A 'chicken tractor' is basically a low, wire-enclosed, open-bottomed box for raising chickens. This structure keeps the birds in and predators out. The tractors are usually moved to fresh ground daily.
These portable cages can be constructed to just about any size suitable to your purposes. Make sure to allow adequate space for the birds so they don't poop up the enclosure too quick.
Well-known farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm uses a 'fleet' of tractors sized about 10' x 12' to raise thousands of birds a year. I believe he puts about 75 birds in each tractor, giving a space of about 1 1/2 square feet per bird.
I would consider this the minimum space per bird you should consider, if the birds are confined. A small tractor might be 4' x 4', housing half a dozen birds.
We built a few 4' x 8' chicken tractors and put them in our garden one
year. We moved the tractors around and the birds ate weeds and bugs, and
fertilized our garden.
The tractors are usually constructed with a solid - e.g. steel - roof, and open sides enclosed in chicken wire. Part of the top needs to open to provide feed and water and access to the birds.
We used 2" x 3" framing for our chicken tractors; larger models may require heavier framing. Construction of a tractor is a compromise between making a structure solid enough to stay together, yet light enough to move.
The tractor pictured above is 4' x 8'; we would put up to a dozen birds in it and move it around our garden to help clean up weeds and bugs.
Note: we no longer use chicken tractors like the above. We were not happy with the performance of chickens in them, and instead we designed and built a Movable Coop and our Hoop Coop to day range our poultry (see pictures below.)
We're happier with the results in our movable coops. The birds seem healthier and happier too, and our losses have dropped to just about zero. You can get plans for our two styles of coops (plus a few more goodies) in How to Raise Meat Chickens.
Based on 20+ years of gardening and farming experience, I wrote some books that show you practical approaches to gardening and raising small livestock. If you want to fill your freezer and cold storage with your own healthy, nutritious food, and provide some real food security for your family, it might be worth a look here.
I just put together two special book deals:
p.s. How to Raise Meat Chickens is included in each special deal, at a special price.
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