Chicken tractors are a great tool for providing your chickens with constant access to fresh grass, fresh air, and fresh soil. However, like any type of coop, they have their limitations – you can’t fit an endless number of chickens in a chicken tractor.
So how many chickens can fit in a tractor? If you’re thinking about raising your own flock in a chicken tractor, this is a wise question to ask.
On average, a 32-square foot chicken tractor can hold 16 meat chickens or eight laying hens. The number of chickens you can keep in a chicken tractor varies depending on the breed, quality of the pasture, and other factors.
Ready to start using chicken tractors on your homestead? Here’s what you need to know about the ideal stocking density for your mobile chicken tractors.
The general recommendation is that a 32 square foot chicken tractor should contain 16 meat chickens or eight laying hens – but this can vary depending on a variety of factors, which we’ll get into below.
Your chickens should have around four square feet of space each, on average. A chicken tractor should have enough space to accommodate feeders, waterers, roosting bars (for laying hens), and nesting boxes (for laying hens).
You’ll also need to provide space that has coverage from the sun and rain along with space for the chickens to forage.
Don’t forget about the space you’ll need for things like ramps, doors, and other features, too. All of these take away from how many chickens you can fit inside the tractor, but may be totally necessary – they’re things you need to factor into your size calculations for sure!
The breed of chicken you are raising in your chicken tractor will play a big role in how many chickens fit inside.
Laying hens need more room than meat chickens. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One is that laying hens live longer than meat chickens. Their productive lives can be as long as four to five years, so you want to make sure you keep them as healthy as possible so they’ll lay as long as possible.
You also need to give them room for their nesting boxes, which take up a lot of space. If your laying hens are overcrowded, they aren’t going to produce and they’re more likely to engage in undesired behaviors, like eating eggs.
Meat chickens are only meant to live for around six to ten weeks, so they don’t need as much space. They just need enough food to grow out fast (and enough space so they can get some exercise so they grow in a healthy manner).
Not only that, but meat chickens just aren’t as active as laying hens. Their main goal in life is to eat!
They aren’t as interested in running around after bugs and scratching around on the ground (although they do, of course, still do this). You can fit many more meat chickens in a chicken tractor than egg layers.
You’ll also want to consider the individual breed within these categories. If you’re raising bantam chickens, you don’t need to give them as much space as standard breed chickens because they’re so much smaller.
Certain breeds are also just naturally bigger than others – Jersey Giants are going to need more space than Silkies, for instance.
The general recommendation for raising chickens, as listed above, is to give each bird around four square feet of space inside a chicken tractor.
However, this recommendation doesn’t take into account the fact that meat chickens require less space than egg layers or the quality of the land on which you’re raising your chickens.
For example, if you raise chickens on a dirt lot, you’re going to need to give them more space. They simply don’t have as much food available to them here and the manure load isn’t going to be distributed as evenly.
If you’re raising your chickens on pasture a la Salatin style, you can get by with far less space per bird. He recommended just 1.5 square feet per bird, so a chicken tractor could easily hold 80 meat birds.
The design and style of your chicken tractor will play a big role in how many chickens fit inside. While an A-frame tractor is one of the most popular designs, it probably won’t fit quite as many chickens.
A flat, rectangular chicken tractor will fit more birds, but it will be more difficult to move.
As you can see, there’s a trade-off in the style of tractor you choose.
Finally, the time of year will influence how many chickens you can fit inside a chicken tractor, too.
Most people don’t keep chickens in chicken tractors during the winter months – at least, not if you live in an area that gets actual winters.
It can be too cumbersome to move the chicken tractors through the snow, and with their open-air design, a chicken tractor isn’t the most practical when temperatures dip far below freezing.
That said, summer weather also plays a role in the size of the tractor. You need to make sure you aren’t overstocking your chicken tractors once the weather gets hot, as this can cause your chickens to overcrowd and suffocate each other.
Overcrowding, particularly in hot weather, can also lead to aggressive behaviors like feather pecking and cannibalism.
Plus, the weather influences how quickly the ground bounces back and the grass is rejuvenated. If you want to really benefit from all that chicken tractors have to offer, you don’t want to overtax the soil and pasture they’re on.
If the weather is hot and dry, causing the grass to grow more slowly, you’ll want to reduce the stocking densities in your chicken tractors or move your chicken tractors even more often to avoid killing off the grass entirely.
The dimensions of your chicken tractor will vary depending on the number of chickens you keep in them and how much space you have available to move your tractors on, but usually, chicken tractors are around 4 to 10 feet wide and 6 to 15 feet long. That’s not to say that they can’t be larger or smaller, though!
If you live in the city, you may want to stick to a small tractor that’s around 4×6 feet. If you raise a large flock of meat chickens, you might find yourself keeping 70 birds in a 10×12 foot chicken tractor, meant to be moved with an ATV.
Regardless of how big your chicken tractor is, the benefit of using one, both for yourself, your chickens, and your land, is clear.
Building a chicken tractor can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to do your research first so that you end up with a design that meets the needs of your flock.
Inexpensive to build and highly portable and versatile, chicken tractors of any size can work wonders for your flock.
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).