Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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Mobile chicken tractors, also called arks, are a viable option for confined ranging your chickens. You can find these tractors for sale online in various sizes, or you can build them fairly easily. If you are custom building your own, consider making them the same size as your garden beds or raised vegetable beds to help with the spent vegetable gardens.

Mobile chicken tractors can also be sized and effectively used for your spent flower gardens, too.

A mobile chicken coop and a mobile chicken tractor are two different things. A mobile chicken tractor is more enclosed and the chickens are contained. A mobile chicken coop is able to be moved but relies on additional temporary perimeter fencing. Mobile chicken coops are used more in pasturing; mobile chicken tractors are used in frontyard or backyard situations. Here is a mobile chicken coop.


Mobile chicken tractors can be made out of many different materials and come in different shapes. They can be a permanent home or essentially a chicken coop for your chickens, or a temporary one to target specific areas.

Whatever material you use, shape you make it, whether it has wheels or not, it should be fairly lightweight and easy to move. Mobile chicken tractors can be created to match your garden style, and complement your garden as a whimsical element.

The more common types are

  • A-frames, such as in a mini-chicken coop. Two sides meet at a point creating an “A” shape. An “A” frame can be made out of wood and covered with a strong predator-proof wire mesh hardware cloth.

  • PVC pipe curved domed frames: You can purchase curved PVC hoops and attach them to a sturdy wood-frame base. Cover your hoops and adjoining wood frame with a strong predator-proof wire mesh hardware cloth over the framework.

  • Little engine that could: This mobile chicken tractor is strikingly similar to a train engine with wheels, and one side is a larger rectangular outdoor pen area. Quiet nesting boxes are located away from the grazing area and accessed by chickens with a ramp. A waterer and feeder can hang by a chain from the ceiling of the mobile chicken tractor.


Chicken tractors can be bottomless or have welded wire bottoms (2 x 3 inches or 2 x 4 inches) to allow your chickens to forage in that spot directly covered by the mobile chicken tractor. Take care to rotate these tractors regularly to avoid overforaging.

A mobile chicken tractor can be turned into a permanent coop or used for temporary situations. If used as a permanent coop, provide all of the basics needed in a chicken coop, such as a safe place to lay eggs, a night roost, and access to fresh water and laying feed.

Use mobile chicken tractors for temporary situations for short periods of time such as an afternoon or one day. Always provide your chickens fresh water and food (if there is none to graze), a spot to quietly lay, and any needed shade or heat protection. In this situation, check on your chickens regularly.

The mobile chicken tractor concept originated out of England, and therefore is not designed and the best for ranging chickens in hot climates.

Mobile chicken tractors are generally better for housing smaller flocks because of their size dimensions. Mobile chicken tractors are also great as an alternative chicken coop and pen in a pinch.

Mobile chicken tractors can really be useful. Following are some of their popular uses:

  • When you need to separate a few chickens from their flock for any reason.

  • When you want your chickens to have access to a grassy area without having enough time to completely decimate it.

  • When you want to keep a rooster and hen together for specific breeding purposes.

  • When you need to keep a hen isolated and quiet after an unexpected injury.

  • When you’re administering medications to specific chickens.

  • When you’re worming some hens, but you don’t need to worm the others.

  • When you’re introducing new members gradually to a flock.

  • When you’re raising a new flock of chicks.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Bonnie Jo Manion has been featured in national garden magazines with her gardens, organic practices, chickens, and designs. Follow Bonnie at Rob Ludlow is the owner of, a top source on chicken raising, and the coauthor of Raising Chickens For Dummies.

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