveable, however, chicken tractors must be built properly. Unless you are already familiar with how to build a chicken house you should get help and advice from experts at the planning stage.
There are also literally thousands of different shapes and designs of portable chicken coops out there, and you might need to get some inspiration for your own design, based on your particular hens and hen house ideas.
Building your own portable chicken coop has a number of advantages:
- Easy to clean
- Cheap to make – perfect for beginners
- Ideal if you don’t have much space in your yard
- Free fertilizing for your garden (the chickens do it bit by bit for you as you move the chicken tractor around)
- Constant source of bugs and new vegetation for the chickens (good for tasty eggs)
- Easy to move chickens into the shade (hot weather) or shelter such as a garage (cold weather)
- Unsettling and confusing for predators (they do not like constantly-shifting structures)
- Use as temporary housing while you clean out the hen coop
The main disadvantage is size. Chicken tractors have to be easy to move and therefore are suitable for only 3 or 4 hens. Plan on allowing 4 square feet per hen.
A typical portable chicken coop is 4 or 5 feet long, about 4 feet wide and 3 or 4 feet high, usually with an apex or triangular cross-section. It has no floor. Wheels or skids can be fitted for easy movement.
You can make a chicken tractor in a few hours, using cheap wood and chicken wire – you might have some or all you need already lying around in your backyard!
Making your own portable chicken coop will certainly be much cheaper than buying a pre-built one, and you will also have the satisfaction of getting exactly what you want.
If you find that you want more chickens after a while – and have the space to accommodate them comfortably – then perhaps consider building a full-size poultry house and use your chicken tractor as an extension when needed.
We have some good ideas and guidance to help you on other pages of this website – see How To Build A Chicken Coop and our Best Chicken Coop Guides review. If you need some inspiration about what sort of ark you want, or might need, there is a wonderful picture gallery that you will enjoy at CityChicken – there are hundreds of examples of chicken houses, all different!
Once you have decided on your ark’s design, the next step is to get a good set of chicken tractor plans. This is essential before you start. Building a chicken tractor is easy but it is not just a case of hammering some pieces of wood and wire together.
The coop design will depend on a number of factors, such as the breed of chickens and your backyard environment. These and other factors will determine your choice of materials, size of wire mesh and so on.
You will often see ‘free’ plans for chicken tractors advertised on the internet but, in our experience, these are invariably rubbish.
We strongly recommend that you look for proper plans and diagrams produced by professional designers of poultry houses – people who rear hens themselves and know what’s needed for a healthy and happy chicken house.
These plans will include full details of all the materials and tools needed, and you will find things so much easier (and cheaper) if you assemble everything before starting to build.
One of our favorite experts for really good plans to build a chicken tractor is Bill Keene, and a visit to his website is both interesting and informative. He is full of professional tips, not only for building chicken coops, but also for choosing and rearing chickens, the sort of food they need, what can go wrong (and how to fix it) and plenty more.
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