I can’t tell you how hard it was to find a chicken tractor that was easy to build for my laying hens. Actually, it was too hard. An easy chicken tractor for laying hens eluded me for so long, I decided to design my own. I needed a chicken tractor solid enough to keep predators out during the daytime but still took care of my hens’ eggs. I looked at a lot of different designs and took what I needed considering my hens still spend their evenings in their stationary coop.
Let me know if you have a chicken tractor in the comments below! Do you use it exclusively, or do you keep your laying hens in a stationary coop at night?
“I just wanted an easy chicken tractor design so I could give my laying hens fresh grazing for better eggs.”
Why Should I Use a Chicken Tractor for Laying Hens?
You normally see chicken tractors associated with meat chickens. You butcher meat chickens just as they reach full size but before they lay eggs, so this arrangement makes sense. Why should you consider a chicken tractor for your laying ladies though?
- Availability of fresh grass and bugs
- Protection from predators
- Concentration of the hens’ tilling and fertilizing power
- NEW BULLET: Less clean up in the main coop!
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Fresh Grazing and Predator Protection
I know you love the dark yellow and orange color backyard chicken eggs can be. What don’t you love? The predators that run off with your hens when you let them free range. Free-ranging my hens during my workday is out of the question since our two acres isn’t fenced. Their majesties REALLY love to investigate our neighbor’s yard. A chicken tractor for my laying hens seemed like the perfect way to give them fresh grass and bugs without the same predator and neighbor risks.
Put Your Laying Hens to Work in Your Garden!
My 2018 homestead plan included building a chicken tractor, although I managed to do it a month early! Despite being in my third trimester, I still wanted to get started on my garden. I have been planning this garden layout since we moved in!
My hens will be the tilling, fertilizing, and weeding force in my garden! Step one: clear out the grass as best as possible, so I have started placing the tractor over the area where my fenced-in garden will go. Check out the details of my long-term garden plan in my previous post!
You should let your hens graze in your garden before you plant seedlings and when it is time to let the garden rest for the year. Hens will go through and scratch up weed seeds and grubs while tilling in their own manure. Planting a good cover crop will further enrich your soil, helping to prepare it for the next growing season!
NEW: You Don’t Have to Clean the Primary Coop as Often!
So in my couple of weeks of using my new daytime chicken tractor for my lovely laying hens, I realized I toss the litter in the stationary chicken run less often! I mean, WAY less often! A benefit that definitely surprised me! This ties into why we toss the run litter in the first place though. If you never toss the litter and occasionally replace it, the chicken will walk all over their own waste. With a chicken tractor, they get moved to fresh space every day or so, which makes this issue moot. By using a chicken tractor, you keep your hens in an all-around healthier living environment!
How Much Square Footage Do I Need Per Laying Hen?
According to Chelsea Green Publishing, a sustainable living blog, hens need about 4 square feet in a chicken tractor. I built my tractor with 40 sq ft of space inside, but looking at my six ladies in it, I don’t know if I would go higher than 8 hens. Claborn Farms does point out that it really depends on flock dynamic, and that overcrowding is a serious cause of stress for hens.
You can see that I have placed the chicken feeder and waterer on the ground, but this [amazon_textlink asin=’B001CS2RTQ’ text=’hanging chicken feeder’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’twoacresonadr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’81033a90-0f21-11e8-acac-3d506b06740a’] and [amazon_textlink asin=’B016AO5GAI’ text=’hanging waterer’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’twoacresonadr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fb31756c-0f21-11e8-bc9c-87a908cbcc1d’] [<—affiliate links!] are very popular. They would help maximize space further, and I love the nipple waterer, since it would keep the water clean! I also made sure to place the nesting boxes up high enough that it didn’t take away from the available grazing space.
Our flock size will increase to 12 once we expand our current coop, so it looks like I will have to build another tractor in order to keep all of them on fresh pasture each day. Thankfully, this tractor was easy to build, and I’m looking forward to incorporating improvements into version two!
Ruthie, Why Didn’t You Like the Other Designs?
You know, it isn’t that I didn’t like them. Many of them were more complicated than I could confidently build. Most of the tractors for laying hens are actually mobile coops, and I didn’t want one of those. Not to mention, a mobile coop for 12 laying hens would be larger than I could move.
Meat chicken tractors have the simplest designs, and I believed that because I house the ladies in the stationary coop at night, I could do away with some of the more complicated aspects of the mobile coop designs I filtered through. I just wanted an easy chicken tractor design so I could give my laying hens fresh grazing for better eggs.
What About the Design?!?
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Do you use a chicken tractor for your laying hens? Have you seen a difference in egg quality and happiness in your hens? If you don’t, do you want to? Comment below!