ask-tom-pictureTom,

We want to raise chickens for home use and possibly for sale. What sort of structure do you suggest to house them?

–New to the Game

Dear New,

We do not raise livestock so I will offer a few leads and call on Meredith McKissick, the OGS Director for grower information. Your first decision is whether you prefer a stationary or mobile structure. Each has advantages and you might want to consider both for different stages in the life of your birds.

The University of Tennessee Extension has hundreds of farm building plans at http://bioengr.ag.utk.edu/extension/extpubs/planlist97.htm Under poultry plans is a 10 X 12 stationary coop. It also lists facilities (theoretically) up to 120,000 birds.

If you want to call your flock “organic” the National Organic Program rules require:

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain livestock
living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals,
including:
(1) Access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight
suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate, and the environment;

So that requirement may suggest smaller scale than 120,000 birds and access to the outdoors for your flock.

An approach used by many farmers is a chicken tractor or chicken trailer. The “tractor” is usually a cage that is regularly moved around a field to allow the birds access to fresh ground and to also allow them to eliminate pests and to fertilize the field with their manure. A chicken trailer allows the flock to be transported more easily. It is usually accompanied by an enclosure that is moved periodically to restrict the flock and to help with predators.

Chatham County agent Debbie Roos offers several suggested publications at her site: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/poultrylist.html several of which offer plans for chicken housing. Good luck with your project!
— Tom

Ask Tom © 2013 Tom Elmore & Organic Growers School

Tom Elmore

Tom Elmore

Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association and the Organic Growers School.