What is an Eggmobile? More about our laying hen operation.

This blog posting is almost 3.5 years old. Most of what you will read remains the same however for plans, business model and more you will need to click here. (Angus 12 April 2016)

An Eggmobile is a mobile hen house. Inspired by Joel Salatin who I learnt about reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. We have 15 on our farm with each housing 250 hens. Below is a picture taken in early September 2012 as the girls are heading out for another day of free ranging on our pastures. (This is genuine free range not the theoretical access to the free range that you actually buy when you buy free range. Click here if you want to read more about the fraud that is free range eggs.)

We built our first one (August 2009) on a trailer that we bought. The only good thing about this is that we can paint the sides. The side that you see, below, was painted by the girls. We don’t show the boy’s side to visitors.

My then colleague Christo Kok then did a magnificent job of designing one from scratch that you can see below. It is lighter, it houses 250 hens as opposed to 150 (roosting and nesting space inside the Eggmobiles are more generous than the organic standards), it is easier to collect eggs from and modifying it for winter weather is easy. The only downside is that it is not aesthetically pleasing but the Spier Architectural Arts group are going to try this year to make our Eggmobiles into wandering art pieces.

Another benefit of Christo’s Eggmobile is that we get to make them ourselves. The team is led by Alois who is pictured below. I can email you the plans, which were drawn up by the draftsman William Hammers, if you are interested.

24 out of 25 millions laying hens in this country live in metal battery cages where their “living” space is a little less than an A4 page. The metal mesh floor is sloped so that the egg rolls out. They are artificially stimulated by light to lay. They are debeaked because of cannibalism (of the commercial egg producers, to our knowledge, only ourselves and our neighbours who we have helped get off the ground do not debeak). Below is a picture of a debeaked hen.

Our chicken team got to visit such a factory farm a few weeks ago and it is a shocking experience to see 30,000 hens in one building producing eggs. In the photo below you can see a few things if you look closely. First there are only 4 layers of layers. In Japan they have up to 19 layers of layers with some farms in the Western Cape at 8 layers or is it levels? What is the collective noun? Second the entire process is mechanized from feeding to water to medication to egg “collection”. Third to the left and right of the pyramid of birds the dark stuff is accumulated chicken manure (animals being in close proximity to their manure with the resulting disease pressure is one of the major problems of factory farming). 24 out of 25 million laying hens! You choose the life of the hen by virtue of the egg that you buy.

 

What set us apart from anyone else, bar our neighbour, is that our hens actually get to free range if you will accept the poor language usage. On the same farm where we saw the 30,000 per “henhouse” we also went to their free range section. Here they have 7500 hens in a barn with small popholes for them to go out when the shutters are opened. We counted 500 out of 7500 outside and then there was a big fence about 12 metres from the barn surrounding it. The hens were all debeaked too.

The other reason for having our hens in Eggmobiles and ranging the pasture is that they spread fertility out of their back ends as they go on their merry way. This helps our 16 varieties of grasses and legumes in our pasture grow a dark, luxuriant green as you can see from the photo below. I am standing in a rectangular shape of healthy pasture. Our Eggmobiles are rectangular. We move our Eggmobiles every second day.

The photo below(taken by the photographer Margot Janse, who is also the chef here) gives an excellent vignette of our hens’ daily rhythm. At daybreak, today it was 5am, the nest boxes are opened. They are the wooden construction in the middle of the photo and they are closed by the egg team at 4pm the afternoon before by putting the wooden sticks across the front of the next box. The reason we close the nest box is that we don’t want them roosting in the nest box which will mean that they poop in the box and we don’t get their precious manure on the pasture and the eggs are dirty. The hen in the centre is announcing her delivery and the one behind her is running to go and do what hens do best. You can see that her beak is in tact. We collect eggs three times a day. At dusk we check to see that the hens are safely roosting on the perches which are the poles behind and around the nest boxes and then lock the Eggmobiles.

In addition to the grass, legumes and bugs from the pasture we feed our hens a free range laying ration from Profile Feeds. Our ration is 85% non GMO. More about our drama with non GMO chicken feed is here. A very big thank you to Hannes van der Westhuizen at Profile Feeds.

You can either eat our eggs at hotels or restaurants from Franschhoek to Cape Town. There is a tab on the home page entitled sourcing produce that explains where our eggs are available.

We try to get all our clients to the farm at least once a year for a visit. Below is the entire team from Eight at Spier, chefs and front of house, helping collect eggs and feed the hens.

Our eggs are also available, they are in packaging as per photo below from retailers too.  There is a tab on the home page entitled sourcing produce that explains where our eggs are available.

Finally these eggs taste amazing. If you don’t believe me watch this.

Angus

13 January 2013

 

 

 

44 Responses to What is an Eggmobile? More about our laying hen operation.
  1. Angela Reply

    Brilliant. 100% behind you. Have read Omnivores Dilemma. what a book. And of course we are what we eat.

  2. Marietjie Reply

    This was SO interesting. I just cannot understand clearly:
    1. How does the hens managed to lay an egg in their little nest (where the poles are in the picture). I do you get them to go specifically to that area?
    2. Does the mobile unit move on wheels? Or how do you move it? 3. How does the egg roll down without braking? (A slope was build)
    Fantastic idea. I would love to have the drawings for this “mobile” unit. I was on the right track. I thought this must be possible and you did it.
    I am busy with an uplifting project and would love to try this concept. May I please have a copy of the plans for this mobile unit.

    • Farmer Angus Reply

      Marietjie

      I will happily email you the plans for the eggmobiles. email me at angusm@spier.co.za with your email address

      The nest boxes are not little by any description. 300mmx300mmx300mm for each hen.

      The hens go into the nest boxes of their own volition.

      The Eggmobiles move on wheels. standard 13 inch Burquip wheels with a square Burquip axle.

      We tow ours with tractors.

      Hope this answers your questions.

      Angus

  3. Danie Reply

    Hi Angus,

    Great idea! I am considering the same concept on our farm. We need to improve the quality of our soil and grazing and this will contribute a lot. Can you please send me your plans?

    Regards,
    Danie

  4. Mike Flinn Reply

    Please mail me plans of your eggmobiles – very interested for our farming operaiton in Swaziland!
    Many thanks and kind regards,
    Mike

  5. sivakumar periyasamy Reply

    Dear angus,
    eggmobile is really great.we tried a floating mini shed on the fish farm(little lake) in my village.
    thank you for your eggmobile..
    I cant undestand that how could we feed Non-GMO feeds for theHi-Breed(GMO)chickens for the Non-GMO Project???I know some valuable reason is there.but I can’t.
    can you explain me pls…

    KInd regards,
    -siva…

  6. Paul Reply

    I have been thinking of designing something very similar to this. I like the lightweight but sturdy construction with the flexibility to easily make it more suitable for winter with thicker tarps.

    Would you please send me the plans for your trailers? I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks!

  7. eugene louw Reply

    Hi
    I am interested to know what the mixture of your pasture seeds is?? I have a bonsmara stud (small) in Swellendam and would like to experiment with sown, non iriigated pastures.

    Looking forward to your response.

    Regards

    Eugene Louw

  8. Francois Deysel Reply

    Hi Angus.
    I live in Mozambique and would like to start an egg business. I do not want to keep hens in cages so the free range option would be first choice. As one can expect to sell an egg for no more than 5Mt ( R1,66) it is paramount t keep costs low. is it true that a free range hen eats more than a caged one? can you also send me the plans for the egg mobiles please?
    Regads
    Francois
    Deysel

  9. Chris Agnew Reply

    Hi I’m a farmer from Australia and I’m interested in your eggmobile, could you send me a copy of your plans please.

  10. Andrew Brewster Reply

    Hi Angus,

    Thank you for having such a great website.
    I am over in Scotland and have started my own
    egg mobile following our cattle. I was wondering if you could please send me the plans for your egg mobiles?

    Kind regards

    Andrew Brewster

    • Farmer Angus Reply

      Andrew.

      I emailed you the plans last week. Did you get them?

  11. Linda Ihlein Reply

    Hi,
    What happens to the hens when they can no longer lay eggs? do they go to the slaughterhouse?

    • Farmer Angus Reply

      Hello

      I sell them to my staff and they sell them into the Khayelitsha township.

      Angus

  12. Andy Walton Reply

    Hi Angus,

    I am in charge of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe. I am very interested in what you are doing and was wanting to ask you if you have a sample budget and projected cashflow that you could share with me so that I can strategically plan a similar operation. Our challenge here is that we operate in a wild life area and do not have wide open spaces to move our chickmobiles but we do move our cattle kraals weekly so we could certainly modify the construction to suit our terrain. Thank you in advance.

  13. Pete Reply

    Hi, wonderful article. I have a farmer friend who is looking into running a similar production (though smaller) I would love if you would send me the drawings of your construction!

    Warm greetings from Denmark

    Pete

  14. Arno Reply

    Hi Angus, It is so good to see someone is actually caring about the animals our food comes from. I only have about 20 hens with 5 roosters. Currently they are in an enclosed area of 4m x 10m with nesting boxes in a separate area. I would like to let them roam free on my plot butvin a controlled way. I love the idea of your chick mobile. Please can you e-mail me the plans?
    Secondly I urgently need to find a place in Cape Town where I can get certified organic chicken. My wife will be in Cape Town next week Tuesday and need certified organic chicken for her VIP client. Do you have any idea where she might be able to find this in Cape Town. Please let me know urgently.
    Thirdly how would one learn more about the way you are farming? I am starting a food security project in the next few months and would like to start it as organic as possible.
    Would appreciate it if you could be in contact with me.
    Regards
    Arno

  15. mark hutton Reply

    great idea. please send me your plans on the mobile unit

  16. Johan Swartz Reply

    Dear Sir.
    I take serious note of what i see on your website,and find it very interested.i therefor would like to ask you,if you can be off help to my needs.

    I stay in Worcester and started a small scale income by selling eggs
    I have a large buying group off mobiles who are in inconveniece becoss off my supplier at Rainbow.

    They ask me not to drop and let them down becoss off our business relationship.
    I am therefore look for serious suppliers who can assist me,What i need is the Price ,quantity , quality ,tipe off Egg like table egg white/yellow.

    I have sad to my clients that i will act to them as soon as possible,as i have link up with my new supplier.

    Dear Sir the sooner i get your info with satisfaction ,the sooner i would like to visit you and place my order,on long term base.
    I hope you find my request in order and hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you in anticipation.

    Johan

  17. Johan Swartz Reply

    Dear Sir
    I place a urgent buying request for eggs and more info regarding my needs.I hope to hear from you soon

  18. elizabeth Reply

    Aloha,
    I’m very interested in your egg mobile plans. I’m farming in Maui.
    Mahlao!!
    -Elizabeth

  19. Deirdré Reply

    Dis presies wat ek nou besig is om op ons plaas te implementeer. Ons het begin met henne in batterye maar het al die henne nou in kampie. Kort nou daai eggmobile. Wil graag weet hoe lank hou jy n hen voor sy vervang word.

  20. julian Reply

    a very interesting and innovative way for free range chickens, if possible can you email me the plans of your design of the eggmobile

  21. abdulaahi Reply

    i want to bay whlesale eggs from you

  22. abdulaahi Reply

    where can i contact for you please send to me anamber

  23. Deirdré Reply

    waaruit bestaan die freerange voer wat jul by voer vir die henne. Ek gee nog gewone lêpille 100. Hoeveel van die randsoen eet hul dan per dag per hen.

    • Farmer Angus Reply

      It is made for us by Profile Feeds. Our hens are averaging 140grams per hen per day over the year

      Angus

  24. […] mobile hen houses, better known as eggmobiles, are set up across the farm, allowing chickens to roam... molewaskitchen.com/reviews/farmer-angus-meet-your-clean-meat-connection
  25. Jeff Reply

    Would you email me your eggmobile plans? My email is j.grams90@gmail.com. Thank you!

  26. Geoff Freeman Reply

    Jeff
    Would you please email me your eggmobile plans. My email is geofff@kingcampbell.com.au.
    many thanks Geoff Freeman

  27. Keanen Reply

    Hi Angus

    I like what you are doing, kindly send me the plans as well, I’m in Jhb.

    Thank you

  28. Bettie Mienie Reply

    Please mail the eggmobile plans to me aswell: bettie@lantic.net. Thanks

  29. Jesse Privett Reply

    Hello, I would like the plans as well! Looks great!

  30. Kristie Roberts Reply

    How do you handed the flock’s water needs? How much water does a flock this size consume?

    • Farmer Angus Reply

      In winter less and in summer a lot. For 4500 hens in summer approx 1,500 litres

  31. Jared Blankenship Reply

    Please email plans to Jared.blankenship@scrtc.net
    Thank you so much!

  32. Jason Pedersen Reply

    Hi Please forward me a set of eggmobile plans. many thanks. I love what you are doing and your willingness to share your insights.

  33. Claire Reply

    Hi

    I love your egg mobiles and would love it if you could email me the plans as I want to do one on my farm in Botswana. cvbridger@gmail.com.

    Would chicken and a few sheep be able to share a pasture if it was large enough?

    I look forward to receiving your email

  34. Carl Reply

    Hi Angus
    Please send me a plan of your eggmobiles. Good info. Thanks for sharing

  35. Rebekah Reply

    Hi, please email the Eggmobile plans to me. Much appreciated. We love how you are healing the land!

  36. Raphael Reply

    Please send me the plans of the eggmobile

  37. Yolande de Bruin Reply

    Please could you send me the eggmobile plan? – Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge

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