Even the most-fit flock of pastured chickens can appreciate a stylish ride from one field to the next.
About half the hens raised for eggs at Grant Family Farms commute from field to field in retired school buses, retrofitted with roosts and nesting boxes and customized with Technicolor kids’ art.
Community members and children painted all of the buses at the farm, located northwest of Wellington, so many of the designs are quite humorous. One bus window reads “No boys allowed,” and “lady’s night.” The bright colors make the coops-on-wheels as much art as roosting place.
In August, a bus donated by the Cherry Creek School District was added to the fleet after kids spent an afternoon at an Aurora library decorating the new rolling coop. Home Depot and Sherwin-Williams donated the paint for the project.
The chickens received their donated bus on Aug. 24. This new addition brings the total number of rolling chicken coops to seven. The coops are beautiful, but also a practical way to move and house the hens.
The hens provide eggs that are distributed weekly, June through December, through the Community Supported Agriculture program at Grant Family Farms. The hens also help with insect and weed control and fertilize fields along the way.
The buses provide both practical transportation and protection for the birds. “It makes the chickens easy to move if they start to overgraze an area,” said Sari Schauer, Grant Family Farms CSA director.
The chickens are locked up every night to keep them away from predators. In the morning, while they’re still drowsy, they’re moved to a new pasture on the 2,000-acre organic farm.
The farm set up its first bus a little over a year ago and has been building the collection ever since. At first, farm staff were worried about regulating temperature on the buses, but in the winter the chickens keep themselves warm with their own body heat. In the hot summer sun, they can escape to the shade provided by the bus.
Schauer described the flock as pasture chickens. “They are much more than free-range, because they get a whole field to themselves,” she said. “Moving the chickens regularly keeps them healthy because they’re always getting fresh greens and different bugs.”
In summer, the hens tend to favor lettuce scraps. In winter, the chickens browse on the kale and broccoli greens. The birds also receive organic supplemental feed year-round, including corn grown at Grant Family Farms.