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5 Key Stages of Designing a Chicken Tractor

If you’ve kept chickens for any length of time I’m sure you’ll be familiar with chicken tractors; also known as chicken arcs. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are portable chicken coops/runs that are typically built on wheels. Building your own can be an affordable and safe way for your chickens to free-range safely. In this article we will cover 5 of the most important stages during the design of your chicken tractor.

If you’re looking for how to build a chicken tractor, you can find that here.

Stage 1: Budget

Just like with a house build, the first stage of designing your chicken tractor is allocating a budget for your build. As you will be building the tractor yourself it will be cheaper than buying a pre-assembled one.

A good rule of thumb you should follow is to allocate between $1 and $3 per square foot. The cost will vary depending on the materials that you choose to build with (more on that later). For example if you’re looking to build an 80 square foot chicken tractor for a small flock, you should allocate a budget between $80 and $240.

Stage 2: Choosing the Perfect Location

Once you’ve allocated a budget you need to make sure your land is suitable for a chicken tractor. In my experience two things make land unsuitable:

  1. Hilly Terrain.
  2. Areas prone to flooding.

You can’t use chicken tractors on hilly terrain because the bottom rail of the chicken tractor needs to sit flush on the ground; on hilly terrain it cannot do this. Secondly, you can’t use chicken tractors in areas prone to dampness and flooding because it makes maneuvering the arch extremely difficult.

Stage 3: What’s the Purpose?

So you’ve set your budget, and made sure that your garden/land is suitable for a tractor. The next step is to decide why you’re building the chicken tractor.

Will it be your chickens’ permanent home or will it just be used during the daytime to allow them to roam safely? The answer to this question impacts both the size of the chicken tractor and the materials that you will build with. Let’s take a look at the size of the chicken tractor first.

Stage 4: Calculating the Required Size

If you’re planning to build a daytime only chicken tractor then each of your chickens will need 10 square foot. For example, you have six chickens, so your chicken tractor needs to be 60 square foot. If you have bantam chickens you can adjust this figure to 8 square foot per hen. So in the example above your chicken tractor will need to be 48 square foot.

However if you’re planning to make a permanent chicken tractor (all seasons), then you need to add an additional 3 square foot of coop space. So to continue with the example above, you would need to make a 78 square foot arch. And for bantams you would need a 66 square foot chicken tractor.

Stage 5: Material Selection

The final stage is choosing the material that you’re going to build with; this will depend heavily on your budget. Lower budgets will be moving towards reclaimed wood and using poultry wire. Whereas, larger budgets will be able to buy softwood (such as pine) and use hardware cloth.

Chickens aren’t particular fussy and will be thankful for safe, leak-proof accommodation! The key thing here though is it must be predator proof, so don’t use any materials which will compromise the security of the tractor.


  1. “Chicken tractors” are great for day. My master gardener father built a sort of dog run version to give his dozen hens day access to his wide-furrow vegetable garden to enjoy “bugging” outing. But they do not provide predator protection at night without double caging, whatever the wire structural part, to have TWO walls, about 8+ inches apart. Horrible memories at neighbor’s dog kennel style hen enclosure–a raccoon or opossum reaching thru single wall wire wall to catch a dozing hen, literally eat her alive. Never again!

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