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“Wagon Train” Chicken Coops
Mobile chicken coops hooked up in a “wagon train” make life easier for the chickens that live in them and the people caring for them.
“Our mobile coop design costs about $6,000, in addition to the wagon base, and should last at least 10 years with minimal maintenance,” says Jack Algiere, farm director of the non-profit Stone Barns Center. “That works out to about $600 a year for a coop that can hold 200 laying hens.”
Stone Barns developed the mobile chicken coops for their own use, and the design reflects their rough terrain, including the 6-ton running gear. “We followed a few basic principles, including a low center of gravity for pulling on our hillsides,” says Algiere, who says plans for the coops are free on their website. “We also wanted them to be easy to clean without getting inside, and we wanted to access the eggs without entering the coop.”
Algiere allows that a 4-ton running gear could be used on flatter terrain. The heart of the design and the most expensive component at about $1,500 is the steel rigging. The base frame for the floor was tack-welded directly to the running gear frame, leaving space around the wheels. It was fabricated with 2 by 2-in., 3/16-in. low carbon steel tubing and 1 1/2 by 1 1/2-in., 1/8-in. angle iron. Once the frame was complete, it was U-bolted to the frame.
A second frame built over the wheels was fabricated with the same materials and connected to the first.
Hoops made from 1 1/2 by 1 1/2-in., 1/8-in. steel tubing were attached to the 2 base frames. They provided support for the ClearSpan custom cover from FarmTek.com.
“We had used tin roofs and tried other types of poly covers, but the ClearSpan from FarmTek was custom-cut to fit,” says Algiere. “We can ratchet it down nice and tight, it has a long life span and it adds hardly any weight.”
Framing for front, rear and side doors was made from 1 by 1-in. steel tubing and 3/4 by 3/4-in., 1/8-in. angle iron. Standard metal siding was used to enclose all four sides below the rounded fabric roof.
“We ended up removing the top half of the front and back ends and replaced them with wire mesh to improve ventilation,” notes Algiere.
The rear door provides access for people and birds while the front opening is just for birds. The side doors provide access to the 2 banks of 10 nesting boxes each.
Mice had been a problem in previous coops with wooden floors. These coops used 1 by 2-in., 14-ga. galvanized wire for flooring. The mesh is open enough for most manure to fall through, but small enough to prevent weasels and other predators from entering.
“Initially we put 1 by 2-in. wooden slats on the mesh, but some birds got toes caught in the mesh,” says Algiere. “We raised the slats an inch off the mesh floor and had no more problems.”
The coop also contains two 30-gal. water reservoirs to feed nipple waterers. Roosts are 2 by 2 by 8-in. pine wood slats hung from wire rope on either side of the coops’ interior.
“We tried light sensitive sensors to open and close doors, but they never worked quite right,” says Algiere. “Lots of things were suggested to automate the doors. We finally went with timers that can be adjusted with changing daylight.”
When the project was finished and put to the test, everything worked out well. Algiere notes that moving the coops and electric fencing, collecting eggs and filling feeders and waterers takes about 2 hrs. and occurs twice a day.
“We use a short wagon to hold water and enough feed for several days,” says Algiere.
The coops are used in the farm’s vegetable production fields as well as in pastures. The coops are brought in and pressure washed in winter.
“We learned a lot in building them and using them,” says Algiere. “We’ve made the plans available and hope they help encourage small farm flocks.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Stone Barns Center For Food And Agriculture, 630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, N.Y. 10591 (ph 914 366-6200; info@stonebarnscenter.org; www.stonebarnscenter.org/)

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #5