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Large, durable and easy to move, our a-frame chicken tractor made raising chickens a snap. Learn how we built our mobile chickshaw and the reasons we selected the a-frame design.

a frame chicken tractor sitting on a plot of green grass

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DIY Chicken Tractor

When my parents first moved to their 3 acre property several years back, they started small with mighty goals of growing their homestead. Large gardens full of fresh veggies. Orchards with sweet fruit handpicked right from the vine. Farm fresh eggs. And meat raised right at home was the big dream. Through much learning, they now have a flock of egg layers, a bountiful garden and a blossoming orchard that they will soon reap the benefits from. The next project they wanted to tackle was meat birds.

As newbies to the meat world, they dipped their toes into the water and successfully raised their first batch of meat chickens last summer.

… and let me say, there is nothing like the taste and nutrients of a homegrown chicken versus a commercially raised chicken you’d purchase from a grocery store. 

This spring they decided to up their game and raise four times the amount of meat chickens compared to the previous year. With the increase of birds, they needed a bigger space for them to stay. The barn was perfect when the chickies were little but as they grew, the chickens needed fresh air, more space and green grass.

a collage of photos should step by step how to build a chicken coop

Chicken Tractor Plans

Enter the mobile chicken shelter. Aka chicken tractor or chickshaw.

My family was inspired by the idea of building a chicken tractor from a video we watched on  YouTube from Nick Ager at Growing Back to Eden. His DIY chickshaw housed his egg laying chickens quite comfortably.

Shortly after watching Nick’s video, we began digging into how to build a chicken tractor. There are so many shapes, designs and sizes to choose from when building a mobile chicken shelter. We sought advice from chicken masters like Joel Salatin and Justin Rhodes and what types of mobile coops they recommended.

We ended up selecting an a-frame chicken shelter design from the book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. With a few modifications to the original plan, the 8’ x 12’ shelter was perfect for my family’s homestead.

door to a homemade chicken coop is open revealing several birds inside

What is a Chicken Tractor?

A chicken tractor, also known as a chickshaw or an ark is a mobile coop that allows the chickens to get a fresh spot of grass or pasture every 1-3 days. Much healthier than a closed in environment, the portable coop provides shelter from predators and unfavorable weather while allowing the chickens to roam around and scavenge for bugs. Chicken tractors are commonly used to raise poultry intended for meat. However, there are several types of mobile chicken shelters that include a coop specifically for egg layers.

Watch Video Tutorial

Why We Chose to Build an A-Frame Chicken Shelter

Size – At 8 feet by 12 feet, the shelter accommodates up to 65-70 meat birds. According to Joel Salatin, a chicken requires 1.5 square feet of space. The chicken tractor we built is used only for sleeping and shelter from harsh weather and predators. The chickens have plenty of space to explore outside of their shelter within their electrified enclosure.

If you use the shelter as a permanent residence for egg laying chickens, you could easily fit 15-20 chickens.

Movability – Reasonably lightweight, the shelter can be moved by hand or pulled by a riding lawn mower.

Protection – The roof and sides are covered with solid painted steel roofing but the front and back are surrounded with chicken wire. This provides the birds shelter from rain and shade from the heat while still allowing a flow of air to move through.

Durability – My family’s farm is WINDY! The a-frame is much more stable in strong winds than a box design. Built with durable materials, the service life of the chicken tractor is 25+ years.

large green diy chicken tractor sits in the pasture surrounded by trees and grass

Our First Movable Chicken Shelter

Building a mobile chicken coop has proved to be a success. Along the way we learned a lot about raising meat chickens and what works and doesn’t work when building a chicken coop.

With our big list of homestead goals, I foresee my family and I building additional chicken tractors in the future. 

two hens pecking at some chicken feed in the grass


Is it Cheaper to Buy or Build a Chicken Coop?

Most times a DIY chicken coop is cheaper than purchasing a fabricated option. Especially when you are able to obtain reclaimed materials. If you already have the tools to build the shelter, all you will need are a few building supplies which is much less costly than a prebuilt option. Plus by building it yourself, you will be able to custom your coop to fit your specific needs.

How Often Should You Move a Chicken Tractor?

The size of your flock, coop and land will depend on how often you move your chicken tractor. 1-3 is ideal to give your chickens fresh grass and a clean space to forage. For us personally we found moving the mobile coop every other day worked best for our circumstances.

What are the Disadvantages of a Chicken Tractor?

  • Weight. We built our a-frame coop to withstand the strong winds we get in our area. While the original housing design was durable and could hold its own against foul weather, once we added the second layer to give us more headspace inside the coop it was very heavy and nearly impossible to move by hand. More often than not we had to hitch up the coop to the lawn mower to move it around our property.
  • Time Investment. Raising meat birds is a commitment. Several times a day (especially during the peak of summer) you will need to feed and water the birds. A mobile coop requires you to move the shelter frequently as well as the fencing around the home — that is if you plan to allow your birds to free range outside the coop.
  • Predators. Since tractor coops are not built as strong as a chicken coop inside a barn, sometimes predators can break in. We like to use a Premiere 1 fence to keep out the varmints, however the downside is that an electric fence is not cheap and will add to the cost of building a chicken tractor for meat birds.
  • Land. Mobile tractors are a great way to raise a healthy flock, but you will need land to drag around a coop. A standard city backyard usually does not have enough space for a sizable group of chickies.

woman holds a sleeping chicken in her hands

Learn How to Build a Mobile Chicken Coop

No two coops are ever the same. There are hundreds of designs to choose from. The layout of your mobile coop will depend on your shelter needs, flock size and the materials you select (repurposed items or supplies purchased from a hardware store).

Are you ready to build a chicken tractor for your homestead? Get the step by step plans to make a mobile a-frame shelter by purchasing The Small-Scale Poultry Flock book.

More Backyard Chicken Tutorials

All-Natural Chicken Coop Cleaner

Our First Experience With Meat Birds

How to Care for Chickens in the Winter

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two perspectives of an a frame chicken ark. both sit on green grass on the farm

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