In this post, we are going to discuss the daily move pens, their advantages, and disadvantages.
The term free range has many connotations but the underlining factor is that the chickens are allowed reasonable access to the outdoors. When it comes to free-range chicken coops, there are lots of design ideas that you could work with depending on the size of your flock, the space that you have and even your own individual preferences. In a previous post on this blog, we discussed the “egg mobile” which is more suited for larger scale operations over a large area. But there are plenty of other options available for you when it comes to free range chicken coops. Let us have a look at some of the most common options:-
Daily move pen
This is a smaller scale kind of our egg mobile and this design was developed by Joel Salatin. This kind of pen is perfect for free range broilers. Here is a diagram of a typical daily move pen.
The pen is floorless and this allows the broilers to graze underneath it until they have eaten most of the green shoots and grubs beneath their feet. The pen is then moved by hand to another location. The pen can be moved once or twice every day depending on the abundance of the pasture under it.
When moved to a new location, it leaves manure behind which will nourish the grass and the legumes and make them grow even more. Moving the pen on a frequent basis also serves another important health benefit: it helps in preventing diseases such as coccidiosis and other diseases that can result when the food source of the poultry is contaminated.
The advantage with the single day grazing is that it is not sufficient to harm the grass and legumes while single day manure drop provides adequate nourishment for the pasture.
The broiler chickens can be pastured early on-usually as early as two weeks of age. They can graze on the pasture for the best 6-8 weeks before they are slaughtered to provide buyers in South Africa with healthy free range meat.
The Demerits of the Daily Move Pens
While the daily move pens have lots of advantages for free range chicken farmers in South Africa, it also comes with some disadvantages. The pen is floorless and there are no perches or litter. This kind of shelter exposes the chickens to chilling when there are rains and surface runoff. You are, therefore, limited in a way in terms of the areas as well as the seasons where you can apply the daily move pens on your farms.
Designing the daily move pens:
When designing or building the moveable pasture pens, you should keep the following factors in mind:-
- The moveable pasture pen should be easy to move by hand.
- When it is being moved from one location to another, it should not injure the chickens
- The pen should be sufficiently heavy to remain in place when there are strong winds in the range.
- The range should be easy to construct using readily available materials
- Building or buying the moveable pen should be low cost in order to enable you to recoup the investment quickly
- The cost of maintaining the pen should be low
- The pen should be a source of good shelter from the rain, wind, sun, predators, cold and heat
- It should be spacious enough to allow you to perform daily cores easily
- It should accommodate the needs of the chickens as they grow up