The chicken tractor is a wooden or PVC enclosure that is meant to serve as a mobile chicken coop. It is the ultimate solution to providing your flock with the fresh air, exercise, and quality pasture they need.
Despite the benefits, however, they do have limitations – particularly in regards to how many birds they can safely and comfortably house.
How many chickens can fit in a tractor? As you begin designing or building your own chicken tractor, that question is a crucial question to ask yourself.
A 64 square foot chicken tractor can hold up to 16 laying hens or 32 meat chickens. How many chickens you can house in a chicken tractor will vary depending on the size of the chicken tractor, the quality of the land, your goals, and more.
If you’re ready to delve deep into the design of your chicken tractor, this article is a great place to start. We’ll help you calculate the right number of birds for your portable chicken tractor depending on all the variables you need to consider.
There are a few factors you will need to keep in mind when deciding if all your chickens will fit inside one tractor – or if you need to build a few more.
In general, you should shoot for about four square feet of space per bird on average. That is the recommended amount of space for chickens in any kind of housing, including in stationery co-ops and portable chicken tractors.
However, things get a bit more technical when you start looking at fine details.
Your chicken tractor will not only need to have enough space for the chicken themselves, but also for roosting bars, nesting boxes, feeders, and waterers. You’ll also need space for doors, ramps, and any other features you want to include, too.
Of course, the major benefit of using a chicken tractor is that you don’t have to worry as much about providing separate “run” space.
Since the “run” and “coop” sections are essentially combined in one all-inclusive design, this can make the spacing considerations a bit easier.
Naturally, you also need to consider the breed and personalities of the chickens you are raising in your tractors.
Laying hens of any breed almost always need more space than meat chickens. Meat chickens simply aren’t as active – they are more content to sit around and snack than laying hens are!
Laying hens, when bored, are more likely to resort to bad behaviors like bullying each other. Meat chickens will certainly bully each other, too – but they aren’t going to get bored nearly as easily.
The purpose of the chicken isn’t the only aspect of the breed you’ll need to take into consideration. Size and disposition also impact the ideal chicken tractor size.
Bantams require less room in a chicken tractor – they’re smaller! More aggressive breeds, like Rhode Island Reds, will need more space – they get overcrowded and agitated more easily.
There are dozens of different types of chicken tractors you can build, including:
- Geodesic chicken tractors
- Hoop barns
- Rectangular pens
… and much more! The style of your chicken tractor’s design will play a role in how many chickens you can fit inside.
A-frame and hoop barn-style chicken tractors, for instance, are quite popular. They are easy to move and easy to build. However, they aren’t as efficient when it comes to space – pick a rectangular design for that.
But now there’s a trade-off – although rectangular tractors can fit more chickens, they’re also harder to move.
This sounds obvious, but the size of your chicken tractor will play the biggest role in how many chickens you can put inside of it. On average, chicken tractors are anywhere between 5 to 16 feet long and 3 to 11 feet wide.
The larger the chicken tractor, of course, the more chickens you can put inside – but that doesn’t mean you should just build “bigger and better” in order to fit more chicken inside.
This is going to add a lot of weight, and really, there’s no substitution when it comes to moving your chicken tractors more often.
That’s to say, you can make your chicken tractor bigger, but don’t make it so big that it’s going to be tough to move. You’ll be defeating the purpose of having a chicken tractor in the first place.
If you have a lot of chickens to raise, consider building multiple smaller chicken tractors that are easier to move rather than building one behemoth structure.
Finally, keep the environment and climate in mind when designing your chicken tractor and figuring out how much space your birds need.
If you raise your chickens in the desert or in a place where it takes a long time for the grass to bounce back, you probably shouldn’t stock as many chickens in a chicken tractor.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that has more mild weather and adequate rainfall, you can probably stock more heavily since the grass will bounce back faster.
The time of the year plays a role, too. For the most part, people don’t keep their chickens in chicken tractors if they get actual winters. It’s summer weather that you’ll need to think about.
If it’s hot and dry, your chickens are going to be more likely to destroy the grass and to become overcrowded – they might even suffocate each other.
Hot weather makes chickens just as cranky as it makes us. When they feel crowded, they’re going to get agitated and bully each other. It’s not worth overstocking them in warm conditions, to say the least!
When in doubt and concerned about the quality of the pasture, always err on the side of fewer chickens.
You can always add more chickens later on – but if your birds burn the grass and tear things up too much as they scratch and peck, it’s going to be hard to restore the pasture to its former glory later on.
There’s really no quick calculation you can do to determine how much space you need to give your poultry in the chicken tractor. You’ll need to consider all of the variables above (in addition to your budget) when designing the tractor style and size that’s right for you.
Remember, if you have a large flock, it’s better to split them up into multiple chicken tractors than to crowd them into one large, oversized one.
Shoot for four square feet of space per bird at a minimum – and you’ll usually be able to keep yourself right in that sweet spot of space and portability!
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.