Final design involves rigid and non-rigid components to enclose 0.2 acres and moves continuously throughout the day when coupled with a LMS to cover an acre of fresh pasture on a daily basis.
Course - ME170 - Mechanical Engineering Design Capstone
Duration - 6 months, January to June 2019
Skills - Solidworks, Matlab, FEA, FMEA, mechanics, dynamics, prototyping, metalworking 
Materials - steel tubing, wood, come-along winch, pulley, wire rope, electric fencing

When trying to practice rotational grazing, sustainable farms within the US encounter the challenge of regularly moving livestock enclosures. Pie Ranch is one such farm in Pescadero, California, and it hopes to implement a rotational grazing system that uses chickens to naturally fertilize the land while also providing them with access to fresh pasture. Their current chicken enclosure requires at least three hours of manual labor to disassemble, relocate, and reassemble when moving it from one area of land to another, which in turn leads to the fence being moved less often than required to properly fertilize the pasture. Our team was tasked with developing a chicken containment and protection system that utilizes the movement of a lateral move irrigation system (LMS) to facilitate rotational grazing. Combining irrigation and fertilization not only reduces manual labor and time costs for farmers, but also ensures that nutrients from the chicken manure are sunk into the soil.


Lateral move systems (LMS) from Valley Irrigation, with a height of 14’ and a single span width of 135’.

First, we developed a set of user and technical requirements based on Pie Ranch’s needs and conducted background research on existing chicken fencing designs. Guided by these requirements and existing designs, our team experimented with the movement, size, and rigidity of our proposed structure. Our final design was an enclosure of 70' by 125' that could contain 600 chickens. The LMS could pull the entire structure continuously throughout the day to expose the chickens to an acre of fresh pasture, and then detach from the fence to irrigate the freshly fertilized land during the night. This design met the requirements of adequately irrigating the land, providing chickens with regular access to fresh pasture, and protecting chickens from predators. 

To validate the feasibility of our design, we performed analysis and testing on three major design concerns: the coupling system to the LMS, the wheel alignment of the chicken coops, and the cabling system from which hangs the electric chicken fencing. While our results supported our design choices, more testing must be performed with a full-scale prototype and an actual LMS. Once that is completed, the strong foundation that we developed over those 6 months can be leveraged to make rotational grazing more viable for Pie Ranch.


The 4:1 scale prototype features steel coop frames and a golf cart acting as the LMS. The next image zooms in on the coupling system between the coop and the LMS that allows the LMS to push the entire enclosure.

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