PARTRIDGE — Keeping chickens safe, healthy and happy can often be daunting. Sometimes the coyotes or raccoons snatch them. Or maybe they nibble on too many garden vegetables.


To circumvent predators and keep the hens clean and out of the garden, a portable hen house was invented. It’s called a chicken tractor, and not many manufacturers in the U.S. produce them.


For 15 years, Quail Manufacturing in Partridge has manufactured these sturdy, movable units. David Yoder, who calls his operation Egg Cart’n, took the movable chicken coop premise and made it lighter and easier to wheel.


"I knew I didn’t want to clean out another chicken house," said David, who grew up on a farm in Partridge, helping his family with chickens. "We had 50 hens. My mother delivered eggs to Hutchinson."


Egg Cart’n’s chicken tractors are portable chicken pens that allow chickens to have a fresh grazing area each day. The large wheels and lifting system move the less than 400-pound hutch to a new patch of grass daily.


When manufacturing the chicken tractors, David tries to keep his sources as local as possible. He buys the steel used in his Classic, Chalet and Mini Coops from Emporia. The aluminum comes from Kansas City, and the plastics are bought in Topeka. Powder coating is applied in Wichita.


The welding is done by his nephew, Eugene Yoder, in Partridge. Both David and his nephew cut, fabricate and build each structure. David’s wife, Susanna, helps with marketing and bookkeeping.


"It is a lot of fun to help people out," Susanna said. "The thing we enjoy most are all the contacts with chicken people."


Hundreds of Egg Cart’n’s chicken tractors are in backyards nationwide, including several in Hawaii and Alaska. However, there is a high demand for the units in California, New York, North Carolina and Texas.


Each structure has a main floor, which houses buckets for water and food, private nesting areas, a perch or two in the eaves of the building and a ladder that leads down to the grass, which is surrounded by fencing. There are easy-access doors and windows for owners to use fitted throughout the building.


The larger chalet and classic models are about 8 feet by 5 feet, feature about 40 square feet of living area and can be moved easily by one person. These models hold about 10 chickens, with the mini models holding about four.


Other manufacturers make large-scale chicken tractors that accommodate 600 chickens. Whether small-scale, like Egg Cart’n’s, or large scale, this method allows chickens to be moved to new patches of pasture but keeps them contained.


David has also invented a lift kit for those who want to make their own coop. Because he uses aluminum and steel, his coops are lighter and easier to clean.


"We only use structural wood," David said. "The genius of the chicken tractor idea is you constantly move the chicken house."


Since COVID-19 came to the U.S., many consumers want to produce their own food. Lots of novices are turning to chickens in the hopes of collecting their eggs. The Yoders said calls have increased.


"This year it (sales) has surged," Susanna said. "A lot of people are saying they never had chickens before. This is an easy way to have chickens."


There are more than 500 varieties of chickens. When considering starting a flock, one must determine each breed’s temperament, laying ability and whether they can handle the heat or cold. Eggs from different birds vary in color, from standard white and brown to green, blue, aqua, pink and sometimes black.


"You can have them (chickens) for pets," David said. "They also give you something back (eggs)."