Large Chicken Tractor Plans for Raising Broilers
Jul 22, 2023
Put your chickens safely out to pasture with this chicken tractor DIY project. These large chicken tractor plans are perfect for raising broiler chickens.
A “chicken tractor” is a portable enclosure that allows backyard chickens to be rotated across a pasture in a controlled pattern. It also helps protect your flock from predators and provides shelter from severe weather.
A viable chicken tractor must be durable, lightweight, animal friendly and inexpensive. Finding a way to balance all of these qualities to fit your needs is the key to building a chicken tractor that will work for you. Many successful poultry farmers have adopted various styles of chicken tractors that incorporate these concepts and allow them to efficiently raise lots of healthy, happy birds.
The first chicken tractor I built was framed with 2-by-4s and was very roomy and durable. It also was incredibly heavy, and moving it regularly was a Herculean chore.
We next tried tent-type shelters framed with metal rebar and covered with tarps. They were light and inexpensive. They did a superb job of keeping the chickens in and the chicken predators out, right up until we had a big thunderstorm. Have you ever tried to catch 200 wet and wild chickens cavorting around a 10-acre pasture? Not fun. If you anchor these down, they might endure high winds better, but then you’ll have to remove the anchors with each move.
I finally found the perfect chicken tractor while visiting Shankstead Eco-Farm in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The owner, Edwin Shank, was building a batch when I visited his farm, and I was impressed by the simplicity of the structures and how well they worked.
When I got back to Wisconsin, we immediately built one and have since added a few more. We modified Edwin’s original design slightly to better fit our needs. While the chicken tractor plans that follow will give you an excellent place to start, I encourage you to tweak them until you find exactly what works best for your situation.
The tractor we built will comfortably house 50 to 75 broilers if it is moved regularly. It is 8-by-16-feet in area and is constructed out of lumber and lightweight 3/4-inch galvanized steel conduit. The frame and chicken wire cost around $140; you can decide what kind of cover you want to use. We have a source for used billboard signs, which we have found to work very well as “tractor tarps.” They are durable, and this is a neat way to recycle them. They are black on one side, and if you turn them with the graphics to the inside, the chickens can spend time becoming more familiar with the ways of the world. (Just kidding!) Ours spent hours last summer staring at Andre Agassi, and they all think Wimbledon is a wonderful venue for tennis … they definitely prefer grass courts to clay.
Anyways, if you’re planning on raising broilers, this design also can double as a cold frame. Just trade out the opaque summer cover for some clear plastic, and you have an ideal, portable cold frame for winter greens or early spring produce. Our tractors are about 6 feet high at the peak, so we can easily work the crops growing inside.
Generally we find that we can make one pass per month over a given piece of ground. If we move the tractors three times per day (we find this really helps with keeping large numbers of birds clean and mobile), it will take about a quarter acre per tractor or 300 broilers per acre. If you are doing multiple batches per year, you may need other pastures to avoid excessively fertilizing the ground.
Chicken tractors give you a great way to protect your flock while still allowing them to range on pasture. Hopefully this design will get you started growing your own feathered friends in an ethical, environmentally friendly, and enjoyable way.
Daniel Olson enjoys grazing education and research, and runs a grass-based farm, Norsk Farm.