Our Eggmobile is finally complete!
The Eggmobile was invented by Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm to move chickens around the pasture behind cattle in the pasture rotation. The cattle (or sheep, goats, etc) consume the grass, leaving it short for the chickens. The ruminants are moved along and then, just like in nature, the birds follow behind the grazing animals. The chickens visit a section of pasture 3 days after the ruminants do because if you wait 4 days then the fly larvae that are laid in the fresh manure have already become flies. On day 3 the larvae are nice and plump, so the chickens destroy the cow patties looking for the larvae. This helps in 2 ways: first, it spreads the manure piles (read: fertility) around and second, it keeps bothersome fly populations low. As a side benefit the farmer can collect and sell tasty eggs from his pasture sanitation program rather than paying money to purchase insecticidal sprays and fly medications.
My dad won the naming contest before we even announced it, and our new Eggmobile is called the Yolkswagon. We’ll have to put a logo on it or something. Maybe one of our summer interns will be artistically adept (more on them later).
The Yolkswagon is 8′ wide and 24′ long and will accommodate up to 250 chickens at night. During the day, of course, the chickens will be out foraging in the pasture.
Like everything else so far, we built this on the cheap using mostly things we had lying around the farm. The bottom frame is 2″ x 3″ steel tubing that the previous owners left us. The steel tubes are bolted together to form a homemade trailer. Over this framework we attached a layer of 2″ x 4″ wire fencing. Then we put a layer of chicken wire over that to form a floor that the chickens can walk on but that will also allow their droppings to fall through to the pasture below.
We used some lumber left in the barn to frame out a basic box on top of the steel framework. There are some diagonal braces for extra support. Plywood is attached to the framework to form the sides. The roof is a white PVC product that will keep the rain out and let the light in.
The Yolkswagon has 4 doors cut into the plywood sides. One door is large and on the front panel. This door is for the humans to access the Yolkswagon to add feed and water as well as for cleaning purposes, when necessary. There is a door on the rear panel for the chickens to come and go. And there is one door on each side to allow us to access the nestboxes daily to collect the eggs.
We put the chickens up in the Yolkswagon for the night so they could begin to get used to their new digs. Then we started to tow the Eggmobile to the back forty because we wanted them to be far away from their normal area so they couldn’t wander back. We want the Yolkswagon to be their home, not the poultry house, the backyard, or the gardens. This is when we found out about my construction mistake.
I had put 13″ flat-free wheelbarrow tires on the trailer. This was not smart. I should have gone with the larger tires and an axle, but I was trying to do this cheaply and I thought that pulling the trailer around the pasture at a couple miles per hour a hundred feet at a time would be fine on those smaller tires. I kept testing the Yolkswagon out as we worked on it by hooking it up to the truck and pulling it around a little, and everything worked fine.
But when we had loaded the chickens up and were moving the Yolkswagon to the back pasture the 13″ tire came right off its wheel. Luckily Lindsey has some things that she has to go to E-town to get tomorrow, so I know what I’m adding to the list: larger tires!
Oh well. The wheels will be back on the wagon tomorrow!