Chicken caravans are good for the hens and good for the soil, says Lance Gillespie, a regenerative farming advocate.
Gillespie spent 20 years as a dairy farmer, milking 380 dairy cows at Āpiti in Manawatū, dabbling with the trailers on the side.
He's now on a much smaller block of land on the outskirts of Palmerston North importing, assembling and selling chicken caravans full-time after seeing the benefits the roaming chooks can have on farm.
"The first year I could definitely see where the chicken trailer was parked … there'd be a nice green patch about three weeks later," he told Country Life.
The units, housing from 20 to 1500 birds, are solar-powered shelters, with sides that lift up. Their nesting boxes allow eggs to roll away onto a conveyor belt and lighting is managed to suit the chickens' laying pattern.
The chooks scratch around in the pasture for bugs, dispersing the dung of other livestock.
At the same time, they were fertilising the paddocks with their own poop and adding to farm production.
Gillespie said he had an uptick in inquiries after new restrictions on caged hens came in at the end of 2022.
Many people were wanting to get into the egg business perhaps as a joint venture with a land owner, offering consumers pasture-raised eggs.
"People are wanting to see and know where their food's grown these days."
Inspired by the Lunatic Farmer, Gillespie coaches others how to incorporate the caravans onto farms, orchards and lifestyle blocks.
He was now designing and building a version of the caravan better suited to New Zealand's windy conditions.
Gillespie also organises the Manawatū Regenerative Agriculture Group which hosts workshops and discussions for farmers interested in sustainable farming practices.
Taking care of the land had always been a focus for him but the need to take care of his mental health since leaving dairying has been a revelation.
Moving off the farm and not finding another suitable property for drystock farming was a struggle, he said.
"It's certainly been a mental challenge for me over the years to work out who I am now and what I have become."
"I'd lost my identity … I was no longer Lance the dairy farmer, I was somebody else. But most of that, or probably all of it, was the six inches between my ears that was talking to me in my head and it's taken me a long time to realise that I'm still Lance and I'm still doing what I do.
"I'm still farming I'm just doing it differently."