Machine Portable Chicken Coops
If you will be engaging in larger scale or commercial scale free range chicken farming in South Africa, you could consider using the tractor or machine portable chicken coops which allow you to transport a large number of chickens over a large pasture area. These kinds of chicken coops are generally bigger, heavier, stronger, more spacious and durable. They allow you to maintain the free range ideal and move your flock easily across hectares of farm. If you are looking for a free range system that is more efficient, then this is the way to go.
There are various techniques which are generally used when it comes to the constructions of portable free range chicken coops. There are farmers who build a greenhouse kind of structure on skids while some farmers will construct tents on skids. Some farmers adopt a shed kind of design placed on skids which is built with wooden frames, metallic roofing and plywood sides.
Here is a picture of one of these “eggmobiles” that we covered last year. The same designs can also be used for free range poultry meat production operation.
In South Africa, a skid may not be practical in many conditions and it is, therefore, more practical to put the housing on wheels. If you are building the portable chicken coop by yourself, this is likely to complicate the design a little bit for you but this is something that you will be able to fix easily with the help of a local mechanic and carpenter. If you have a trailer or wagon built already, then you only have to fix the wheels. It might be called a chicken tractor but that does not mean that you will need those massive tractor wheels.
There are certain risks associated with using wheeled chicken coops, however. The wagon might lose control and roll downhill if you are hauling it down steep hills. This will not only cause serious injuries and fatalities to the chickens but it could also be potentially unsafe for you. Additionally, it is not easy to have a machine-portable chicken coop that is floorless unless you do larger and more spacious versions of the moveable poultry pens that we covered previously.
Moveable poultry houses that are placed on skids have greater stability and will stay put wherever you anchor them. Besides, a skid-mounted chicken coop can be pulled by any tractor. Skid-mounted chicken coops will, also, not damage your prized pasture or turf area where your chickens enjoy the leafy shoots and grubs found in the soft soils.
Machine portable chicken housing is perfect for the wide open pasturelands and may not necessarily do well with our poultry paddock and pasture management systems shown below:-
Outdoor access is vital in machine-portable poultry housing
Because you cannot move a floorless chicken coop with a tractor when the chickens are inside, you will have to install flooring on the portable coop while giving the chickens sufficient access to the outdoors. Take a look at the design below:-
With the machine portable chicken coops, you do not have to worry about frequently moving the little range underneath the shed. The chickens are not going to run out of their forage too fast. Based on how fast the chickens run out of the forage around the coop, you can move it to new pasture anywhere from 2 days to one week. The frequency of moving the portable coop also depends on the amount of pasture damage that you are willing to tolerate.
With a large machine portable housing, it is possible to keep up to 1000 free-range chickens and then move this every few days. For the best outdoor access, ensure that you have created “pop holes” in the design of the house. These are simply small doorways around the sides of the house which open up to let the chickens pass through. It is generally advisable to have as many of these as possible in order to allow the chickens to take advantage of the outdoor range.