I've seen quite a few innovative mobile chicken coops which are fine for 20 or so chickens. But I'd like to raise them in batches of 200. We have plenty of predators in this area so I think they need a substantial shelter. When I look at the cost of building any sort of shelter no matter how simple, none of them compare to the economy of simply putting the chickens inside an old van. Vehicles which have received an inspection order by the police are often perfectly functional but they're only worth scrap value if they test poorly. My own pickup truck may suffer this fate and if it does I won't even take it in for inspection. I'll simply retire it to the farm.
My property is very long and skinny. It used to belong to a railway and for 1/4 mile of its length it is only 100 feet wide. The remaining 1/3 mile widens to a maximum of 300 feet and there is a good road running most of that length. This is not the most efficient shape for building paddocks and the land has steep slopes in some areas so instead I prefer the mobile coop.
By using a van I won't be limited in weight and can carry enough food and water for several days. Grain would be kept on the passenger seat and all of the seating area would be separated from the chickens by a plywood barrier. A dog house could ride along with the van since the chickens will need a guard animal.
Most of the land is naturally forested and the number one chicken food I see are large slugs and snails. There are also many other agent of decay and seeds. I want to feed the chickens as little as possible, just enough to keep them around. I believe that fear of predators will keep them close to their mobile home. I'm surrounded by forest. If the chickens forage an average of 100 feet from the coop then they'll be gathering food over an area of 15 acres. My land is only 7 1/2 acres and in most areas the center of the road is 50 to 75 feet from the property line. So I'll be stretching my farm in this grazing operation.
I have several neighbors whom I'm friendly with and they have much larger properties than mine. So I may stretch my territory much further down their roads and pay them off with eggs. There are about 4 miles of neighbors roads which I could graze without ever taking my unlicensed vehicle onto a public road. None of them seem to be growing anything other than forest so the chickens wouldn't wreck anything.
By moving the chickens daily there should always be plenty of things for them to eat.
Predation by eagles, hawks, owls, dogs and bears etc. will make or break this operation. I'm quite confident that there's lots of food and we have a very comfortable climate for chickens. I'll try this with my pickup truck first in order to determine whether it's practical.
Has anyone had experience raising chickens in a remote area of the Pacific Northwest or BC? How do you protect yours from predators? What sort of guard animal works? I was thinking a dog but perhaps guinea fowl or some other belligerent bird might work.
I like this idea also. I had friends who were going to use their old veedub van for a goat shed, but instead ended up using it for feed storage. If i were in this position i would probably make a trailer coop, so it could be tailor made for the chickies needs but still be mobile, and use the truck/van for feed storage and a dog/people hangout. Or maybe i'd make a custom camper shell coop in the back of the truck if the trailer was out of the question.
A trailer is definitely part of the plan if I find that predators don't make the whole thing nonviable.
Depending on the arrangements I am able to make with owners of various other roads, I could go with something as big as a hay wagon. I could see the wagon being a chicken coop while the truck is used for dog, ducks and food storage.
I have a handy bargaining chip when it comes to making arrangement with neighbors. I have a crane, which will stay at the property and many of my neighbors are also in the process of building various things. They need the crane far more than I need slugs and snails.
There is no need to build a camper since there are plenty of ugly old campers which people are unsuccessful in selling. Since I'm in the demolition business, I often receive calls on such items and I will also make a point of advertising should I decide a camper is needed. It takes only an hour to strip the guts out of an old camper. Nothing I could build comes close to this in labor efficiency and cost. The eventual disposal cost of the shell is covered by the value of the aluminum covering.
I think that anyone starting a build where there is plenty of room should consider grabbing an old camper as a temporary home. Afterwards, it can be a chicken coop or storage shed.
Dale, I like the vehicle coop idea. One thing I suggest, and if you're working with a gutted passenger van or truck bed or gutted camper, this will be easy, is to install panels to catch the chicken poop just above the existing floor that slide out the back or the side for cleaning purposes. Even if all you provided was a slot in the side near the floor to slide in cardboard (I personally don't like the use of paper products because of the bleaches, adhesives, and dyes, but this is disposable, cheap, and practical for those reasons) you could easily remove the fertilized cardboard and drop it on the ground. Any seeds in the feed, or any seeds foraged, that survive the trip through the digestive tract will emerge covered in fertilizer, and when you come back to that spot in like a month, there will be fresh grazing.
Or you can use some kind of paneling that slides out and you can powerwash them. The coop poop will do the same thing sans cardboard.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein