Chicken Tractor: Free Ranging in a Moveable Run

Free-Ranging Chickens is Better for Your Birds and You

by Erin Snyder

A chicken tractor can provide your chickens with the benefits of free-ranging while keeping them safe from predators. Here’s our guide to an enclosed and movable run to get your flock up and out of the coop.

Chicken Tractor Musts

Faux free-ranging uses a chicken tractor or another moveable run to give chickens and other poultry daily access to fresh greens and bugs while keeping them safe from predators. You can purchase a chicken tractor from a manufacturer or go online to find some neat plans and build your own.

Whether you construct your own or buy an already-assembled chicken tractor, there are several things you should include.

  • 10 to 15 square feet of room for each chicken (if you can allow it, more space is better)
  • Nesting boxes for laying hens
  • Protection from aerial predators, ground-dwelling predators and digging predators
  • Easily moveable (Preferably, your chicken tractor should have wheels and a handle to push or pull your run to the next pasture.)
  • An attached predator-proof coop if you are housing chickens in a chicken tractor overnight.

Now that you know what your chicken tractor should include, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of predator-proofing.

Chickens in the coop
faux free-ranging free-range chickens

Safety First

There is no point in faux free-ranging if predators can still gain access to your flock. If a predator enters the chicken tractor, there is no way for your trapped chickens to escape their deadly fate. Take all necessary precautions to protect your flock from all predator attacks to ensure your and your flock’s peace of mind.

Read More: Protecting Chickens From Snakes, Opossums & Other Predators

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There are several ways to prevent predators from attacking your flock. Overhead protection, heavy-gauge wire and predator skirts are some of the best ways to protect your chickens.

Aerial Protection

A 16-gauge half-inch hardware cloth is one of the best ways to deter climbing and aerial predators from accessing your chicken tractor through the roof.

Securing the top of the run with a weatherproof, heavy-duty tarp provides an out-of-sight, out-of-mind barrier so aerial predators can’t see the chickens. It will also offer protection from the hot summer sun.

Heavy Gauge Wiring

Even though chicken wire is known as the all-purpose wire to keep chickens in and predators out, the truth is chicken wire does little to protect your flock. Chicken wire is so flimsy that foxes and raccoons have no problems chewing right through it.

To completely keep predators out, use a PVC-coated 16-gauge half-inch hardware cloth.

Predator Skirts

Attaching predator skirts to the bottom outside the perimeter of your chicken tractor will prevent digging predators from accessing your run. To do this, you will need three tools.

  • PVC-coated 16-gauge 3/4-inch hardware cloth
  • Heavy-duty zip ties
  • Metal stakes

Attach 18 inches of hardware cloth to the bottom outside the perimeter of the run. Secure in place by driving the stakes through the hardware cloth into the ground.

faux free-ranging free-range chickens

Healthy Flock

Daily access to pasture is crucial to keeping your flock healthy by providing chickens access to the fresh greens and bugs they need.

Faux-free-ranging reduces stress and anxiety while lessening your flock’s chances of contracting coccidiosis, internal parasites and other poultry-related diseases.

A Chicken Tractor = Better Eggs

Have you ever checked out the comparison between pasture-raised or free-range eggs and meat versus non-free-range? Free-range eggs contain a quarter less saturated fat, three times more vitamin E, twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, a quarter less cholesterol, seven times more beta carotene, and two-thirds more vitamin A.

Free-ranging chickens also produce higher-quality meat containing more iron, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than non-pastured chickens. To learn more about the benefits of consuming pastured-raised chickens, click here.

Throw in how much better your eggs and meat will taste, and it’s a win-win.

So yes, with faux-free-ranging, it is possible to keep your chickens safe from predators and provide your flock with the health benefits of a free-range diet while providing you with healthier eggs and meat.

This article about using a chicken tractor to free-range a flock was written for Chickens magazine online. Click here to subscribe. 

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