Chicken Tractor Trade Offs

I have been enjoying having my chickens run free during the day. Sadly the hawks have also enjoyed having my chickens run free during the day.

I love and respect hawks, love that they nest in my trees and have for as long as I have lived there. I wish the lazy bums would get back to eating rodents and leave my flightless birds alone.

So now I am making chicken tractors.

Chicken tractors are mobile chicken coops. Nice for gardening as chickens will in a fairly short time over graze and area, eat all the seeds, sprouts, weeds, plants, bugs, you name it, and leave the spot quite fertile. A week or so in one spot, and you move the tractor. Now you have a nice plot to garden, and the chickens are working on the next spot for you.

This works well on flat surfaces, level gardens and the like, but can be more complex for rougher terrain.

Part of the issue is that it needs to be large to have lots of floor space for chickens. You want at least 2 square feet per chicken, probably 3 to 4. The smaller the tractor, the less efficient for space. A 4 square foot cage uses 24 square feet of wire, but if you keep the height the same, a 16 square foot cage uses 64 square feet of wire. The smaller cage uses 6 square feet of wire for 1 square foot of floor space. The larger cage uses only 4 square feet of wire per foot of floor space.

While it is more efficient use of chicken netting to make a larger cage, when you make it bigger, you make it harder to move. It also needs more structure. When you add the roosting, egg laying, supplemental feeding and watering, you add weight and structures. If you make more tractors per chicken, you end up reproducing all of those structures. So creating the ideal system is a challenge. There are a lot of trade offs. Additionally it is nice to make the thing a bit pretty or you just have a chicken wire cage with pinned birds in it.

One advantage of multiple cages is that breeding is made easier. If you are trying to improve your flock, having a multitude of cages can really help you keep track of and control your crosses. So smaller cages can have advantages.

With a pleasing form, a cage can instead be a grace to the yard, and make the whole thing a bit more entertaining.


3 comments to Chicken Tractor Trade Offs

  • Skip J.

    Well Bob;

    This is one of those rare issues we see differently…. I like hawks, like to watch’em hunt. Haven’t made up my mind about chickens yet tho…..


  • The hawks agree with me. They love the chickens. Hawk are great, they have been nesting in my yard for years. Fun to watch.

    What I really love is the owls. The way they glide cloaked in silence is amazing. The owls don’t do day hunting so the chickens are safe from them.

    Maintaining pesticide free wetlands and tall trees gives one a real advantage on bird watching. The fish, frogs, insects, lizards and rodents make this place irresistible to them.

    The chickens sadly will have to learn to live in large cages. This way the hawks will go back to hunting rodents.


  • Skip J.

    Oh yes, I can agree to that!

    The fields beside my house and my bird feeders keeps hawks around all year long, but even more so when the northern invaders come here for the winter. Had a sharp-shinned hawk try to take a white winged dove off my feeder yesterday, but he was not fast enough to catch the dove. Very exciting…

    A few years back I was filling the feeders one morning and a dead bird landed on my shoulder, I looked up and there was a red shouldered hawk sittin’ about 5′ directly overhead, what a sight!

    Congrats on the chemically free wetlands, you have an eden in the making there.. just glad you don’t have to watch for cottonmouths.

    I usually have ducks move in on my projects and try to raise some chicks… they usually start with maybe 10 chicks. The hawks always get’em all, I’ve never seen one survive to adulthood.


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>