Check out this portable poultry coop:
I found it on CraigsList. The seller wanted $150.00, which seems a fair price when you figure in materials and labor, but Ironman and I are going to build our own using this as a model.
The dimensions, as posted in the ad, are 9 feet, 9 inches in length, 4 foot base width, and 30 inch height. I imagine it's fairly heavy, and indeed the ad states that the seller moves it around with a tractor. No problem there; it just so happens that I have a tractor.
The primary purpose of the portable coop, as anyone who has read Michael Pollan's excellent book The Omnivore's Dilemma will know, is to be able to move your birds safely around the farm so they can forage for fresh plants, insects, grubs, and whatever else they fancy.
You know, real food. The things poultry was designed to eat, instead of the grain-based, packaged feeds that practicality demands for the bulk of their calories. When the chickens and ducks eat real food, the eggs they lay show up on our table with a proper balance of nutrients. That's a prize worth the investment of a bit of time spent with a screwdriver and staple gun.
And, there's another advantage. Ironman and I have been wondering for a while what would be the best way to house the guinea fowl we'd like to introduce to the gardens of In the Night Farm.
Squash bugs and grasshoppers have been a real problem in years past, and we're loathe to use poisons to control them. Chickens will gladly consume the pests -- but they'll scratch up the plants in the process. Not good.
Guinea fowl, however, are reportely excellent garden hunters that snap up insects without harming the crop. They can also be quite loud when disturbed -- but we figure that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Out here in the the country, it's nice to get a heads-up when someone drops by.
Thing is, one buys guineas as tiny and defenseless keets that should be raised near the area in which you intend them to spend most of their time as adults. Constructed using a tighter wire weave than was chosen by the Craigslist seller, our portable poultry coop should make a suitable guinea nursery before returning to its usual duties.
Ah, the projects. They never end. But then, neither do their rewards.
Practically Impossible, The Challenge of Sustainable Living