A chicken tractor is the perfect low-tech solution that rolls and provides your birds with accessibility to garden fresh and nutritious food as well as fertilize the soil.
It is known as a chicken tractor because the scratching actions of the birds swiftly remove the soil and lift it around the upper inch of the earth. One method is to get rid of lawns or a weedy patch prior to planting the garden.
Chickens are fond of eating tender grass, weeds, slugs, bugs, and snails. The idea is that you drive a tractor for chickens across your backyard each day, or at least every couple of days so that your flock always has fresh grass to forage. This can help reduce the inhabiting of pests. When you move the tractor, they will leave nitrogen and phosphorus-rich manure behind.
If you want the birds to help with insect control as well as fertilize the pasture without becoming dirt patches, be sure you move the tractor every day to make sure they don’t have to work a particular area to the point of the ground.
However, the chicken tractors comprise a couple of fundamental parts that include a nesting space enclosed and the chicken’s run covered with wire mesh to keep predators out, and a frame that has wheels to allow you to pull it around.
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It is the place where your chickens will lay eggs and rest in the night. The typical design is a small, enclosed shed. The nesting area must be weatherproof and secured with doors. Inside, you should have at least one straw-filled 12-by-12 inch nest box per four birds and two square feet of floor area for each bird. Better to plan for a minimum of 8 inches of a roosting bar for each bird.
Nest boxes are generally raised off the ground within the building, which means some of the floor allotted to those nests. An elevated roosting area is required so that the birds can satisfy their natural desire to rest on the ground.
Make sure it gets a once-a-week cleaning and smaller hatches on the other side that permits the chickens to travel back and forth between the run. It would be best to secure the hatches to stop predators from entering during the night.
We also recommend having tiny window openings at the structure’s perimeter for airflow. You can easily cover these with chicken wire to protect them from predators. You can also create shutters or a hatch that can be shut in winter to keep your chickens warm.
You can set up a small watering container in the nesting area to ensure that your birds stay hydrated. Feeders are unnecessary but are a good idea if you are an early riser. Chickens get up early and ready to eat!
The birds will be roaming around throughout the daytime. The chicken run will be accessible at the bottom to allow the birds to hunt. However, it is completely enclosed by chicken wire around the sides and the top to protect against predators.
We recommend planning about 4 or 5 sq. feet for each bird living in the run. The nesting structure is usually elevated above the chicken run to allow the birds to browse underneath. When this happens, you will require ramps to allow access to the nesting space. Screw thin pieces of lumber every 6 inches up the length of the ramp to offer the necessary traction during rainy conditions.
Without a sturdy ground floor, the area is susceptible to predators trying to gain access to the sides at night. A second watering device and feeder can be added to the run if you already have them in your nesting structures.
A higher nesting structure creates a shaded space on the opposite side of the tractor, particularly important in hot weather. The run must also have access for humans so that you can shut the tiny chicken door that leans on the nest structure during the night.
Chicken run and the area for nesting are usually constructed around a single frame of wood. It is either rectangular or triangular, providing a framework for the chicken wire to be attached. The bottom of the frame is often two beams that act as skis. It allows the chicken tractor across the grass.
Tin roofing sheets are an excellent option to cover the top of the nest’s structure. However, they can also be used for lightweight covering. Instead of making wood frames for the chicken wire, think about using smaller PVC pipes to construct an Hoophouse-like structure.
Making a curved cut at the length of the beams, facing the direction the tractor is pulled, helps to ease the process of sliding through the grass. This should be on the light side of the frame or to the structure’s left for nesting. However, this is unnecessary when you intend to put wheels on the Chicken Tractor.
A sturdy cable, rope, or chain is affixed to the front of the frame to pull manually or in larger models, with a tractor or four-wheeler. Alternatively, you can attach long handles to the frame’s front and use them to move the frame around like an enormous wheelbarrow.
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Wheels are not required on the smaller chicken tractors. However, they are essential for larger models. Choose wheelsets based on the size of your tractor. The giant chicken tractors need tires specifically designed for trailers or vehicles.
The most common method is using two wheels mounted on the end that are heavier than the frame, where it is nestled while the opposite side is resting against the ground. So, when you lift the front of the frame to move it, you will have plenty of clearance at the front end to maneuver as the wheels keep the back, more heavy end that is higher from the ground.
Another option is to put wheels on the four corners. However, this will result in the structure being lifted off the ground. If there is more than a two or three-inch gap between the frame and the ground, chickens might wiggle around, and dogs that wander around might be attracted to burrow beneath. But when it is uneven, and the clearance is low, a chicken tractor can be challenging to get around.
If you would like to move your tractor to be higher than the ground, fill the gap with large blocks of wood when the tractor gets parked.
Chicken Tractor Designs
The web is brimming with chicken tractor designs that vary from simple contraptions made from used pallets and models that recycle old vehicles to modern egg mobiles. More elaborate models for commercial enterprises tend to incorporate a Mobile house or salvaged school bus.
If you decide to build your own, how well you can pull it off will be contingent on the materials on your hands or your budget to purchase the materials, as well as your engineering skills. Of course, creative thinking in the design won’t harm.
You could also buy an already-built chicken tractor such as those models from Smoky Mountain Chicken Tractors that cost $350 or less for this model, and the one that’s rustic and luxurious from Williams-Sonoma, which will cost more than $2000.
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Tips to Use a Chicken Tractor
Every alternate day, move the tractor to another spot within the yard.
Stay in the Coop
In the evening, move the tractor over to their coop so that they can sleep in the coop during the night.
Protect from Flooding
If certain areas of your yard are at risk of flooding, be sure to put the tractor at a higher level.
Ensure the Ground is Flat
Make sure you only run the tractor in flat areas. The bumpy ground is not ideal for tractor use, as it leaves gaps that chickens could escape from.
Close It on Snow Days
Keep the chickens in their coop on snowy winter days.
Look for Eggs
Although assuming a nesting box on one side of the chicken tractor, some chickens do not like the idea of using it. After you have moved the tractor, make sure you check the grass to ensure there are no eggs hidden.
Clean the Food
While searching for any hidden eggs, ensure there are no food items or pellets on the floor as it attracts pests like mice.
Chicken Tractor – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How many chickens can you put in a chicken tractor?
It varies depending on the breed. The laying hen generally requires four square feet of space and a broiler requires 2 square feet. Thus, a thirty-two-square-foot tractor can hold eight egg layers or sixteen broilers.
How much does a chicken tractor cost?
The range of backyard chicken coops costs between $300-$2,000.
Does a chicken tractor need a floor?
Some chicken coops do not require floors, especially ones that employ the deep litter method. They are well-drained of soil and are designed to prevent predators. However, coops with no floors are easily accessible for rodents and burrowing predators. They are challenging to clean and add excessive moisture to the chicken coop.