I’m a big fan of chicken tractors.
What is a chicken tractor? It’s a lightweight, moveable chicken coop that is suitable for anywhere from a large farm to a small rental backyard.
If you have room for a vegetable plot, you can have chickens in a tractor.
Mine is a pretty big tractor, because I’m on a farm and have plenty of space, but you can make a tractor from something as small as an old rabbit hutch. One friend of mine built a tractor for two chickens from an old guinea pig hutch, and the chooks were perfectly happy and laid well for him. He had his tractor on his suburban plot.
Because chicken tractors are portable, and move about where and when you need them, they never need cleaning out or get stinky. The only part you ever need to clean is the nesting box (mine has one nesting box). That’s just a quick and easy matter of replacing the straw every few days.
If you’re tractoring chickens on vegetable plots, divide your vegetable plot into six to eight sections the same size as the tractor. Then move the tractor from section to section every two weeks.
Two weeks give the chooks enough time to fertilize the plot they’re in, dig it over, eat the worms, and the grass as well if any. They’ll leave the soil in better condition, and all dug over ready for planting.
In my case, I’m using a tractor on a farm in a hazelnut plantation to build up fertility for the nut trees. I move the tractor once a week and the chickens keep the grass down while adding manure which the trees love. Plus, I get healthy hens and yummy eggs!
My tractor is 1.5 metres wide by 3 metres long and 1 metre high. I designed and built it three years ago. The frame is treated pine, and the mesh is plastic garden mesh simply stapled on. One end opens completely on a hinge, and there’s a small hatchway at the shelter end (the shelter is recycled swimming pool cover!) for me to collect the eggs.
My farm is run on permaculture principles, and we also graze sheep in the hazelnut orchard as well as grow a few daffodils. Everything is organic and very healthy.
You can make a chicken tractor easily on a weekend, and don’t need any carpentry skills to do so – I’m no expert, but my tractor has held together just fine for three years now!
I think the way of the old, permanent chicken coop is passe, and chicken tractors are the way of the future. If you decide to build one and get chickens in, and want to ask any questions, please comment and I’ll do my best to help!