As I’ve mentioned in my Chicken Tractor Guide, you can use the chicken tractor design for layers. So this summer and fall we’ve used our idle chicken tractors to house the new flock of layers while the old layers are in the A-frame coop and being phasing out.
Since this was temporary, I did not fasten the layer box to the back wall, but you could easily make a light weight set of 2-3 boxes to hang off the back wall. Instead we used a double box I made out of scrap 2x wood for another project. It’s heavy but works good.
Optimal moving depends on the stocking density. For our 8 birds I’d say about every 3-5 days. We’ve gone as longer during busy spells, leaving the ground looking like a post-apocalyptic movie scene. I reconciled staying in one place so long with the fact that using good feed and the pasture has plenty of time to recover before next year.
Their foraging area is much smaller than the A-frame; however, that can be mitigated with more frequent moving. Also, I’ve already experienced that this lighter breed can fly over the chicken wire fence we use for the A-frame.
A final note. This ISA Brown flock really dug into the soil much more than my previous breeds leaving many deep holes when we removed the tractor. I say deep, but the deepest was about 4-5 inches. They seem to digging shallower holes as time passed, which may be a factor of us moving them more frequently or just age.
Supplemental roofing for the tractor
Since we have roosting poles already in our tractors, we only had one real issue, the tarps. The tarps are medium duty and will typically last until the fall, sometimes longer, unless you have birds resting on them as we do. Last year it was the crows that tore up the tarps. This year it’s our flock of Guinea fowl. Check out what a week of roosting can do to a tarp.
Fortunately I had an old piece of roofing laying around that I could attach to the top. The boys just held some scrap pieces of wood on the inside of the coop that I fasten the roof to with screws. This will protect the tarp and ensure a dry area underneath for the food dispensers.
October came and I decided not to move the chickens to the A-frame. A chicken escaped the tractor during feeding and we caught her that night perched on the fence that keeps my Rainbow flock contained around the A-frame. It’s really nice having them in the tractor, not needing to open and shut the coop each day and not worrying about them flying over the fence or aerial predation.
The cold of winter is my biggest concern. I would want some better protection than the tarp and windbreak. These are hearty birds and I’m think I could design a suitable shelter area in the tractor; however, snow is problematic for moving and requires some more thought.
The future of the layer flock
This experiment got me thinking about building a new chicken coup on a trailer frame and incorporating the best feathers of the A-frame, chicken tractor, and more. Something very portable, versatile, and low maintenance.