Portable Chicken Coop
A Portable Chicken Coop is something you should really consider buying or building if you only have a small area in which to keep your chickens, or if you do not want to go into large scale chicken farming. The advantage of this style of hen house also know as a ChickenTractor or in Great Britain as a Chicken Ark is that it allows you to easily move your chickens from one part of the yard or garden to another. It also gives you peace of mind as it is a convenient way to keep your chickens safe from predators and out of harm’s way.
A Portable unit also lets you give your chickens a sort of semi free range lifestyle. Our preference for keeping chickens, if we cannot give them a completely free range life, is to keep them in a pen adjacent to another one so that they can be rotated back and forth, in order to give the grass a chance to grow back.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible. With a permanent hen house and run, you will find that the ground will soon become bare as every blade of grass and every weed is eaten. In this circumstance it is necessary to ensure that the pen has good drainage. Otherwise:
When it rains the whole area can become one massive muddy puddle. You wont be happy and needless to say neither will the birds. Their run had become an unhealthy mess. This scenario has been played out many times and is familiar to many people who have kept poultry.
The Benefits of Using a Portable Chicken Coop
In the most simplistic terms a portable coop is a chicken pen, there are a few different designs, some in an A frame shape or rectangular with an open floor. Several also feature a covered waterproof roosting and nesting area above, which the birds can get to by walking up a ramp, this style is the one we prefer. These designs usually feature attached handles so that two people can easily lift the coop in order to move it. Other designs come with wheels at one end so that the structure can be lifted at one end and rolled to a new patch of grass.
Some of the larger models are also portable, they come with wheelbarrow type handles and pneumatic tires so that they can also be moved by hand. Some can also be moved by attaching them to a hitch on a sit down lawn mower. Alternatively if you have a few friends to help, they can be lifted and moved. Some coops are also designed so that a portable run can be easily attached to the hen house itself.
Pre-made Portable models come in different sizes and the manufacturers usually specify the optimum number of birds the model should house. We always like to keep less than they recommend. The more space a chicken has the happier it will be, and a portable coop doesn’t really give them the kind of space where they can go for a little run. However, the fact that they can have fresh grass and fresh air will go a long way to keeping them healthy and contented. If you keep bantams you can of course factor their small size into the equation and keep one or two more.
We find that three or four birds keep a family of four well supplied with eggs. We have always kept Rhode Island Reds because we like brown eggs. A healthy Rhodie can lay upwards of 100 plus eggs a year. Do some research to decide on the kind of chickens you want to keep and the approximate number of eggs they are likely to produce.
Always keep at least two chickens, as they are sociable birds and like having company. Keeping one on it’s own is unkind. Happy chickens are a delight to watch and a lot of fun. Many people become easily attached to their hens. According to Wikipedia one of the reasons a movable coop is also referred to as a chicken tractor is that by easily moving the chickens from one place to another they are able to perform some of the tasks of a modern tractor with its various mechanical accessories. For example, with a Chicken Ark you can determine exactly which parts of the garden you need fertilized and debugged and the grass and weeds eaten.
Another real benefit is that although the chickens have some freedom, they are contained and this prevents them from digging up your vegetable patch or flower garden. We know people who keep free range chickens and they have to fence off parts of the garden so that their vegetables, especially their lettuce does not suffer from the zealous attention of their hens.
Using a portable chicken coop also means that you can raise your chickens in the fresh air, while at the same time providing them shelter from the elements should the need arise. The birds are able to get all the benefits of being outside, such as sunlight and some exercise while at the same time being able to forage for much of their food. If you purchase or build a coop which has an uncovered run area consider palcing part of it in the shade on hot summer days. Our chickens like sunbathing, but sometimes they appreciate some shade as well.
Most chicken tractor or Chicken ark models are designed to that the nesting boxes can be easily cleaned. Because the structure has no floor, cleaning that part is unnecessary. There is usually easy access from outside often through a wooden hatch or flap that facilitates the collecting of eggs as well as the cleaning. Hay is a popular material to use in the nesting boxes as it can be easily removed and replaced. If you have a compost heap add the old hay to it, it is ideal for compost.
If you have decided that a Portable model is for you, you have a few options. You can buy a ready made one, there are several different ones available. They can be easily ordered online through this website and they are shipped in a flat pack along with directions for assembly.
Alternatively, you can also buy all the hardware necessary along with the plans. This lets you buy the lumber locally in order to save on shipping. Many people find this a convenient and time saving way to buy a home for their poultry. It can also be ordered as a complete Kit for the customer to assemble. See the example below:
This is an example of the hardware kit you can order which allows you to source your own lumber. It includes all of the latches, hinges, wheels, axels etc. It also comes with plans, a template and a shopping list for you. It features an open bottom design so that your chickens can have a semi free range life.
If you are handy with a hammer and saw and enjoy building things yourself there are several plans available. We have links through to some of them on this website as well.
If you have the room and the desire, keeping chickens can be very rewarding and fun. They are a good way to introduce children to the responsibilty of looking after animals. The eggs your hens produce will look and taste far superior to store bought ones which may come from stressed out battery fed birds.
A happy hen brought up on a mixed diet of grass, feed, greens, peelings and scraps from the kitchen along with a few bugs will produce delicious eggs with beautiful orange-yellow yolks . If you can’t eat all the eggs yourself, they make a great gift for friends or neighbours or you can barter them.
One major benefit of keeping chickens in a Portable chicken coop is that it does give you peace of mind that your hens are safe. Other than providing feed and water and ensuring that they are secure at night, keeping chickens need not be time consuming. Using a chicken Tractor or chicken ark will go along way to helping you enjoy your hobby.