The Basics of Mobile Chicken Coops

Mobile Chicken Coops
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

Free Range Chicken Coops

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Free range chicken coops are commonly referred to as arks or tractors. Basically, this type of coop will allow you to provide your birds with a free range diet, without all the associated hassles.

Free range chickens are healthier, happier birds than ones kept in a coop. They get plenty of exercise, scratching the earth looking for bugs and other goodies to eat. They also receive the health benefits of a varied diet, getting the opportunity to eat a wide variety of bugs and greens.

Eggs and meat from free range chickens taste better too. In addition to taste, scientific studies show that they are also healthier for us, with less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more vitamins A and E and beta-carotene.

Unfortunately, there are several problems with raising chickens this way:

  • It can be difficult to keep them out of your vegetable gardens and flower beds.
  • They are more susceptible to attacks from predators.
  • It may not be an option for birds raised in urban settings.

Use of free range chicken coops is one very good solution to these problems. There are several types that you can build - we encourage you to check out our page about chicken tractor plans for ideas. It's important to keep them lightweight, so that you can easily move them from one area of your property to another. It's also important to build them from materials that will deter predators. If you live in an urban environment, you will want to select a plan that is not only functional, but attractive too (gotta keep the neighbors happy).

photo credit: scillystuff

The Truth About Chicken Tractors

I just came across this video - let's just call it "The Truth About Chicken Tractors" - and I thought I would share it with you.  It gave me a bit of a chuckle.  The man in the video is a bit upset that his chickens are doing what they do best (eating!), and from the sound of it, he is seriously rethinking the whole portable chicken coop idea...

So, what do you think?

For those of you who love to garden, your birds will obviously love to feast on the leftover plants and bugs in your garden beds, and as an added bonus, you will get a little fertilizer to help the next round of crops you plant.  With any luck, you may even be able to avoid having to pull out the tiller.

However, this method works best if you can rotate your beds - leaving a portion of your garden beds unplanted so that the birds can do their work.  If you have mild winters, you may be able to avoid rotating beds, and instead, set up your chicken tractor during the off growing season.

Not a gardener?

Well, you can still use a chicken tractor, but as you saw from the video, you are going to need to be ready with grass seed.  For some people, this is not a big deal.  However, for others, it's a problem.

So, there you have it - the truth about chicken tractors...

They are easy to build (especially if you have a good set of chicken tractor plans), but they are not for everyone.