Egg Mobiles I Have Loved…

| Animal Systems, Appropriate Technology, Chickens, Farming | 20 comments | Author :

An Egg Mobile is a movable chicken house designed to house laying hens at night, who by day cluck around on open pasture. Joel Salatin made them famous at Polyface Farms, but who invented the concept I do not know.

Egg mobiles are different from chicken tractors in that they are designed as part of a free-range chicken system where the hens can venture well beyond their house to the limits of whatever fences them in (commonly electric netting in a farm setting). They are a darn fine idea.

Recently I was at Allsun Farm and I was reminded of their egg mobiles, whose design I love. The chooks get shut up in their egg mobile each night, and let out in the morning after they’ve done their laying for the day.

This design has nesting boxes on the sides with exterior access for egg collection, a floor that lets chook poo fall through, but does not let foxes in, and nice big bicycle wheels for easy maneuverability when it’s time to move the chickens to the next patch of pasture.

This of course got me thinking about other egg mobiles i have loved, including those of the fabulous Joel Salatin

A (very) early Polyface Farms egg mobile…
A recently completed egg mobile at Taranaki Farm in Victoria, constructed faithfully in the Polyface Farms style, and working well!
Polyface Farm’s newer ‘Millennium Falcon X-wing’ egg mobile, for summer use…
Joel Salatin with one or two hens outside their X-wing egg mobile at Polyface Farms

There are many, many different egg mobile designs to be found out there, all with different levels of convenience in terms of egg collecting and maneuverability, as well as scale.

We’re leaning towards the Allsun Farm design (or similar) at this point for next Spring, given the scale of egg production that we’ re thinking about…

Just FYI in case you’re planning to become a chicken nerd: egg mobiles are not to be confused with the fabulous world of chicken tractors, which are more about chickens having access to a much smaller, enclosed area of grass on a daily basis, usually within a movable cage (or even a geodesic chook dome). 

**Corrections to the above. Ben Falloon has helpfully pointed out that the Polyface X-wing design above is not designed for super regular moves like the other egg mobile designs, and is technically (in Polyface lingo) known as a feathernet system rather than an egg mobile system… but more on that in a later post…

A chicken tractor (this one seems of the most salubrious kind). Not to be confused with an egg mobile.

Have you come across any other excellent egg mobile designs we should know about?

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  • Ben Falloon

    Great post Kirsten! A subject of enormous enthusiasm for me! In the context of polyface farming, if I may, I’d like to venture a distinction Joel makes between eggmobiles and feathernets – both of which you’ve featured… when Joel was at Taranaki Farm last time he explained the difference…

    Eggmobiles at polyface follow the cows – the main function being pasture sanitation with egg production being a bi-product. The scissor truss A-Frame (or x-wing as you’ll make it famous!) is a feathernet system (distinguished from the eggmobiles) that moves only incrementally – i.e. one electronet enclosure to another.

    The main difference – eggmobiles are truly mobile (and land extensive – with no netting as you’d noted), moving from one side of the farm to the other if need be (since the shed has a floor and chickens can be locked inside overnight).

    The X-wings (!) are pasture field fertilisers (and land intensive) that aren’t connected to a cattle herd (with no floor can’t be moved further than one electronet enclosure at a time). Again, great post. Can’t wait to see Milkwood’s eggmobile whenever its constructed.

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Right! Thanks Ben – cheers for setting me straight. Didn’t quite get that about the X-wings previously. So they’re egg semi-mobiles… and of course the cow/chicken thing, which I was going to leave for a later post, but which I didn’t realize the X-wings didn’t have any association with. Ta!

      • joycewilkie

        Kirsten there is nothing at Polyface that doesn’t have cows on it at some stage . Joel never puts chickens on ground where the grass is too long for them so the paddock would have been grazed first or grazed and mowed for hay and then used for the X-wing structures which are managed just like our little chook mobiles. When we were there the paddock with the X-wing also had all his broiler houses. Very flexible – completely vertically stacked. Love your blog and all the comments!

  • Emma Fenton

    Hi guys,
    A young architect colleague of mine designed this recently.. Not entirely ‘mobile’, but very lightweight, simple materials..

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Thanks Emma!

  • littlealexander

    There’s a CSA we know of near Denver, Colorado that uses old school buses as portable coops. When the chickens are ready to move, they load ’em up, and drive them around. They’ve even had local school kids help them decorate. Picture here:

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Thanks! Have they modified the floors so the poop falls thru or do they clean them out, do you know?

  • narf77

    How do you move them around? It looks like a bike on the front. I could hook it up to our 2 American Staffordshire terriers but no doubt the hens would never recover from that nightmare trip! Fantastic idea. Our girls (and Big Yin) are free range and just wander about all over the place. For a larger property (ours is only 4 acres) this would be fantastic as the hens could get used to their space and still have the familiarity of their night roost. I LOVE this site! :)

    • milkwoodkirsten

      narf the Allsun one is moved by hand (see the handlebar in the first photo, on the right), the Polyface ones are moved with tractors… thanks and glad you’re enjoying!

      • narf77

        so no American staffies? Oh well…best start saving for a tractor 😉

  • Amy Smith

    Hey guys, thanks for this post. We’ve been looking at designs to build our own chicken tractor this spring. We really love the last one pictured on your site. Any idea who built it or if there are design plans available? Thanks so much. You guys are awesome, we only wish you were closer.

    Amy Smith & Verena Varga
    Heart Beet Organics
    PEI, Canada

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Hi Amy, that chicken tractor pic came from Summer in a Jar, and I think they made theirs… google chicken tractor designs for a zillion others…

  • Allan Laal

    do one about pig mobiles/pig tractors! 😉

  • Jason Dingley

    Convenient chickens are attached to the home rather than the area. I have a home garden so I use a chook tractor. Doesn’t have wheels though but is very light as it is made from pvc.

  • farmer9989jimmy

    I like yours best

  • Ilaria

    Hi, i am considering setting up a similar system but the only reviews of the electric netting I can find are from people selling it. Do you or anyone else here actually use it and can confirm its effectiveness against foxes and other predators? Thanks!

    • milkwoodkirsten

      We’ve found it pretty darn good against foxes and other predators, and we sure don’t sell it :) – I can think of at least 7 other farmers i know using it for chickens and havent heard any reports of fox probs :)

    • Janelle Wallace

      I’ve just bought 50m to test on a very small number of hens bequeathed to me by a neighbour before we consider upscaling significantly. It certainly keeps three chooks in, but Scramble manages to fly out of it on a daily basis. She comes back home to lay and stay. The biggest issue we have is getting the net tight enough (not in a regular square or rectangular shape) to keep the bottom wires off the ground. Even with tent pegs and bungy cord to pull the posts tight and a few electric fence stakes I am not winning that battle so am worried about burning out some wires and reducing power if a preditor strikes..

      Foxwise – there are many around us but I don’t think they have discovered the chooks yet, and today they have about 100 head of cattle as protectors in surrounding pasture.

      I should mention our other big issue – wind. Chook tractor flipped in the wind last week – with girls inside. So being able to secure their home against gales but still being able to move it is probably our biggest consideration

  • Sanna

    How big a trailer do I need to build an egg mobile for 30-50 hens? I have an existing henhouse that’s 9×9 built of all wood that I was thinking of just plopping on to a trailer. Though it has a floor…I’d pull it around with a team of Haflingers.

  • Jeannie Voller

    Do plans exist for the egg mobile in the first and second photo?