We all want what’s best for our lovely chooks. And part of that desire is providing them with the best shelter possible.
Enter the mobile chicken tractor.
There are SO MANY plans floating around the internet and half aren’t bad!
But when you’re wanting to not waste precious time and money, you gotta go with the experts.
And that expert is Justin Rhodes. He is a “permaculturalist, film producer, and author, teaching folks to work with nature to produce their own sustenance and live a more abundant life.” He’s also an instructor for meat birds at the School of Traditional Skills.
His experience with processing hundreds of meat birds has led to him perfecting mobile chicken coop and tractor designs.
how is a chicken tractor different from a chicken coop?
Technically a tractor is a type of coop that allows for movement. On wheels or on skids, a tractor is easily moved on a daily basis to allow chickens access to new forage and to leave behind unhygienic ground.
Coops are stationary shelters.
why is a chicken tractor necessary and helpful?
- rotationally grazing chickens makes for healthier birds
- keeps chickens safe from predators and the elements
- can be used for other animals like quail or meat rabbits
- can be used as a brooder box or grow out box
why do we like Justin Rhodes’ chicken tractor design?
- larger and more spacious than most designs so our animals aren’t squished (it fits 4 laying hens or 12 meat birds)
- two convenient entry points (doors) for free ranging and overhead entry to replace food and grab chickens
- hardware cloth is utilized (some other builds use chicken wire) so there are no escapees or unwelcome guests
- I, a 5’7” female, can move it by myself
Did you know?
Chickens can be bullies. If grouped together without proper space or devoid of entertainment, they can begin to peck each other potentially resulting in death. For happy and healthy chickens, the ability to move to new ground daily and explore safely is paramount.
how do you access the plans?
We backed Justin’s Kickstarter campaign so we’re receiving plans before his book is released. Eventually a book with all his builds will be available for purchase.
As he mentions in the campaign, he does have free plans out there on his website but he’s made so many improvements over the years that they’re outdated. His updated plans will be aggregated in the book for ease of access.
how difficult is the chicken tractor to build?
It’s helpful to have some machinery beyond a hammer and screwdriver to make building the mobile chicken tractor easier. Making angled cuts and quickly splitting 2x4s was made much more efficient with a miter saw, but you could get away with using a circular saw.
I do highly recommend having someone else on hand occasionally to help hold pieces in place. Clamps will only go so far in securing pieces while holes are drilled.
However, buying clamps is a must! I can’t believe we went this long without having these unbelievably helpful tools.
When it comes to the plans themselves, they couldn’t have been clearer. We’ve built a rabbit hutch previously with plans ($5 purchase) and they were, to be honest, abysmal. Justin really did these plans justice by hiring a graphic designed to create them. Easy to understand and follow makes for a happy builder.
How does this grow our sovereignty?
Raising your own food is a great way to grow your self-sovereignty. And the healthiest way to raise food is to mimic natural rhythms.
Rotationally grazing animals naturally follows what Mother Nature intended for her creatures by allowing them fresh forage daily and to move away from soiled ground.
Using a mobile chicken tractor not only keeps your flock safe from predators but gives you the peace of mind that they’re comfortable.
what did we change in the design?
When new to home ownership, the sacred scrap pile is almost nonexistent so building supplies are usually bought new.
Luckily we had a few items leftover from prior projects that we could incorporate into this build.
How did our build differ?
- Some of our 2x4s came from the scrap bin in Home Depot so never fail to check there for discounted wood. The scrap wood pile is usually 70% off the regular price!
- The 1×6 came from scrap wood we had leftover from a kitchen project.
- We truly dislike using poultry net staples so we used lathe screws instead to hold down the hardware cloth.
- We didn’t include the milk crate nesting boxes as we don’t intend this to be for laying hens presently.
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so…how much did this cost?
We sourced building material from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon (when unavailable in store).
Our tools have been accumulated over time so I can’t give an exact estimate on how much those would cost to build this mobile chicken tractor.
Be aware that your location and purchase date (07/24/23) will cause your cost to build vary from ours. Our closest Home Depot and Lowe’s are in Billings, MT but we happily drive there for better product availability for projects such as this one.
So now to what you really want to know…the cost!
Here’s what this mobile chicken tractor roughly cost if the basic building supplies were all purchased new.
Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? That depends on the tractor’s ROI!
Whoever said raising your own food is cheaper than buying it needed to add nuance to their statement!
It’ll be cheaper in the long run when we can eat healthier and avoid medical bills as we age and it provides peace of mind for food sovereignty if SHTF.
But it is not cheaper in the short-term. Infrastructure alone can be quite an expensive hurdle for newbies to homesteading!
This box isn’t a one and done deal. It will last us years to come and hopefully pay for itself by providing the perfect enclosure for whatever animal calls it home.
As newbies, it’s helpful to rely on trusted experts to guide our builds as well. But you could totally rig a tractor together with your own supplies on hand based on your own design. We will use this as a learning experience and adjust the design (and the cost) in our next builds.
In reality these are all just rectangular boxes with flair.
our experience so far
So far the build is solid. It’s evident that Justin Rhodes’ design is sturdier, roomier, and better designed than the first rabbit hutch we built. His years of experience truly shine through in this mobile chicken tractor.
The pullets and cockerels growing in the tractor are loving it as well compared to the rabbit hutch. With the built in roosting bars, they can stay off the ground to their hearts’ content and the hardware cloth ensures we have no escapees (chicken wire just doesn’t cut it!).
And yes, one person can definitely pull this sucker all by their lonesome.
why should you build this mobile chicken tractor?
- easy to understand instructions
- can be moved easily by one person
- spacious enough for 4 laying hens or 12 meat birds
- can double as a brooder box
- can be used for other animals like meat rabbits or quail
- allows your chickens access to fresh forage and ground daily for a healthy and happy life
You can’t go wrong with this design for a mobile chicken tractor (or coop). Justin’s care for his product are clear in how well designed the tractor is and how beautifully presented the instructions are for his followers.
Have you built a mobile tractor for your livestock? Drop a comment below!
Have your built your own chicken tractor?
We would love to see what you have created and learn from you! Drop a comment below or tag us on Instagram @ArdaAcres.
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Here are some of the supplies that we used when making this project!