Previous Next
Tired of paying for Organic eggs? Check out how chicken ‘tractors’ are spreading all over the country.

Chicken Tractor. Photo: Jessica Reeder

Pretty much everywhere I’ve been where I thought life is good, the people had chickens. It just makes sense on so many levels. You can get organic eggs, you can harvest meat, the chickens help make the land more fertile–and it doesn’t take a lot of space to do it.

A couple days ago I saw this piece on the recent surge of people raising backyard chickens, which is legal here in Sarasota county. People living even on very small lots can use chicken ‘tractors’ like the one pictured here. Tractors are basically inexpensive floor-less coops that you move from place to place around your yard. The chickens scratch at insects and worms, and their manure goes directly into the ground as organic fertilizer.

Here’s a great resource to find out what the laws are for having chickens in various places around the US. It’s surprising how many urban areas, such as Seattle, allow you to raise chickens. Here’s another good site that sells tractor kits (although they’d be super easy to build yourself if you have carpentry skills) as well as poultry supplies.

As we settle down in Patagonia this fall, we’re definitely thinking about having chickens. I’m tired of buying everything. I want Layla to grow up eating food that comes right from our land, food we raise ourselves.

Anyone raise / raised chickens in an urban environment or using a tractor? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Home + Garden


About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • Dave and Deb

    My Brother raised chickens for a summer. He said that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. They are smelly and the cost of feed really didn’t offset the pay off of saving on the chickens.

    • david miller

      thanks for the comment d and d.

      definitely remember long bike rides through athens ga where you’d spin by the poultry houses and the stench was just foul.

      be that as it may, i ain’t in it to raise a bunch of chickens or even to get meat. this would be superlowimpact–just a pair of hens for eggs.

      anyone else have any poultry-raising experience?

  • Megan Hill

    very, very cool. definitely one of my goals in life. thanks for the great links!

  • David Page

    Nice one, Dah-veed! Did you see Susan Orlean’s piece on raising chickens in that one East Coast print magazine? Check it out:

    • david miller

      thanks d.

      i was stoked to check out susan’s piece on this at the NY’er but was stymied from opening it by some powerful chevron icons.

  • Michelle


  • Kevin Post

    This is a great idea. I will pass this article along. Thanks David.

  • Leigh Shulman

    I’ve never raised chickens, but have lived with them in many places. We spent two weeks on a chicken farm in France, went crazy because of the rooster next door in Panama who crowed every 2 hours all night long, and now, we’re actually considering raising them in our new place in Argentina.

    They’re amazingly gentle animals, and great to have around if you have kids. Quite a learning experience, though, when you eat them. Very different ethos than where I grew up in the US.

  • joshua johnson

    My good friends are urban chicken people but they take it one step further.
    To ensure their chickens are as fat and as happy as possible they also raise their own worms. With about the amount of space you need for a coop you an get worms going with some card board and yard clippings!


    • david miller

      sweet. big up your phraseology – ‘urban chicken people’

      seemed to be a lot of those in seattle.

  • Julie

    We raised chickens when I was growing up and I have really special memories of looking for eggs with my mom. They are smelly, but I think this tractor idea would almost eliminate the problem… though you could just let em free range. I have friends in PR who do that and the eggs are fantastic.

    • david miller

      nice. we always had chickens running around at the camp where i grew up too. it’s crazy to see them interacting / calling their young / claiming out their territories when there are a lot of them and they’re allowed to roam free.

  • Madison

    We used to do this on our farm. We use to sell the eggs to our neighbors and of course eat them, too. However, I mostly remember getting pecked at and being chased by loose chickens. Not fun! Maybe your daughter will better with chickens than what I was as a kid!

  • Lola

    Haaaa.Brings back some fun memories. We also raised a couple chickens back in Nigeria…until the unfortunate dog incident.

    • Carlo Alcos

      Do tell. Oh please, do tell.

      • Lola

        Our dog went crazy, killed them all, and (yes) stacked them in a pile for us to see.

  • Carlo Alcos

    Kind of gives new meaning to Tweet hey? Yes! I was hoping no one had used that yet. Although I did enjoy Dave and Deb’s “wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be” (have I told you I’m a sucker for a good pun?).

    That’s a cool idea. We have a dream. And that dream is to one day have some land to have a few farm animals. And yes, chickens will be on that land.

  • terrin

    I raised chickens on a standard suburban lot on Mercer Island, outside of Seattle, for many years. We gave them the run of the yard which they were able to demoslsh in about three months. I loved the whole operation and chickens are more interesting than you might expect. Problems are: care is needed with the feed as rats are bound to show up; you may need to clip your chickens’ wings so they don’t fly over to the less-agrarian neighbors’ decks; few jurisdictions allow roosters so you need a plan when your “sexed” chick turns out to be a he and not a hen; chickens need to be treated regularly for mites; raccoons and coyotes can be a problem; your winters may not be mild enough for the portable “coop” which you show. Finally, not all your friends and neighbors will trust real eggs and be prepared for many questions from people who do not understand that females produce eggs without the help of males.

    • david miller

      really appreciate all those insights.

  • Cheap Like Me

    We too are contemplating chickens – maybe next spring. My 8-year-old is excited about helping to design a coop. We priced feed the other day and it looked like for 2-3 birds, it would cost around $15 a month (US). Not too bad if they turn out the eggs. Of course, I buy feed for wild birds for $15 every few months, and all they do for us is turn our front porch into a hull- and poop-littered disaster zone.

  • Tim Henderson

    My wife and I are in the start-up phases of a micro-farm and are absolutely going to incorporate chickens in our sustainability plans. Chickens are great recyclers of kitchen waste, good for pest control and make awesome little tillers between plantings. Not to mention the tasty fresh eggs.

  • Marie

    I know those smelly places in Athens and also in the town on Lake Lanier we used to go to in the summers. Can’t remember the name but it was apparently the “broiler capital”. But yours shoudn’t be anything like those mega-sized genetically engineered farms so no worries;-)
    My husband and I first started fantasising about having a chicken tractor whilst living in the concrete jungles of Japan. I’d never felt further from the land there despite living in a sake rice region. Missing green things was one of our major reasons to return to New Zealand, but I’ve yet to get my chicken tractor!
    Good luck!

  • Gavin

    Well, you don’t HAVE to get feed, you can feed them a lot of stuff.

  • chicken coops

    Raising chickens in your backyard is something that anyone who can, should look into. The reasons are countless, anywhere from the cost of saving on eggs over time, to the fun family activity of it, to lessons learned for children, and so on. Nothing like eating eggs from your own chickens!

Open the tongues and imagine the fragrance from all of the smelly bar-nights disappearing...
Everything you need to know from the Fourth Amendment to Willie Nelson and Wal-Mart.
All you need to know about having an environmentally conscious Christmas.
If you decorate your chocolate, you get to eat it at the end of the season.
Who says you can't have a farm in the backyard of your inter-city home?
Pulling your hair out over home renovations? Here are ten ways to preserve what's left of...
New York had the highest amount of residents who left the state in search of presumably...
You'll save money, stay waterproof, and smell like coconut.
5 stories from around the world and the web to inspire you this Friday.
Simple ways to create a calm, clean and happy living space.
Matador contributor and beauty guru Olivia Hambrett shares ten essential beauty items for...
An experiment in living adventurously teaches Mary Richardson that fresh experiences...
You can recycle. Or you can get creative!