Movable shelters help producers manage birds

Pasturing poultry Ontario-based manufacturer says units have been sold to western Canadian producers

ARTHUR, Ont. — Most farmers pasturing poultry have cobbled together their own movable shelters.

Now there’s a commercial option, thanks to a business launched by a farm family in Ontario.

David and Ellen Weber displayed their smaller shelter unit at a recent event sponsored by Practical Farmers of Ontario.

As far as the couple knows, they’re the only commercial manufacturers of the shelters in Canada. They’ve sold scores and the business is growing.

“Ninety-five percent of what we do now is these shelters. We started four and a half years ago,” David said.

“We’ve sold units to all the western provinces and even one to the Northwest Territories.”

Added Ellen: “Because we have lots of poultry on pasture ourselves, we’ve learned what works.”

The Cackellac shelters are constructed with hot-dip galvanized steel and covered with heavy, 11 millimetre woven poly.

The larger shelter, which is 13 by 16 feet and 6.5 feet high in the centre, will hold up to 100 meat chickens or 60 to 80 layers. It sells for $2,295 plus shipping.

The smaller eight-by-10 foot model holds 30 to 40 chickens, is 4.5 feet tall at the centre and sells for $995 plus shipping.

A handy person can assemble the larger shelter in a day.

Both models are wheeled and can be moved by a single person. The larger shelter has four wheels with jacks to raise the frame.

The Webers operate their manufacturing-fabrication business at their farm near Paisley.

They are among a handful of farmers who were able to buy a small amount of quota two years after asking Chicken Farmers of Ontario for permission. Their 400 units allow them to produce about 2,000 meat birds per season.

They also graze turkeys up to the non-quota production limit.

The Webers use several of the larger models to circulate the birds across 12 acres.

“It would take about six years to cover our entire farm,” David said.

The Webers use fields that had been previously grazed by cattle. Farmers without cattle might mow their pastures before grazing with birds, David said.

He said there’s currently more demand than supply for pastured poultry, but it would be difficult to expand production because of the amount of labour involved.

There is also a savings.

“We still feed grain, but we feed less grain.”

Most of the birds are sold through retailers within the greater Toronto area.

There are also on-farm and farm market sales.

Practical Farmers of Ontario (PFO), which has a membership of 200 farmers and farm supporters, is lobbying government and Chicken Farmers of Ontario to raise the limit for non-quota production to 2,000 birds from 300.

PFO president Sean McGivern said the change would bring Ontario in line with what’s allowed in other provinces.

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