For the past couple of weeks I have been assembling an egg mobile in our garage. Today Michelle and I put it on wheels and pulled it into place with our Gravely. Variously known as chicken tractors, eggmobiles, or even chickshaws (as I had initially intended to call ours when I had been planning to mount it bicycle wheels), movable chicken coops of any sort are an integral part of pastured poultry farming.
At first it may seem like a great hassle to move a chicken coop around, however, on closer inspection the benefits of moving a coop around yard, pasture, or field are enormous. Although our chickens are truly free-ranging and roam about during the day, they always roost (sleep) in the same location. The ground underneath the roosts tends to accumulate a great deal of the chickens’ waste, which is high in nitrogen and, in small quantifies, beneficial for the soil. In excess, however, it poses a pollution problem. Thus, by moving the chickens’ roosts around, they deposit their rich fertilizer wherever it is most needed. Additionally, pasture raised chickens (which, in addition to grass, eat insects) are both healthier and produce eggs that are healthier for us.
I first learned about egg mobiles from Ben and Noah of Ficklecreek Farm. Later, when reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I encountered the character of Joel Salatin and his Polyface Farm. Joel Salatin outlines a whole system for pasture-raised poultry in his Pastured Poultry Profit$ (1993). Shortly thereafter I decided to make my own egg mobile, even though we had already moved our temporary chicken coop to several locations.
I built the egg mobile using 2×2, some other lumber, salvaged construction lumber, and a picture in my head. It consists of 30′ of roost as well as nine nest boxes for hens to lay their eggs. The nest boxes are accessed by us from the outside, allowing us to easily collect eggs. After finishing the coop and installing the polycarbonate solar roofing, I installed the coop on a dual-axle trailer which I had picked up on craigslist months back. Michelle seemed equally happy by the project now being out of the garage, the trailer no longer being the first thing seen by those visiting our home, and the promise of easier egg collection. Now all we need to do is to get all the chickens to recognize this as their new coop.