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{layer lodging}

01.25.13

Afton Field Farm{Bubba & Gwedo, our guard geese}

When you look out over our pasture, you might think that you are looking at a scene from the Oregon Trail.  You see ‘covered wagons’ {aka: hoop houses} slowly moving their way around the field.  We’ve got them all over the place.  Most of the hoop houses we have are to house our various groups of layer chickens.  Some are used for wintering pigs.

The main ladies of the pasture now have another option to chose from when booking a night’s stay here at Afton Field Farm.  We recently purchased a whole bunch of poultry related items from a fellow farmer friend who was getting out of the poultry business.  With the purchase, came an egg mobile.  There are two main housing options for layers on our farm- 1) an egg mobile or 2) a hoop house.

Afton Field Farm

We have primarily used hoop houses to rotate our layer chickens around the field.  As you can see from the picture above, the ‘covered wagon’ has the nest boxes hanging in the middle where the girls access them from both sides.  The feeders and waterer are on the ground, and rotate with the flock.  We hadn’t added roosts to any of our hoop houses yet because we wanted to try something different with the hoop houses.

This type of layer chicken operation, allows the chickens to move slowly around the field.  They do not specifically follow any group of animals, they just move around the field getting the most they can from the pasture, and primarily focusing on egg production for us.  You cannot close the layers into the hoop house to then move the shelter quickly or far distances.  Like the sheep or cattle, these layers move one paddock at a time {every 3-7 days, depending on the season and pasture in that area}

As many of you are aware, Mr. Farmer Jones {my hubby} apprenticed under Joel Salatin for a year at Polyface Farm in Virginia ten years ago.   Joel comes and visits us every few years and Tyler and he keep in touch a couple times a year.

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field FarmWhen Joel told us about his Millennium Fowlkin that he had created for his layers, we decided we wanted to see if we could alter it slightly and use one of our hoop houses and an extra trailer chassis we had.

hoop house 2.0

Polyface’s Millennium Fowlkin runs on wooden/metal skids that allow the structure to easily follow behind the cattle as each animal group moves around the pasture.  We had this trailer that we were going to make into a “standard” egg mobile.  Then Mr. Farmer Jones’ wheels got a turnin’ and he decided to combine all of the layer operation options and create something unique.

I took the pictures of this egg mobile {which I will call here, Hoop House 2.0} as we were taking it out to the pasture for the first time this summer.  Once it was in the field, the nest boxes were hung down the middle, like the other hoop house.  The whole setup is awesome and working marvelously.  The only alteration we will make sometime this summer, is the addition of wider human-walking paths.  Right now you have to balance on the metal pipes.  And when you have mud or chicken poo on the souls of your rubber boots, the task of opening nest boxes or collecting eggs suddenly gets a lot more exciting.

layers

Below are the pictures of our brand new {to us} egg mobile!  This is the “standard” and original layer housing of Polyface Farm.  This is also made atop of a trailer like the Hoop House 2.0 so that it can move quickly behind the cattle herd as well as easily move long distances {also like the Hoop House 2.0}.  At night, you close the layers inside of the egg mobile and then you move their home wherever you need it to be that day.  Then you open the door and the ladies walk about, enjoying the pasture.  Both this egg mobile and the Hoop House 2.0 have roosts inside where the chickens sleep at night.  Depending on how many chickens can fit on the roosts, is how it is determined how many layers can healthfully be in one layer lodging model.

In this model, the nest boxes are constructed {verses the pre-made metal ones} and they are on the outside of the mobile.  There are little doors where the girls walk in, lay their egg, and leave.  There are lids on top of the nest boxes that we open from the outside and collect eggs or add new straw. Layers like to lay their eggs in dark places, but don’t like to be in dark places throughout the day.  This means less time fighting with chickens when trying to collect eggs, as well as fewer dirty or broken eggs {hopefully}

egg mobile

egg mobile 2

Afton Field Farm The purchase also came with some breed stock layer chickens.  They are Partridge Chanteclers.  They are beautiful! We are thrilled to be breeding some of our own layers this year!  I’ll keep you informed as that process unfolds ;)

In the mean time, hope you learned a little something about layer chickens and all the thought & design that goes into your pasture raised eggs.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 01.25.13 4:09 PM

    Chickens are fun to watch and great providers for eggs and such. Great Captures – thanks for sharing. Happy Friday:)

  2. Lyndsey Hendrix permalink
    01.27.13 10:13 AM

    Love it! I so enjoy reading your updates! Hopefully Josh and Jane will introduce us, we’d love to get to know you guys and hear more about your passion for farming!

    • 01.28.13 10:32 AM

      Thanks, Lyndsey! I’m hoping that Josh & Jane will introduce us too ;) It will happen someday. We will make it over the pass and come visit and then we can all grab a beer or something. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

  3. 01.28.13 7:39 AM

    What a great post! We will be moving to our small farm sometime in the next few months after the house is remodeled and I have been spending obscene amounts of time researching chickens. Joel Salatin is one of my “farming idols” if you will and we wanted to try and model our pasture management after his. It is great to see other young farmers taking things to the next level.

    • 01.28.13 10:36 AM

      Thank you, JoAnn! I’m glad to hear of another Joel Salatin fan! We have been doing his models, for 10 years, ever since Tyler got back from his apprenticeship at Polyface Farm. We have had to adapt a couple of things to fit & work with our climate and particular farm, but are farm is all fundamentally a “Salatin model farm”. :) All the best to you on your farming endeavors!

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