How to Build a Movable Chicken Coup or Chicken Tractor
Small Hen House
When we bought our house years ago we did it with the idea that we would one day get animals. A few months after we moved in I came home from work to the unmistakable sound of little chicks peeping away in a cardboard box.
My first reaction was how cute they were. They would climb over each other and struggle to keep their balance at times but they were still adorable.
After my initial reaction wore off I realized they would need a home outside at some point because that is where they belonged, and we didn’t have a spare bedroom available for them anyway.
Fortunately my wife had already done some research on how to build a chicken coup and the nesting boxes that chickens enjoy using when the eggs come calling. Being a tall guy I decided I wanted the roof to be tall enough for me to walk in so the design was adjusted a little bit.
We built a large coup that is about eight foot square for our initial flock of ten birds. This was a little bit bigger than what we really needed to do but we wanted some extra room in it for them, and us, to move around in.
Keeping chickens is really a very easy thing to do. Some people leave them in the coup all day while others elect to let them out and roam the yard foraging for little bugs to eat; we are in the latter group.
Chicken Coup DesignsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Erecting a movable home for chickens can be a very simple task and you don’t have to be an experienced handyman either. All you need are a couple of pieces of lumber, some nails and some chicken wire.
To make a movable coup you can literally build a box or rectangle out of wood and then fully wrap it in the chicken wire. The key is to make sure the whole structure is protected by the wire because predators can find the smallest opening and jeopardize the safety of your birds.
If you make the coup small enough you don’t even need to put a door or gate in it; just lift up a side to gain access. If you would rather put a gate in go ahead and buy a couple of hinges a locking kind of hardware and some extra lumber.
Putting up a chicken tractor is even easier. If you are an outdoors person you might be familiar with the term “lean two”. This means that you take two means of shelter and lean them together to create a protected area inside to get out of the elements, it looks like an upside down ‘V’ from the ends.
When building a tractor frame two wall sections and wrap them in the wire. Put them together and fasten them, I would suggest cutting a piece of wood to span the opening on the bottom. This piece will help stabilize the structure and give you something to fasten additional wire to.
For both types of buildings I would also put some boxes in to keep the chickens off of the ground. They will want to nest in these boxes when they lay eggs and they also have terrible vision at night so they will want to be off of the ground to help them feel safe.
Being that these are portable structures you can move them to areas where you might be hoping to control excess vegetation. Chicken manure is very potent and it will burn many kinds of plants, including weeds. Being able to move these around will also simplify cleaning as well because you can just move them to a new area of the yard.
I would advise making sure you move the coups to a new spot early in the day so they don’t have a hard time finding it later in the day, if you let them out. Also make sure you put their mobile home on a flat surface, again to keep predators at bay.
After you have built their new fancy home your responsibilities as a chicken parent haven’t concluded, yet. You will need to do what you can to keep them safe as well as provide them food and water. If you are new to having chickens some additional tips are included below to take care of them the best that you can.
House for Chicken's
One of the best parts of having chickens is the different kinds of breeds that you can choose from. We have tried four different kinds of birds over the last few years and we certainly have our favorites.
Right now we still have some of our original Araucanas who are way up there in chicken years. Our local feed store guy told us that the average chicken’s life span is four to five years; we have some that are past seven. We have a couple Rhode Island Reds, one barred rock and our three youngest ones are Buff Orpingtons. Out of these four breeds the Araucanas are the friendliest ones with the Buff Orpingtons a very close second. The Rhode Island Reds are OK and the barred rocks are just not friendly at all.
Another cool thing about the Araucanas are that the shell of their eggs have different colors to them. Most of our birds lay eggs with a green tint to the shell but they can come in pink or even a light blue. I have a photo of one of the green eggs below, next to a brown Rhode Island Red and store egg.
How to Care for a Chicken
Maintaining a flock isn’t a difficult thing to do. Just like any other animal or pet you need to keep food and water available for them. Also be prepared to clean out their coup every week or so because the smell can get a bit overwhelming if you let it go for too long.
Every morning we make sure they have some food and a full bowl of water and we cut them loose in the yard; it is fun to see them scratching and pecking around.
Chickens can’t sweat so they pant when they get hot, just like dogs do. If you live in an area where it gets hot you might want to consider installing a misting system or, at a minimum, make sure they have a bunch of shade so they don’t suffer from the heat.
Corn is the main staple in chicken feed. For the smaller peeps it is crushed into very small pieces so their little beaks can pick them up. As they mature the pieces get larger and much more recognizable for humans.
One of the main reasons we let our birds roam the yard is because we don’t have to buy as much feed since they eat what they find in the yard. The other reason is it helps keep the bugs under control and scratching around for food is what they are just wired to do.
The only real hazard for our birds are a few predators that wouldn’t hesitate to take one of our girls away, never to be seen again. The biggest predator to our flock over the years has been dogs. Our neighbor’s pit bulls jumped our fence once and each of them killed a chicken before we had a chance to come outside and see what the commotion was.
Our neighbors have reported seeing coyote’s and an occasional fox but we haven’t seen any of them, even though we did lose a chicken to what we believe was a fox based on some rudimentary investigation on our part.
Being near the bottom of the food chain chickens are under constant threat of becoming some other animal’s meal. We lock our birds up in the coup at night and when we leave, just in case. This protection is something that we weren’t completely ready for because we never had to do it for our dogs or cats.
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Free Range Eggs
For us the chickens keep us stocked up with fresh eggs. They look and taste completely different than the ones that are for sale in the grocery store. I’m not trying to disrespect the eggs in the store but comparing the two side by side clearly shows which one looks better.
Studies have also shown that eggs from chickens not raised in a commercial environment are better for us as well; they have fewer calories and more nutrients.
We get to be entertained by the chickens roaming the yard and they provide us with great eggs, sounds like a trade we are completely happy to make.