- Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)
- Animals: poultry
- Animal Products: eggs
- Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing - rotational, pasture fertility
- Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, high tunnels or hoop houses
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis
Berry Goods Farm is a small farm that needs to make efficient use of all of its resources. A dual production system that utilizes the same equipment over two operations can share the cost of that equipment over two different income sources, creating a more cost effective use of that equipment. The 'coop house' would replace idle Salatin pens in the winter with a vegetable season extender and idle cold frames in the summer with broiler and turkey production space. This design seeks to achieve several things at once - to be heavy enough that it won't blow over in Indiana winds and yet light enough that a female farmer is able to move the pen herself each day as the chickens and turkeys travel across the pasture. These houses are also taller than Salatin pens, so a person can walk into the house to work rather than having to bend down and reach into a shorter pen or crawl through a low tunnel.
By raising the broilers in enclosed pens, we are able to control where their manure is placed during the season. We can use the houses between rows of berries and also in the crop rotation of vegetables, fertilizing the soil a year before that pasture area gets turned under to plant a cover crop. Utilizing a cover crop between the chickens and the vegetables makes the best use of the nutrients left behind by the chicken manure and reduces the chance of possible contamination of the vegetable crop with manure residues, keeping us in line with GAPs. We'll use a soil test before each vegetable planting to measure the nutrients our chickens and cover crops are providing.
These pens would double the number of meat chickens and turkeys that we raise the next two years and increase our off season salad mix production, while keeping the same number of egg layers. We also have the flexibility with these houses to change what we raise in them from year to year based on anticipated demand for any of the products we grow in them.
For this project, we are planning to build eight 'coop houses' for our farm. In the summer, two of them will be used to house batches of broilers, two to raise our replacement laying hens for the year and four to raise turkeys. In mid-fall, we'll move the pens over rows of August planted vegetables. The pens are designed to open up on one end so that they can make an approximately 30 foot by 6 foot hoop house, 6 feet tall. With eight pens, we'd have four of these houses for vegetable production, giving us about 120 feet by 6 feet of beds for vegetable growing in the winter. We plan to use remote temperature monitors for this project so that we can record both summer and winter temperatures in the houses.
The 'coop houses' are designed using a "Quick hoops" low tunnel bender with electrical conduit on a wooden base frame. Each frame has one end that opens completely and will fit end to end with a second house, creating an unbroken 30' long, 6' wide high tunnel. In the summer, the ends are closed in order to contain poultry and you have two 6'x10'x6' chicken tractors. The added frame on the bottom serves as a screen when crops are ventilated and is left uncovered as needed when poultry is present to allow for more air flow. Shade cloth can be added to this structure in the summer in order to keep livestock cooler.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Design a coop house that serves a dual function by being a mobile coop for chickens and turkeys in the summer and a hoop house for vegetables in the fall and winter. The house has to be durable enough not to blow over, but also moved by one person each day as the chickens and turkeys progress across pasture area. By building a dual purpose house, we can realize income from the structure year round, decreasing the time it takes to get a return on our investment.
- Monitor the fertility improvements made in the soil by running pastured poultry over an area before cover cropping and then rotating into vegetables. This helps put numbers on adding chickens to the crop rotation in a vegetable farm. The fertilizer source then becomes a source of income at the same time.