Chicken tractors, also known as arcs or mobile coops are simply movable runs without a floor. Usually, this is achieved by having wheels on the coop. To get a bit more of the terminology down, a run is simply an enclosure for chickens – like a cage. A coop is the hen house, where they sleep, and may include a run as part of it.
Usually, a chicken tractor is moved regularly, so the chickens have access to new ground to forage on, eating bugs, weeds, and grass. Moving the chicken tractor regularly prevents them from scratching the ground under the coop bare.
It also prevents the build-up of chicken waste, and by regularly moving the chicken tractor, the run doesn’t need to be cleaned out.
The term chicken tractor came from the idea that using a mobile coop in this manner could function like a traditional tractor: digging and weeding the soil in preparation for planting. This gets additional utility out of normal chicken behavior. My wife has a small raised bed garden. In the spring I’m planning to put the chickens on top of the garden for a few days to break the ground up and prepare it with some extra fertilizer.
If you have a stationary coop with an open bottom, within a few days the chickens will have scratched everything away from the ground and they will basically have soil under their coop. During rainy weather, this becomes mud, which isn’t much fun for your chickens. Even without rain, there will be an accumulation of chicken waste which will attract flies and eventually needs to be cleaned out.
Disadvantages of Chicken Tractors
Because chicken tractors need to be mobile, they usually are smaller and are really only appropriate for small flocks. It is extra work moving the coop daily and adds to the workload of raising chickens. You’ll need a big enough space that the ground can recover by the time you get back to a previous location. We’ve moved our coop around our backyard, and there are now large bare areas that the chickens have scrapped down to the dirt.
Permanent coops can be sturdier. This makes them better protection against predators and better insulated against inclement weather. If you are hooking up your coop to electricity or the water supply, this makes more sense with a permanent coop than with a tractor.
Chicken Tractors on the Web
Backyard Chickens has an extensive gallery of users’ chicken tractors. Most of these provide construction instructions if you click on the image. The City Chicken has a gallery of pictures of chicken tractors. Pinterest has extensive photos and information about chicken tractors, including pictures, plans, and articles about them. Pet Chicken has a great overview of ChickenTractors vs. Chicken Coops. The Modern Homestead has detailed plans for a very nice chicken tractor, and Lauren Arcuri posted their experience building it. Mobile Chicken Coops sell some nice-looking chicken tractors.
Do you have a chicken tractor? Any interest in getting one? What would push you towards a mobile coop versus a permanent one?