A great way to move closer to food security is to raise your own meat. Meat chickens and meat rabbits are, in my opinion, the best place to start. Today we are going to focus on chickens and the best housing for them. Let’s jump straight into how you can build a chicken tractor for meat birds.
How to Build a Chicken Tractor for Meat Birds
Before you build your chicken tractor, consider the breed of chicken that you have on your homestead. A cornish cross flock will have different requirements than a dual-purpose heritage breed. These tractors work best for heavy broiler breeds like Cornish Cross and Red Rangers.
Some producers raise their meat birds in coops with attached runs or in a free-range setting. I have found that raising meat chickens in stationary housing or out in the open just doesn’t work for me.
There are a few reasons for this:
- I raise mostly Cornish Cross broiler chickens (some Red Rangers) and they poop A LOT. That means A LOT of cleaning in a stationary coop and A LOT of stink.
- These birds don’t forage well… They prefer to sit by the feeder all day.
- They are slow and bright white so they are easy pickings for predators making free-ranging a risky option.
Because of this, I choose to use a portable DIY chicken tractor that I can move to new green grass daily. Using a chicken tractor will keep the birds from sitting in their own poop all the time, allow them to peck around in fresh soil if they choose, keep the smell down, and keep the birds safe.
DIY Chicken Tractor Tutorial (10’x5’x2’)
When building a chicken tractor, you want to make sure that it will be lightweight and predator-proof. It will also need to have adequate space, airflow, shade, and protection from wind & rain. This chicken tractor is roughly based on the Joel Salatin design and has all of those qualifications as well as minimal costs.
This meat bird chicken tractor is 10’ long, 5’ wide, and 2’ tall. You can adjust to an 8’x4’x2’ if you have fewer birds. You will want your DIY chicken tractor to have enough space to allow 1-2 square feet of space per bird. A 10’x’5’x2’ can hold 25 birds at 2 square ft each.
This chicken tractor design can also be used as a quarantine area for new birds and as an introduction pen for integrating baby chicks with an adult flock.
- Cut list:
- 4- 2”x2”x10’
- 10- 2”x2”x5’
- 6- 2”x2”x2’
- 1- 1”x4”x3’
- I used furring strips because they were cheaper, but they are softer so watch out for splitting.
- 40’x3’- ¼” hardware cloth
- 2 1/2”-3” Deck Screws
- Heavy Duty Staples
- Staple Gun (I recommend an electric or compression staple gun to prevent hand cramps)
- 2- 1-2” inch hinges
- 1 rope (about 6 feet)
- 2 eye hooks
- 2 carabiner clips
- 10’x12’ tarp
Instructions for Building a Meat Chicken Tractor:
**Let me preface this by saying that I am not a professional builder. We repurposed several scrap items that I already had and we made them work for what we needed. These plans reflect what worked for us.
STEP 1: Make Cuts
Go ahead and cut your boards to size so they will all be ready to go when you need them. The only cutting that we needed to do was splitting a couple of 10’ boards in half for the short ends of the chicken tractor and the 2’ vertical boards. We also used some 2×4 boards because I had extra and we ripped them into 2×2.
STEP 2: Bottom Frame
Use screws to attach the main boards on the bottom frame. 10’ for the long sides and 5’ for the short ends. I made another DIY chicken tractor with 8’x4’ dimensions as well. You can adjust the size as you want as long as there is enough space for your birds.
*If you used furring strips, predrill the holes to avoid splitting. This is a good idea regardless of the type of wood, but especially with furring strips.
STEP 3: Vertical Boards
Attach one 2’ board vertically in each corner and in the middle of each side for support.
STEP 4: Top Frame
Add the top frame of the meat bird tractor onto the vertical boards. Attach a 5’ board across the back half of the top frame. This will serve as support for the hardware cloth that will be attached later.
STEP 5: Hardware Cloth
**I do not recommend using chicken wire here. While chicken wire (or poultry netting) is cheaper, it is also more susceptible to predators.
Wrap the sides and top in hardware cloth and attach with heavy-duty staples leaving a little bit hanging off the bottom to form a skirt. This will help keep predators from digging under.
I prefer a floorless chicken tractor, but if you have a heavy predator presence you may want to add hardware cloth to the bottom as well.
I used 10’ rolls of hardware cloth because I couldn’t find any 50’ or 100’ rolls locally. This meant that I had to connect a new roll 3-4 times and, even with an overlap, that can leave gaps. To fix this, I uses the metal wire that the hardware cloth was packaged in to “sew” the roll ends together.
STEP 6: Lid
Make the lid of the DIY chicken tractor with 4 of the 2”x2”x5’ boards. Staple the hardware cloth to the outside of the lid. Add another 5’ board down the middle of the lid where the 2 layers of hardware cloth meet. Attach the lid to one half of the frame using one hinge on each side.
STEP 7: Lid Stand
Use a 3’ board (I used a 1”x4”x3’ because that’s what I had on hand) as a “kickstand” for the lid. Attach it to one inside front corner as shown in the photo. It can then be used to hold the lid up when needed. The stand stores neatly inside the chicken tractor when not in use.
STEP 8: Hooks & Rope
Attach one eye hook on either side of the bottom front board. You can tie the rope directly on these or you can use carabiner clips to attach it so the rope can be moved to multiple chicken tractors.
STEP 9: Covering
Add a tarp to at least 3 sides of the chicken tractor. This will give the meat birds shade and protection from wind and rain. I used a 10’x12’ tarp to cover the back half of my DIY chicken tractors and I probably could have gotten away with an 8’x10’. I prefer to use a larger tarp, however, just in case I need to double up due to rain or patch sections.
It is recommended to use a thicker tarp. I used cheaper thin tarps and they are already leaking.
Now all you need is to add a chicken feeder and waterer then your new DIY Chicken tractor will be ready to go!