Last semester, GMC student Brian Shevrin had the opportunity to take on a construction project on GMC’s Cerridwen Farm as part of the agriculture program’s Intro to Cerridwen Farm course. As an active farm crew member, Shevrin was aware of the needs of the farm and had some ideas for improving the infrastructure. Together with farm manager Kenneth Mulder and assistant manager Baylee Drown, Shevrin designed a new chicken coop that would take advantage of an under-utilized barn. This coop was designed to meet Animal Welfare Approved standards and became a collaborative project between the farm management and several different students.
When asked why he wanted build a new coop, Shevrin commented that he wasn’t satisfied with the previous living conditions of the chickens. Cerridwen Farm had been using a system in which there were several different chicken coops, some of which were mobile so the farm students could move the chickens out to pasture to benefit from the grass and the insects residing in the cow pies of the farm’s small cattle herd. However, many of these coops had significant drawbacks in that they were difficult to get into, became dirty very quickly because of the number of chickens living on the farm, and were especially strenuous to clean. Shevrin was able to overcome all of these issues by designing a chicken coop that was large enough for all of the birds, efficient for human use, and met high standards for animal welfare.
As an added bonus, the chicken coop is also located next to the farm’s new composting system. A small door lets the chickens out directly onto the compost pile and gives them room to roam in a fenced-in section of pasture. The Cerridwen Farm chickens are now able to benefit from the nutritious food in the compost pile while adding their own fertility to the mix, while also having plenty of room to exhibit their natural behaviors. The coop isn’t quite finished, so if any GMC students are interested in helping with the finishing touches they should come check out a farm crew meeting on Monday nights at 8pm in Ackley 102.
Written by Alison E. Putnam