Poultry housing design will depend on the type of production system used. For example, ATTRA's Sustainable Chicken Production describes the "pastured poultry " system developed by Joel Salatin (1). In this system, birds are housed in a field pen that is moved daily to fresh pasture. Seventy-five to one hundred chicks (two to four weeks old) are placed in 10'x12'x2' pens. Since the pen is floorless, the birds are able to forage on plants, seeds, insects, and worms in addition to their concentrate feed. Water must be provided.
Salatin's book Pastured Poultry Profits (2) describes in detail how to build a pen and is recommended reading for anyone planning a pastured poultry enterprise. Enclosed are the blueprints by Salatin and a list of materials developed by another producer.
Salatin's pen is moved by putting a dolly on one end and lifting the pens with a handle on the other end. The wooden pens weigh about 200 lbs. and can be dragged in this way.
Some producers use a field pen, yet open it during the day to give the chickens free range. Others provide access to a portable corral. It may not be necessary to move the field pen daily if this method is used.
There are many modifications of Salatin's pen. Some producers modify the construction material with the intent to lighten the pen, since it may be too heavy and difficult to move on steep, rough ground. PVC pipe and rebar are materials often substituted for wood. However, sturdiness in the wind is an issue in windy areas as construction materials get lighter. Some producers also worry about PVC becoming brittle after long exposure to the outdoors. Brower Company (3) has recently begun selling a PVC pen for $325. In this case, the PVC pipe is UV-inhibited, so that brittleness is not a concern. Water can be added to the piping so that it withstands strong winds. Other producers modify the design of the field pen itself by building wheels onto the pen or making the roof peaked instead of flat in order to help heat escape in summertime.