Just in time for Easter, Bonnie View Farm gets an Eggmobile
By Jill Draper
This spring, right around Easter weekend, some 250 laying hens at Bonnie View Farm will be introduced to the “eggmobile,” a movable contraption surrounded by netting that allows the chickens to spend days in the field and nights in a hen house safe from predators. It’s the way these animals are intended to live, says Justine Nienhiser, who runs the family farm at 9903 Grandview Road with her husband, Steve, and seven of their eight children.
“Chickens don’t like change, so we do it gradually,” she explains. “We park it next to their winter hoop house for a while so they get used to seeing it.”
Nienhiser notes that chickens naturally like to eat grass and scratch in the field for bugs. The mesh-bottomed, wagon-based eggmobile allows them to do this in a different spot every day. The set-up includes a 275-gallon automatic watering system and solar-powered electric fencing that keeps away foxes, raccoons and possums. The chickens’ natural diet is supplemented with organic grain and leftover pulp from a local organic juice company.
“The meat and eggs you buy in grocery stores mostly come from chickens that never see the light of day,” says Nienhiser. “Even if it says ‘cage-free,’ it’s all artificial. There are no bugs they can glean, no grass they can eat, and they’re usually treated with stimulants.”
The Nienhisers have been living on the South Kansas City farm between Bannister and Red Bridge roads for 14 years, but purchased the entire 47-acre property only three years ago. They also raise meat chickens, which have their own traveling tractor house (without laying boxes), turkeys, goats, sheep and pigs. There’s a certain order to the movable feasts. The laying hens follow where the sheep have grazed, and the meat birds follow several dairy cows.
They Nienhisers got the idea for the eggmobile and chicken tractors from Joel Salatin, a farmer in Virginia who has written several books on rotational grazing and has been featured in others (including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan). In addition to chicken, they sell pasture-raised lamb, pork and turkey year-round. In the spring they offer organic produce such as spinach, lettuce and peas, and in the summer they sell green beans, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Bonnie View Farm is open on Saturdays for walk-in customers. Families are welcome, and can greet baby lambs, baby goats and a calf expected to be born any day. A one-time $5 buying fee is charged. Details are at bonnieviewkc.com.