“I’ve heard the term “egg mobile”, could you tell me more about the concept? Sincerely” ~ Dave in Wichita, Kansas
Thanks for the question.
I wanted to answer both yours and Elinore’s question this week because some people confuse the two ideas.
An “egg mobile” is a concept touted (and it think developed) by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia, USA.
Mr. Salatin raises both cattle and chickens, among other things.
He is a firm believer in letting animals do what God made them to do – in other words, he would not support the idea of battery houses for chickens and feed lots for cattle.
His cattle are grass fed on rotated pasture and he sends the chickens behind the cattle (within 4 days) to scratch the cow paddies. The chickens spread the manure and eat any fly larvae or parasites.
In this way, worming the cattle has become a non-issue and the cow pies are incorporated into the soil very thoroughly.
I realize that this may seem “gross” to many of you who do not farm, but take a minute to consider that birds often follow herbivores. An example of this would be an egret and the rhinoceros; the egret acts an a sanitizer as it picks out parasites.
There are many examples like this in nature.
For our purposes though, suffice it to say that running chickens behind cattle creates a beautiful symbiosis.
The difference between the “egg-mobile” and the movable “coop” we discussed in the first question is that the movable coop confines the chickens to an enclosed area while the egg-mobile provides the necessities but the chickens roam free during the day.
The egg-mobile is a real coop that is built to be moved, not temporary shelter.
Mr. Salatin’s current egg-mobiles are permanently raised off the ground and built with a trailer hitch so they can easily be moved with a truck or tractor.
The sides are lined with nest boxes with outside access for egg collecting.
Perches are provided.
Food and water is made available within the egg-mobile.
The floor is made of 1″x2″ hardware cloth to allow the droppings to fall out onto the pasture.
Mr. Salatin runs about 100 chickens to clean up after every 100 cows. The chickens will cover about two acres per day of the area surrounding the egg-mobile.
The chickens typically will not roam for than 200 yards from the egg-mobile in a day.
However, a set up like this one is best used on larger acreage. Because the chickens will roam 200 yards, this means that they will head back to the barn, original coop, garden, etc. on a smaller plot of land.
The trick is to have the chickens far enough away from their original home so that they learn to identify the egg-mobile as home.
It is also important to keep them moving so they don’t home in on any one spot. By moving them every 2 days or so, the flock doesn’t start laying eggs in the grass.
Fresh pasture also prevents the birds from wandering too far looking for new forage.
One thing both the movable “coop” and the egg-mobile have in common is that the benefit only comes when insects are plentiful.
In other words, moving your chickens during the winter when the insect population is low is a waste of your time no matter which method you choose.
Dave, I hope this has been of help and has answered your question.