How to Build a Chicken Tractor


Chicken tractor in grass

Chicken tractors (or chicken arks, as they're known elsewhere) are small coop-and-run combos that make it easy for you to integrate chickens into a vegetable garden or yard.  Although you can buy pre-made chicken tractors, kits, and plans, all of these options are pricey, so many homesteaders will choose to build their own.  Here are some factors to consider as you design your flock's new home.

Weight.  Making the chicken tractor too heavy is the number one reason homemade chicken tractors fail.  My father once built a chicken tractor so solid that it was too hard for one person to move, so the tractor sat in one spot for the next year.  Chicken tractors keep your hens happy only if they are pulled to a fresh patch of lawn daily, so pay attention to the weight of your framing material.  We usually use cedar branches or two-by-two lumber, but this tractor is built around the aluminum framing from a recycled awning.  Use your imagination!

Homemade chicken tractor

Shelter.  Your chickens will need a very basic shelter to allow them to sleep out of the rain and snow.  A tarp covering a third of the tractor with a stick underneath for a perch is quite sufficient for most climates, but my husband added a carpet flap around the roosting zone for additional wind protection in his $20 chicken tractor.  (Remember to provide one linear foot of roost per bird on the perch.)

Doors.  Access is an essential part of a chicken tractor.  If you want your chickens to be able to free range some days and to be shut into the tractor on other days, you'll want to include a chicken-sized door at ground level.  Even if your chickens will spend their whole lives in the tractor, you'll need a human-size door to allow easy access if a chicken is sick or hurt.  Finally, a door into the nest box will make egg collection simple.  (Don't forget to include one nest box for every five hens.)

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