The Maiden Voyage
The New Pen
Salatin Type Pen
I have been trying to come up with a broiler chicken field pen design that would work better for me than the Salatin type pen (Joel Salatin is the Guru of modern pastured poultry). His style of pens (bottom picture) are 10x12 and 2 feet high. We have been using this design for the past 5 years or so. The nice thing about them is that they are quick to build and have a low profile, which helps them blend into the landscape and keeps them from blowing away in wind storms. What I dislike about them is that they are hard to get the chickens back out of when their time comes. Also there are times when we have too much rain for the ground to absorb and water starts to run into the pens. If these chickens can't get dry because they are sitting in a puddle they get hypothermia, and that's it for them. More than once I have been out in a torrential downpour at some wee hour of the morning trying to spread hay out under the covered part of these pens. The hay lets the chickens get up out of the water and they soon dry off. Another trouble is that it is hard to see if the chickens are out of the way of the trailing edge of the pen or the dolly it rolls on, which makes moving the pens a little nerve wracking.
I built at similar shelter to the new pen last year for the turkeys. The fatal flaw on the turkey tunnel was that I didn't enclose the ends at all, which apparently made it close enough in design to a hang glider, and it took off in an October thunder storm (see archives). The turkey tunnel hoops were made out of steel rebar which made them remember every way they had ever been mistreated. The final insult was about 8 inches of wet snow which flattened it beyond repair.
The newly built field pen is almost identical to the turkey tunnel except that it is half of the length, the ends are closed in, and the hoops are made out of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. We will need a couple of 60 mph windstorms to decide if the new design works better for us, but we generally get a few of those a year, so we should know in a few months