May 30. 2017 9:06PM

Old school bus becomes mobile coop for 300 chickens

Union Leader Correspondent

Hundreds of chickens are now living in an old school bus at Brookvale Pines Farm in Fremont. The bus allows them to range on different parts of the farm field, and gives them a view while roosting (below.) (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

FREMONT -- A school bus manufactured by Blue Bird Corp. with a seating capacity for about 70 noisy kids has been transformed into a chicken coop on wheels for nearly 300 cackling hens at Brookvale Pines Farm.

“The chickens are getting an education,” joked Brenda Barthelemy, who runs the farm on Martin Road with her husband, Scott, and came up with the idea of turning the bus into a coop to make farming a little easier.

The Barthelemys purchased the 2002 school bus last fall with plans to turn it into a coop to replace another mobile coop that had to be hauled around the field by an all-terrain vehicle, which wasn’t always easy.

“When you’re moving 300 at a time you really need a way to do it,” Scott said.

The Barthelemys like to move their chickens around to a different spot in the field each day because the birds help to fertilize the field by kicking around the cow manure while snacking on bugs.

“It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Let the animals do the work,” Scott said.

Moving the chickens also keeps the predators wondering where they’ll show up next.

The Barthelemys forged ahead with the plan for their “egg mobile” by having the seats yanked out and replaced with rows of nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs while gazing out the bus windows. A wooden wall and door were installed behind the driver’s seat to keep the chickens from getting into the front of the bus and making a big mess. A narrow wooden ramp was built for the rear emergency exit door, which the chickens use when they want to head outside to roam in the field.

The repurposed bus, formerly used by the Mount Desert Island School District in Maine, was put into service on the farm about two weeks ago and so far everyone seems happy.

“It’s just easier because you can hop into it and drive it — as long as it starts OK,” Brenda said.

The bus didn’t start on the first day because the battery was dead, but it’s running now.

“So far she’s doing good,” she said.

And it didn’t take long for the chickens to adjust to their new home. As darkness falls they know to climb back inside the bus and wait for the Barthelemys to close the emergency door up for the night to keep them safe.

The bus moves as soon as the sun comes up. Once a new spot is found the door opens and they head out for the day.

The chickens will continue their travels until winter comes, when they’ll relocate to a shed.

After only two weeks in the field, the bus is already getting stares from passersby who have stopped along Martin Road and wondered why it’s sitting there.

“They see the chickens all around so they must think something is up,” Scott said.

“They’re all getting a chuckle out of it,” his wife added.

Video of the school bus-turned-chicken coop can be viewed below: