A Chicken Coop for City Gardens
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My father [Amber Hartman writing] has designed a chicken coop that is the perfect size for urban gardens. This chicken coop is small enough to fit in the back of a full size pickup and yet large enough to keep a dozen chickens. It includes a simple mechanism to turn the chicken manure into liquid fertilizer and can be moved around fairly easily. Part of the plan is to move the chicken house around the garden so that it gets worked up and weeded at the same time.
The JA 1:17 Poultry Mobile is designed to hold about a dozen fowl depending upon the size of the birds. Currently, we are keeping six hens and one rooster of the Buff Rock variety quite comfortably in our prototype. It has been my father's experience that if this number of fowl are left in one spot of soil for about two weeks, the ground will be adequately fertile for any vegetation. In a year's time about 1000 sq. feet, or an area 30 feet by 30 feet, can be covered with just one coop. If you were to have one of the JA 1:17 Poultry Mobile's right now, by planting time next spring, you would have an adequate area fertilized for early plantings and some later planting. Then every two weeks, you would have another area available. If you are interested in finding out about the seven year planting plan that would complement this coop to perfection, let me know. I would be pleased to tell you more about it.
Currently, my father is attempting to keep a 3 inch layer of mulch of some kind on the ground in the mobile. We use grass clippings, straw, hay, wood chips, kitchen scraps, except those containing oil or grease, but any kind of compost type material will work. Also, if you have a horse as we do, the manure is excellent to add into it. Every three days, we gather ours up and put it into the mobile with the other compost material. Not only does this enable us to move the mobile more often but it also provides free insect control. Chickens, with their keen eyesight and ever busy feet, turn the manure and compost over and over, ridding them of the tiniest mite or larvae.
While the JA 1:17 Poultry Mobile does not provide complete free range, it does provide a very humane habitat for the fowls. It protects other projects such as gardens and flower beds from the fowl and it protects the fowl from most predators. (My father is now working on some improvements to the plan to make it possible to have a safe place for chicks also.) It provides the basics for chickens, in particular, a place to scratch which is absolutely essential to the health of their feet, a place to dust, which is needed for parasite control, shade and adequate airflow in the summer, which is important for keeping them alive and egg production, and also some warmth in the winter which is also necessary for good egg production, even with a good winter laying hen.
It is my father's intention to have a number of the JA 1:17 Poultry Mobiles for himself. One for setters or for hatching chicks, one for non-setters (egg layers), perhaps one or two for meat fowl and perhaps two for hot houses in early spring and late fall. Using the JA 1:17 Poultry Mobiles as hot houses is included in the seven year planting plan.
There is a nest behind the 50 gallon drum where the chickens can lay their eggs. The hole in the back reaches into the nest. It is quite handy, because they can't fly up in your face or peck you nearly as easily. The nozzle comes out of the bottom of the drum. There is a grate lying horizontally in the drum. The chickens can roost on top of it and their manure drops down below it. When water is added, it mixes with the manure and eventually makes the liquid fertilizer which comes out of the nozzle. As I mention before, there are some improvements my father is working on, such as a ladder for the chickens to get to the drum and a way to make the JA 1:17 Poultry Mobile safer for hatching chicks.