Chicken Tractors

Chicken Tractors Chicken tractors give you some on the benefits of free ranging, without the drawbacks and dangers of full free range chickens. The chicken tractor is, in it’s simplest form, a More »

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Chicken Tractors

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Tractors

Chicken tractors give you some on the benefits of free ranging, without the drawbacks and dangers of full free range chickens. The chicken tractor is, in it’s simplest form, a moveable chicken coop. There are many different philosophies and opinions of how to use the chicken tractor properly to benefit the chickens and the farmer, however today we will just focus on the actual structure.

Origins and Uses

The term tractor originated due to the chickens’ ability to perform light tilling and soil preparation for gardening purposes. A chicken tractor can vary in size and functionality; however the basic principles are the same. Any mobile chicken coop with no floor could be considered a chicken tractor. The chicken tractor is moved across pasture to provide the chickens access to plant life and bugs. Using a chicken tractor provides the chickens some freedom to “range”, however still keeps the chickens in a safe , controlled environment.

Chicken tractors usually have wheels on one or both ends to assist in moving the mobile coop across pasture. They come in many sizes from large, commercial sizes pulled by a farm tractor to small urban sizes that a child can move. The most common size of chicken tractor is approximately 6’ X8’ or smaller and usually houses 4-6 chickens. The chicken tractor is most commonly used by suburban and urban chicken keepers who want their chickens to have access to pasture, however the circumstances prevent free range or paddock shift practices.

Larger flock keepers will sometimes use a chicken tractor in combination with a separate chicken house. They will move the flock into the tractor during the day and back to the hen house at night. The majority of chicken tractors serve as both a henhouse and a run, complete with nesting boxes. Providing all the chickens needs in one structure will save money and time, requiring only frequent movement of the structure and regular feed and water tasks.

Contrasts to Other Management Methods

Although many experts don’t view the chicken tractor as the perfect (as if there is such a thing) way to keep chickens, it truly is the best way for the majority of small flock farmers. It combines the safety and confinement of coop and run with the nutritional and cost savings benefits of free range.

Coop and RunCoop and Run

Coop and run is the safest way to raise chickens. The chickens are confined and not damaging the neighbors garden and they are safe from predators. Most people in urban areas cannot risk their chickens getting out of their yard, damaging or pooping on cars, and don’t have the time to keep a close eye on their chickens. Rural chicken keepers share the same issues and have a higher likelihood of predation.

Coop and Run style management definitely has its shortcomings. The chickens have almost zero access to plant and bug forage. They spend their lives standing in their own poop and the droppings must be cleaned out regularly. The confined spaces and less sanitary conditions can lead to increased disease and health issues. Feed costs alone will make anyone consider options other than coop and run. Without access to natural forage, your feed bills can quickly outweigh the benefits of keeping chickens.

Free Range ChickensFree Range Chickens

Free range is a utopian chicken management technique, striving for the perfection of low feed and maintenance costs, combined with the most natural and healthy living conditions for chickens. Free range chickens can dramatically reduce feed/maintenance costs and in some cases completely eliminate them. Chickens are allowed full access to the land and all the plant and animal life. No fences or runs are needed and some chicken keepers allow their chickens to roost in the trees. The varied diet of the chickens is highly beneficial to the health of the chicken, assuming that the land is providing sufficient plants and bugs. Chicken droppings are scattered throughout the property, leaving an excellent fertilizer that you don’t have to mess with.

Free range drawbacks, where to start? If you own anything that you don’t want poop on, this method isn’t for you! Free range chickens will poop on your vehicles, decks, in your garage, etc. Chickens will damage your garden, hide eggs throughout the property, and sometimes wander over to your neighbors. All these issues can be limited, depending on your property and personal desires. Full free range is a method that isn’t for most people and there are options for “limited free range” environments. In most locations, the largest issue with free range is predation. Chicken tastes good and everything eats chicken. One coyote or fox can completely decimate your entire flock.

Back to Chicken TractorsMobile Chicken Tractor

The chicken tractor provides chickens the ability to forage throughout the property, while providing safety and confinement. The chicken tractor confines the chickens and prevents them from damaging and pooping on your property. It prevents chickens from irritating your neighbors or damaging their property.

Poop management is completed every time the tractor is moved, providing fertilizer to the land without shoveling poop. Moving the tractor frequently provides fresh, healthy forage for the chickens and saves money on feed bills. Moving the chickens regularly ensure the flock is not living in unsanitary conditions.

The chicken tractor provides protection from all predators. It is fully enclosed to keep out land predators and birds of prey. Remember that a cunning predator can access any chicken coop if it is determined enough, however they are usually looking for an easy meal. The more difficult it is to access the chickens, the more likely the predator is to move on and look for an easier meal.

Chicken Management Perfection ?

The chicken tractor system is not the “perfect” system, however it is the best system for many chicken keepers. I have yet to find the “perfect” system for my family and am always experimenting and perfecting the details of my management practices.

The chicken tractor provides the best combination of benefits, with the least drawbacks of all the systems. We don’t live in a perfect world and everyone has a limit to their time and money, so consider if the chicken tractor is the best option for you.

 

 

 

 

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