Inexpensive mobile pens, storage, etc.

Hi Saneters!

My daughter, Montana, and I were up until 2:30 a.m. last night 
brainstorming on the uses for some new pens I just dreamed up. We were 
looking for a more inexpensive way to build the pastured poultry pens 
that Joel Salatin came up with (also less cumbersome as we are female 
and don't have the strength of men). 

I had my lumberyard bend two hog panels (each are 16' long) at 5 feet 
at a 90 degree angle-they bent and delivered them at no charge. I 
hooked them together with plastic cable ties (these are 
great-inexpensive and they stand up to our winter weather here in 
Minnesota-ideal for connecting any wire mesh or fencing). I then 
attached 3' chicken wire to the outside sides (hog panels are 34" 
tall"), made a top of the wire and cut in a chicken wire door on top. 
I then set two old lawn mower wheels on each side in the back (bolt 
and nut, eliminates a cross piece) to roll it. I purchased an 8'x10' 
blue plastic tarp which I attached over 1/2 of the top, sides, and 
back with cable ties. A broken lead rope (thick and easy on the hands) 
was tied at the bottom to the front to pull it with. Less than $50, 
two hours labor by one not so handy woman, and easy to handle compared 
to the Salatin cages. So far they have stood up to 60 mile an hour 
winds without tipping over. They also pulled just find behind the car 
attached to the bumper down to the pasture.

Even though these are great, last night while brainstorming things got 
even more exciting. Two hog panels, bent, cabled together, wheeled and 
tarped could easily rotate lambs, goats, small pigs, etc. Cattle 
panels (16'x 52"), set up the same way, would make ideal calf hutches  
at 1/4 the cost of poly domes or plywood ones. More mobility? Put 
wheels on the front too. No mobility? Just don't add the wheels. Lots 
of wind? I use an 18" length of rebar with a 6" T on top with a 4" 
piece welded off one side of the T for staking (we also have a cable 
staking system down the length of the road right-of-way here and 
through the yard-I prefer to use the lawn grass rather than just mow 
it, you can mow over the cable for a neat look). 

You can also cut a door into the panels without compromising the 
integrity of the design and use that piece as the door itself (or a 
larger piece, we use pieces of cattle panels for walk-through 
gates-lightweight and cheap).

Heavy wire can be used to bow the tarp up and give a covered wagon 
effect (keeps rain from puddling on the top).

Buckets for water and grain can be hung off the wire or in the 

This basic design could be valuable on nearly any farmstead. Consider 
the potential for storage of the lawn tractor, rototiller, bicycles, 
etc. Tarp the sides and use it for a brooder pen. Wire the bottom for 
a rolling rabbit cage. A couple of more bends ( 4'x 4')and you have an 
ideal little shelter for goats, sheep, dogs, chickens, etc. Even a 
playhouse for the kids.

They last forever (galvanized), can be stacked, hung from the ceiling 
in the barn (remember how the oldtimers stored their cutters and 
wagons?), or just left outside. The tarps are lightweight, under $5, 
and usually last several years.

Cattle panels are great. I've seen people make greenhouses out of 
them. I use them bent over for a green bean trellis (a cool spot in 
the garden in the summer, mix in morning glories for a real treat to 
the eye). 

Hope this is of use to someone out there!

Bev Sandlin
Mustang Creek Homestead
Rollingstone, MN
SE MN Sustainable Farming Assoc. Coordinator