As I’ve been working on our DIY Chicken Tractor design series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I realized that I’ve been using the wrong terminology. Or at least using the terms interchangeably, which they aren’t. I’ve since gone back and updated the posts to use the proper terms.

So what is the difference?

Across the larger community of backyard chicken keepers there are probably many different takes on what is what and which is which. All I can tell you is how I’m going to differentiate them and then do my best to stick to my own rule. For the Golden Egg experiment we’re going to be building a chicken tractor.

Mobile Coop

A mobile coop is exactly what it sounds like, a coop that can be moved. I’ll even qualify that to “easily” moved, but not necessarily by hand. Mobile coops are intended to provide nighttime protection, nest boxes, maybe water, and rarely feed. The mobile coop flock size is going to range from as small as two hens all the way up through hundreds of hens.

Mobile coops are well suited to medium to large pastured egg operations that need to move large numbers of hens from place to place around the homestead. To that end they are often paired with some sort of poultry fence to dissuade hens from wandering too far and reduce incursions of four-legged daytime predators. The hens return to the mobile coop at night and are secure from nighttime predators. Mobile coops can have an integrated watering system. In a few cases they may also have a feed system, but the intent is for the hens to be foraging for most of their calories. The smallest mobile coops can be moved by one person, but some are large enough to require a tow vehicle of some kind.

Chicken Tractor

A chicken tractor is intended to be a complete mobile housing solution for your hens. In addition to nighttime protection and nest boxes they also must provide daytime protection, feed, and water. They should be designed in such a way that your hens could live their entire life (except brooding) within the tractor. To ensure mobility and adequate space per bird these are usually intended for small, backyard flocks of 12 hens or less.

Chicken tractors are well suited to the backyard flock keeper who wants to give their hens fresh pasture but can’t or doesn’t want to have their flock freely range around their yard. The chicken tractor will always provide everything a hen needs: shelter, protection, nest boxes, feed, and water. And they should be designed such that one person can move them.

Summary (TL;DR)

Mobile Coops and Chicken Tractors are different things with different purposes. Don’t get them confused.

Mobile coops provide nighttime protection and nest boxes for up to hundreds of hens in a package that can be moved with relative ease be it by a person or tow vehicle (size dependent).

Chicken Tractors provide everything a small (<12) flock needs (to include: shelter, day/night protection, nest boxes, feed, water) in a package that can be moved by a single person without heavy equipment.

We are using a chicken tractor for our Golden Egg experiment. You can read about our DIY Chicken Tractor Design philosophy at these links: (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).


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