Daniel O’Brien is one of the brains behind the Chicken Caravan – a mobile chicken coop that allows you to produce top quality eggs, with minimum effort, all the while ensuring your hens are kept healthy with a constant fresh supply of grass. The Chicken Caravan team has recently produced their smallest caravan to date – the CC30, which houses up to 30 chickens and is ideal for properties of around 2 – 3 acres. Chicken Caravan is a true local business success story …
Hi Dan. I interviewed you quite a number of years ago now – but just to refresh our memories, please remind us how the “Chicken Caravan” idea came about …
I wanted to start a free range egg farm, but I wanted to something a little different. I wanted the chickens to live in sheds that move; that way, each and every day I can move the chickens to a new area of grass and have true free range eggs.
How has the business grown over the years … and what are some of the learning curves you’ve experienced?
It was Christmas Eve 2010 when we finished building the very first Chicken Caravan (this one was for our own farm). In November 2011 we sold the first one to another farmer at Dunedoo, NSW, and six months after that we sold our second one. So, by about mid 2012 we had sold two of them.
Today there are Chicken Caravans on farms in every state of Australia and six other countries around the world. Collectively, those Chicken Caravans hold over 100,000 laying hens that are producing about 28 million eggs a year.
You’ve just designed a new product – the Chicken Caravan 30 (CC30). What are some of the special features of this particular caravan?
This small Chicken Caravan holds up to 30 hens and is great for someone on just 2 – 3 acres who wants a very hygienic chicken coop. It automatically lets your hens out in the morning and locks them away at night; it has an auto feeder and drinkers. The mesh floor allows all the manure to fall through to the grass, so you do not have to clean it out.
Keeping the chickens’ eggs clean is a marvellous idea. How does this system work?
We have special nesting boxes for the chickens that were invented by our team right here in Port Macquarie. These nest boxes allow the hen to lay her egg, and the egg rolls down to the collection area that you access from the outside of the Chicken Caravan. The nest box also auto closes at night, so no hens can sit in there and dirty the nest boxes with their droppings.
How easy is the CC30 to relocate … can it be moved by hand, and how heavy is it?
The Chicken Caravan weighs about 140 kg, and it has heavy duty wheels and a tow handle. You can pull the Chicken Caravan easily around by hand, giving your hens fresh grass every day.
So, the CC30 holds 30 chickens – obviously designed for smaller yard spaces. On the opposite end of the spectrum, what’s the largest caravan you build, and how many chickens does it accommodate?
Our largest model holds 450 chickens and is moved by a ute or tractor. This large model also has a lot of technology and automation built into it, saving labour time for farmers.
Apart from fresh eggs, what do you see as some of the benefits of keeping chickens?
Chickens are great for improving the land. Their manure is a natural fertilizer. Chickens help keep fly numbers down on cattle farms, because they eat the fly larvae.
They are also great pets for adults and children. You might not want your two or three year old in the paddock with a 400 kg cow, but chickens are so much more practical for young children.
What other ideas do you have in mind for future developments in your business?
We are working on self-moving caravans and a device that keeps chickens safe from foxes and dingos without the use of fences.
Later this year our new models will have wind speed sensors that can open and close outside doors automatically, to keep hens sheltered.
Where can we find out more about the chicken caravans?
The best place is www.chickencaravan.com – we have videos of all our products on our website.
Interview by Jo Robinson.