Well, I finished at the last farm and am going to be starting on the new farm tomorrow. My experience at the last one ended on a good note and I am excited to be starting at the new one. Caitlin and I used the weekend to move into the new farm, we are living in a camper there. I will write more about the new place later when I can include some pictures.
This entry is going to be about my last experience on the old farm. I spent the last week researching and then building a mobile chicken coop. There was one at the farm, however it was not very user friendly (for chickens and people). Some of the problems were that people could not enter the space, if food or water was placed inside they would get covered with chicken shit, the nesting boxes were higher than the perches and would not hold nesting material, and it was difficult to move.
So I designed this new mobile coop that is a compilation of other people’s designs:
The idea is that one would move this coop every few days within a fenced in area. Then move accomplished several objectives. First it stresses the land under the coop much less than leaving it in place. Most of the chicken muck accumulates under the roost, so rather than cleaning out the coop, one just moves the coop to a cleaner spot. This also helps to more evenly fertilize the chicken yard. Also the chickens spend much of their time in the shade (under the coop) scratching and generally destroying the land, so moving the coop more evenly distributes the scratching and trampling. In fact, pasturing the chickens on a piece of land is quite healthy for the area if they are moved at appropriate intervals.
As you can see in the picture there are wheels on the back. To move this you just put a dolly under the front and then use the rope tied to the frame to pull the coop. Caitlin and I move it about 100ft with little effort. The food is hung and the water elevated so it stays clean and dry, being protected from weather and cloacae. With the last coop there was nowhere to shelter the food. The roost is not over the food, water, or nesting boxes, which helps keep them all clean. The nesting boxes are lower than the roosts which means the chickens are less likely to roost in them and subsequently less likely to crap on the eggs. Finally, the new coop is people friendly too. We can walk in it to do whatever needs doing.
All in all, I learned quite a bit from this project. Throughout my time on the farm I became invested in learning about pasture chicken management practices, this project was the culmination of all the research I did. I felt accomplished and appreciated through this project, which was a very nice way to end the time at that farm. And the most exciting thing about this was that I made it from 95% scrap material.
At the new farm there is no internet service so I will try to go to a library by next weekend to write again.
Here's your fun extra, a video of the piglets waking up: