North Central SARE From the Field Profile
Farmer Incorporates Movable Coops for Multiple Benefits
Wil Farm, owned by Pieter Los, consists of 18 acres near Hermann, Missouri — approximately 2 acres are used to raise flowers, produce, strawberries, and laying hens.
Los converted two hay wagons into hen coops that can each house up to 125 chickens. He gathers eggs from laying boxes that are accessible from the outside of the wagons. The wagons can be moved with a four-wheeler, four-wheel drive truck, a small tractor, or two people. Construction costs were approximately $1,000 per wagon.
Both wagons are placed within a moveable solarpowered electric netting fence. So far, the electric fence has kept out all predators. Because the coops are open, Los uses plastic sheeting as a windbreak on one side of the wagon during winter. He also places roofing tin around the bottom of the wagons during blizzards.
A plastic tarp is placed on the ground under each wagon to collect manure so it can be distributed to other areas. Feeding and watering as far away from the coops as practical increases uniform distribution of the manure.
Depending on the area Los is grazing or clearing out, he can configure the electric netting to change stocking density from 5 sq. ft. to 100 sq. ft. per chicken. In summer, he has the birds clean areas up to 3,000 sq. ft. every 10 days or so. In winter the birds aren’t moved as often and have access to 9,000 sq. ft. at a time. Los has put the hens in waist-high foxtail. In about two weeks, they reduced the weed stalks to stubble. The chickens also have removed fescue and foxtail seed.
Los tried placing the chickens in a high tunnel to clean the area, and they removed the plant residue in about two weeks. The hens also clean and fertilize asparagus in early spring. In areas where the chickens have “grazed,” Los only has to rototill to prepare the soil for planting. In areas where the chickens haven’t spent time, Los has to mow, possibly disk, and then rototill.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FNC12-876, Hoeing Hens.
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