Chicken tractors are portable chicken coops that allow you to move your birds from one part of the garden to the next. It might not seem important to novice chicken keepers, but in reality, chickens love variety. On our allotment there are a few chicken coops shared between the tenants.
Some are static, and the chickens are allowed to run around for a few hours every day, and the others (the badly behaved chickens), are in portable chicken tractors that means they get to experience different parts of the plot, and move around in the sun, so they never burn in the heat, and don’t get drenched by rain.
In this article, we’ll talk a bit about the general benefits of chicken tractors for chickens, but focus on the best chicken tractors to buy right now, because it’s a confusing marketplace, and it can be really hard to find out what is right for your birds.
Best Chicken Coops and Tractors for 2022
Chicken Tractors Buyers' Guide
What are Chicken Tractors?
Chicken tractors are chicken coops on wheels. Originally they were designed for commercial chicken farmers, where they struggled with predators but wanted to keep chickens as free-ranging as possible, because simply put, free-range eggs are better eggs, and free-range chickens are happier birds.
Today, chicken tractors come in all sizes, for commercial markets and domestic keepers thanks to the rise in rescue chickens from battery farms being rehomed to gardeners who want to give them a better life (plus the added benefit of free eggs).
Because they are on wheels they don’t bury into the ground like hardwearing predator-proof chicken coops, so are slightly more susceptible to predation from foxes and opossums, but especially snakes.
If you’re in a suburban space though, they provide a great way to give your chicken variety, while keeping them safe from the most common predators such as cats that are much less likely to tunnel.
Why You Need a Chicken Tractor
In recent years, the rise in vegetarianism and veganism has shot up, and there are often whines from meat-eaters around the world blaming organizations like PETA for a rise in woke-ism.
But the reality is, that vegetarians, meat eaters and vegans have all cared about animal cruelty for a long, long, time.
That means that chickens are rescued from battery farms far more regularly, and caring gardeners (probably including you if you’re reading this), are always looking for safe and humane ways to keep rescue chickens at home.
By investing in a chicken tractor you don’t need to dedicate your whole garden to your newly acquired chickens, but can move their coop around easily when the season changes, or just from day-to-day so your chickens get a change of scenery.
What to Look For When Buying a Chicken Tractor
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?
You should always try to have at least 6ft squared per chicken so they can jump, flap their wings, and avoid getting on the nerves of any cohabiting birds.
Chickens living in tight spaces tend to fight, so while their medical requirement is 3ft squared per chicken, it's best to give them as much space as possible.
Should a Chicken Coop be Portable?
Portable chicken coops are called chicken tractors. It’s in no way essential to have movable chicken coops, but it does improve the quality of life of your chickens to move them around from time to time so they have a change of scenery.
Moving their cages encourages them to explore, peck at the soil, gravel and weeds, and increase brain activity. By varying their lifestyles with a chicken tractor, you can greatly improve the health of your chickens.
So no, it’s not essential, but I would 100% advise a portable chicken tractor, especially if you’re planning to take on new rescue chickens.
What is the Best Material for a Chicken Coop?
Chicken coops should always be caged in galvanized, rust-proof or stainless steel wire, and never, ever, have glass roofs (glass roofs will quickly dehydrate chickens in the summer months).
Ensure chicken coops are stronger enough to discourage predators, but not so strong that they’re too heavy to move.
Good Materials for Chicken Coops
Galvanized, rust-proof metals or stainless steel are ideal for external caging, but for the main hutch or coop, tanalised or treated timber is best as it doesn’t get as warm as metal coops in summer, and is easy to clean.
Whatever materials you choose make sure they’re able to withstand the weather, and provide an effective barrier from predators.
Bad Materials for Chicken Coops
Chicken coops and chicken tractors are often sold with fabric or plastic netting or chicken wire. Chicken wire is very effective at keeping chickens in, but almost all rodents are able to chew through chicken wire with surprising ease, so it won’t hold up against predators.
Sadly, chicken coops are often sold with netting in place of caging, which keeps costs down, and makes them easier to move around, but netting won’t keep determined predators out, and small birds can get caught in the nets and die if they are attracted to the chickens’ grain.
Safety Guidance for Chicken Tractors
The biggest safety concern with chicken tractors is the health of your chickens. Chicken tractors are great to improve the overall wellbeing of chickens compared to static chicken coops.
However, be careful to avoid the glittery attractions of a portable chicken coop, and pay attention to maintenance, and ease of access for yourself, so you can resolve issues as quickly as possible.
Cleaning Chicken Coops
Chicken tractor safety is as much about the health and hygiene of your chickens as it is about your personal safety as a chicken keeper.
When selecting a new chicken tractor or coop it’s incredibly important to consider how easy it is to clean. Some coops come with slide out trays beneath the nest box, while others require you to remove the entire front of the nest boxes in order to do daily cleans.
The risk of infection for chickens in captivity is huge, as they will always find a reason to fight, and if they have any minor open wounds that come into contact with dirty parts of the cage they can quickly get infected.
Best Chicken Tractors Reviews
Sumo Gardener 2022 Top Picks
Top Rated Chicken Tractor
Rugged Ranch Spring Fling Chicken Tractor is 100% my top pick of chicken coops. It’s a portable chicken tractor (tick), it’s almost fully predator proof (tick), it’s got loads of space (tick) and it’s amazing value (tick).
I love this chicken tractor from Rugged Ranch, not because it looks great, but because I know my chickens would love it.
Chicken coops should never be chosen on how they look, but how the chickens would enjoy them, and this is perfect for a really good amount of chickens to live happily together for years to come (and happy chickens lay more eggs).
Best Value Chicken Tractor
For anyone just getting started with chicken keeping, this budget option is a good choice. ChickenCoopOutlet Wooden Chicken Tractor is easy to clean, and is enough space for a happy pair of hens while you get used to the time commitment of feeding, cleaning and just generally keeping them company.
The one thing you’ll learn over the next few months is just how unique every chicken can be. They all have completely independent personalities and it won’t take long for you to upgrade to a larger coop just so you’ve got an excuse to sit in with them.
Premium Choice Chicken Tractor
If you’re looking to give your chickens the life of luxury and you’re not bothered about moving them around then Producer's Pride Defender Chicken Coop is probably the only choice for you.
You’ll need to add a few castors to the nest box itself to make it more manageable, but for the price of a few screws and some wheels you’ll have the best chicken coop in the county (and probably the happiest chickens).
Chicken Tractor FAQs
What is needed in a chicken coop?
Chicken are great animals to keep, either as pets, or for eggs, but they need a few basic things from their housing: four safe walls, a predator proof roof, shade, ventilation, nest boxes, and somewhere to hide. You should always try to provide at least 6ft2 per chicken.
How does a chicken coop cost?
Chicken coops usually cost between $300 and $1000 to buy new, but high end chicken coops and portable chicken tractors can cost over $3000, especially for commercial free-range farms where more space is needed.
What is the best bedding for chickens?
Straw, pine needles and wood shavings make great bedding for chickens, either as material to peck at, or just to soften hard floors, but it is much better for chickens to have access to areas of lawn and soil to dig for insects.
How many chickens should I start with?
Chickens are naturally flock animals so you should try to start with at least three chickens. While they are predisposed to living in small communities, but they don’t like being overcrowded and can pack aggressively if there are too many birds in a small space.
Wrapping Up Our Chicken Tractor Buying Guide
I am 100% guilty of personifying animals. I regularly have conversations with the squirrels in our garden, and can spend hours making up stories about the birds on the allotment, but chickens don’t need me to give them personalities.
Chickens are truly some of the funniest, friendliest creatures on this planet, and they make exceptional pets, with the healthy bonus of daily eggs.
Finding the best chicken tractors is as much about your animals as it is about you as a keeper, so make sure you’re making the right choice for your hens, as well as for your garden.