Do you have a chicken coop? Whether you have been keeping chickens for years or are just getting started, most people will say yes. (This is definitely the case in urban settings where municipal codes require predator-proof coops as part of their chicken ordinance.) But if you ask them if they have a chicken tractor, you may get an odd look.
What is a chicken tractor you ask? It is simply a moveable chicken coop that does not have a floor. A chicken tractor is enclosed so it is predator-proof (typically woven wire over a wooden, metal, or pvc frame) but without a floor. This allows the chickens to freely graze and scratch. To make your chickens comfortable, it is easy to set a waterer inside as well as provide a covered nest box(es) at one end… allowing the chickens a private space to lay their eggs. Usually, these are not intended to be permanent housing for your chickens, but temporary. Some folks use them seasonally while others may use them just for a few days or weeks out of the year.
Now there are chicken tractors large enough that it requires an actual tractor to move the chicken tractor while others are small enough that one person can easily move this portable coop on their own. But as the chicken keeper, you can determine the size to suit your needs. If you are farming or homesteading on 10 acres or more with a large flock, it may make sense to invest in a larger chicken tractor, while those who farm on an acre or less may opt for something they can easily move around by themselves.
Now while you are not required to have a chicken tractor, there are some benefits to having one that a traditional coop just can’t provide.
Benefits of a Chicken Tractor
- Chickens can shallow till garden beds
- Chickens will eat bugs and grubs that overwinter in your garden beds or wherever the tractor moved to
- Provide natural fertilizer in small quantities (if tractor is moved every 24 hours)
- Less maintenance than a coop (since it is intended to be moved every day, bedding is not required)
- Provides a more natural diet for chickens compared to standard layer mash
- Allows chickens to free-range, but they remain protected from predators
- Lawn or pasture is not destroyed (taken down to bare dirt) since it is moveable compared to a standard chicken run
- Desired plants remain safe while chickens ‘free-range’ in the chicken tractor (no more missing tomatoes or devastated herb pots) compared to traditional free-ranging methods
Now while a chicken coop will always be part of our urban homestead, the chicken tractor also has a home in our backyard. If it is solidly built (predator-proof), designed for one (or two people) to easily move it around, it provides benefits that just aren’t capable with a standard coop. So whether you are an experienced chicken keeper or someone new to this hobby, chicken tractors deserve a place on the modern homestead.