Using Coop Houses at Berry Goods Farm a SARE research project
Coop House idea
Chickens love to run around the farm and peck at things. They dig at the soil to find bugs and they poop everywhere. They are also an easy target for the numerous wild predators who come out of our woods.... We decided that we love having our chickens in a setting where they can exhibit their natural behaviors and we love the fertilzing they do while they're at it, but we also want to keep them safe. So, we built mobile Salatin pens to move our chickens around the farm, allowing us to target specific areas for them to dig up and fertilize while eating good pasture. These pens were idle in the winter though, so our next idea was to use a mobile greenhouse for the chickens and turkeys in the summer and for growing vegetables through the winter. Amy and her dad, both engineers, put their minds together and came up with a design. From there, Amy proposed her idea to the Northwest Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) organization and was awarded a 2 year grant in 2015.
Progress with chickens and turkeys
Using a reflective tarp on the top of the coop houses keeps the birds cooler in the summer. Greenhouse plastic is rolled over pvc and tied to allow a person to lower it in colder weather or during a storm to keep the birds dry. We found that after the first summer of using these, our meat birds grew with better feed conversion than the birds we let range in a fenced in area the year before. We also didn't have to herd turkeys back home every night, since they have a habit of flying over all the fences we tried.