We are so happy with our new mobile chicken coop for laying hens. For 20 years we have built mobile coops for chicks, for hens, for meat birds. Nothing worked really well. Finally, this particular design works. The chickens are in a coop that is pretty easy to move, even with 40 hens and a rooster in it. The birds are safe from predators. They have a space to lay eggs that I can reach easily to collect them twice a day. The coop itself provides shade in the middle of the day. I put the feeder in the coop with them at night and take it out in the day. We also hooked a bucket to the automatic waterer.
Movable coops are important so hens can access good, fresh pasture every day. They eat grass, clover, weeds and bugs –and only a small amount of whole grain. This reduces the grain that needs to be purchased from off-farm to feed the birds. It is a more self-reliant, farm-based system. Also, grass-fed chicken and hens eggs are better for you, according to an article in Mother Earth News. Compared with conventional eggs, a study in Oregon shows eggs from free-range hens have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene.
In the evening when the hens go in the coop, they roost in the rafters. That was an unintentional benefit of the design.
The coop was made with re-used materials. We dismantled a small boat house at our friend Tammy Campanis’ place. This provided the wood for the framework. The siding is made with used russian packing crate material we got from a salvage yard. This is strong, but light. It is like extra big corrugated cardboard, but made with plastic. We bought a pile of it for $10 at Rhodenizer’s salvage yard on the North Mountain. Weavexx (from the Annapolis Valley) is a very strong woven material that was given away for free for a period of time. It was used for hinges so we can open the hatch for eggs, and open the back ramp to let the hens out. Used green plastic (also from Rhodenizer’s) was used to reinforce the roof peak and for waterproofing the seams. Old architecture wire, left at the farm when we moved here, was used for the floor of the coop. Scrap metal was used for the axle, steadying bar, and handle. My friend Jen Ford allowed us to use the wheels from her old bike.
We tested the coop last fall in a new garden area. The chickens descended the ramp and had a ball scratching around in the new soil. We put up an electronet fence around the coop to keep them from wandering too far and to protect the birds from predators. This spring, we put the hens on pasture, using the same system. They go out every morning and immediately gobble up all the slugs on the blades of grass before they start scratching and pecking around the pasture. We move the coop and the fence every morning before they go out.