Mobile chicken tractors have been made hugely popular by well known farmers like Joel Salatin http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ and John Suscovich https://farmmarketingsolutions.com/ These farmers have certainly had a significant influence on us; inspiring us to give farming a try, as well as providing ideas about specific husbandry aspects like housing. Chicken tractors are mobile housing structures designed to be moved daily onto fresh pasture. They enable meat birds to safely live outside, on grass, while keeping predators out. To further deter predators from enjoying a chicken dinner, we are also planning to use an electrified poultry net with a solar energizer around the row of tractors. We use, and love, the Pig Quik fence from Premier 1 Supplies; and while we have not yet tried the poultry net we are hoping for success.
The Salatin-style tractors are a larger and lower structure. This held a lot of birds, but we feared it would be too hard on our backs, constantly bending over to feed, water, and catch birds. It was important to us to be able to walk inside the enclosure and stand up completely, so we decided to go with the Suscovich-style tractor, which is much taller. The Suscovich tractor has metal poles that are bent to create the “roof” structure. During construction, it became obvious that bending the metal poles accurately is not a skill we possess. So we amended the design by bending PVC pipes from one side to the other to hold up the interior wire and tarp roof. We also chose to forgo the chicken wire. We exchanged it for welded wire fencing that we were given for free. It is certainly stronger, but we may regret this additional weight during our daily moves! The most time consuming part of building the tractors was doing the initial cutting of the wood. Putting the tractor itself together goes relatively quickly once all the sides are pre-assembled.
In all we have 5 of these mobile tractors. We plan to use them to grow out our broiler chickens. But we are also experimenting with using them as a day pen for our Royal Palm and Midget White turkey poults, who are still in their brooder. We also think one might make a secure home base and night enclosure for our pet ducks when they are ready to go live by the water.