Joel Salatin’s Egg Mobile System

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The main function of the Egg Mobile System is to improve pastures using the egg mobile following. In this case the chicken system moves into a paddock 3 days after the cattle has been moved away from it. The chickens will then sanitise this paddock eating flies, insects, ticks, parasites, etc. that could otherwise be a problem due to the cattle being managed in high concentration numbers (rotational grazing). While providing this sanitation service the chickens also complement their diet. Another function provided by the chickens is to spread the manure left by the cattle in the paddock.

Note: The information presented in this article was gathered and summarized by Eurico Vianna from one of Joel Salatin’s class at Verge Permaculture. The class can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzPF6zOVPFE

Combining the use of the egg mobile system with rotational grazing allows for the over stacking of enterprises per area. This approach mimics the way herbivores migrate in nature followed by birds.

1 – The size of the egg mobile

Although the size and number of the egg mobile vary, the chickens’ behaviour and number define some of the dimensions. The chook pen will have an area of approximately 22m2 to accommodate around 400 layers.

The pen can be build with wooden structures and galvanised steel as walls and roof over a trailer’s chassis. The roof might even be flat as no piece of the paddock is ever completely level. Another option is to run a gutter from the roof to collect rainwater to adjacent barrels. In this case it’s necessary to evaluate the cost of the adaptations in relation to the water access available.

To build nests it’s possible to use plastic crates or any other cheap material that can be adapted to this end. It is necessary to build perches (preferably wooden ones), a iron mesh as flooring (so that the manure can be automatically spread in the paddock) and an access ramp.

It is very important to keep costs as low as possible as a way to maximise profits in this kind of enterprise. Whenever possible use recycled materials and creative and functional solutions to invest in new infrastructure for chickens. Remember, chooks need shelter, food and clean water, but they have no sense of architectural aesthetics.

2 – The fence dimensions

An area of 1000m2 is recommended for up to 1000 layers (usually allocated in two egg mobiles within the same paddock. As chooks tend to explore an area of about 180 circular metres from the pen it is best to move them every 3 days. This way the chickens will not be too familiar with the area to lay outside and will prefer to lay inside the pens. This system is not recommended for areas smaller than 50 acres; which make the rotation limited.

A small energiser of 0.15 Joules (with inbuilt solar panels and battery) suffices to charge up to 1.5Km of chicken net.

3 – How to move the egg mobile and train the chooks to lay inside the pen and not on the paddock

So that the chooks learn to lay inside the pen it is necessary to leave them locked inside from 1 to 2 days. It is also necessary to train them to climb up the ramp to the pen as to avoid having them nesting underneath it. This is done simply shooing from underneath the trailer.

Moving the egg mobile every 3 days from one paddock to another also encourages the chickens to only lay inside the pen. This is because they do not feel confortable laying at different spots. Moving the egg mobile also helps to spread the cattle (sheep or goat) and chicken manure around the paddocks.

To move the egg mobile from one paddock to another it is necessary to leave the chickens locked inside from the previous night. After moving the egg mobile and installing the fence perimeter the chickens can be released again.