Pasture Shelters for Market Layer Flocks
The following appeared as a sidebar to my article “Designing a Pasture Shelter,” in the August/September 2007 issue of Backyard Poultry Magazine.
If you have a hankering to produce for an expanding pastured egg market, you may find the pasture shelters of small farmers of interest. Steve and Chris Ault of Pamplin City, Virginia produce more than 100 dozen eggs per week for sale in one farmers market, two natural food stores, plus a few on-farm sales. Steve says his favorite layer shelter is an old recreational trailer, which he bought for $200, gutted, and outfitted with roosts and nest boxes. It houses about 200 layers, who shelter in it at night and range inside electric net fencing during the day. Steve’s flocks suffered heavy predation before he started restricting foraging to the electronetted areas. However, he hopes to return to complete free-ranging soon, having recruited two guardian dogs (Great Pyrenees) to safeguard the flocks.
Steve built another layer shelter using an old hay wagon as the base. It too houses about 200 layers, but is light enough to pull with his lawn tractor. He reports that both the above units are heavy enough to remain stable in wind gusts up to 60 mph.
Michael Barreda of Upperville, Virginia sells eggs from his pastured layer flock through the local IGA, a small independent grocer. Those in the know share the secret: “Be sure to get there on Thursday—that’s the day Michael brings in his eggs.”
He houses his mixed layer flock (Australorps and Australorp-Welsummer-Langshan crosses) in a shelter large enough for 80-100 hens. Like Steve, he built his layer house on an old hay wagon chassis, which he moves with his pickup. The shelter is heavy enough to be stable in strong winds. Over the winter, or if expecting unusually heavy wind, Michael parks the layer house in a spot sheltered from the wind. Ranging inside electronet during the day, Michael’s flock has had no significant predator problems.