Mobile chicken coops, also commonly called chicken tractors or arks, are gaining popularity in the U.S. There are a few common sense basics behind building one of these structures.
Let's talk about them...
It needs to be heavy enough to withstand the elements, yet light enough to move.
I don't know how many times I have heard of someone that built a mobile chicken coop, only to find out that their structure was too heavy to move. Unfortunately, if you are building your own design, this can mean a bit of trial and error before coming up with a good design.
If you finish your chicken tractor, only to find out you can't easily move it, there are a few things yo can do to remedy the problem. First (and simplest), forget about being able to move it on your own, and enlist the help of a family member. Another solution is to install wheels. However, if you do this, make sure they can handle the weight. Otherwise, you may have buckling problems.
It needs to provide protection from predators.
Put careful thought into the type of netting or fencing you use to surround the structure. For example, chicks can escape through two inch poultry netting, and weasels can sneak through to get the chickens. However, if you use galvanized one inch chicken wire instead, your birds will be much safer. It is weasel proof, and larger predators, such as raccoons, will not be able to reach in.
It needs to provide shelter from the elements.
This can be done in a number of ways - with tarps, plywood, and even fiberglass panels. The chickens will need shade from the sun, and will need protection from blowing rain. If you plan to use the mobile chicken coop during the cold winter months, this must also be addressed in the design.
It needs to provide easy access.
You will need to be able to easily access the feed and water containers, as well as any nesting boxes. Depending on the design, you may also need to be able to clean it.
Designs for mobile chicken coops can vary considerably. However, with a bit of planning, you should be able to design chicken tractor plans that are perfect for your free range feathered friends.
photo credit: steven.walling