When Josh Hudgins was a kid, his family lived near North Lamar and Rundberg Lane—an area, at that time, considered outside the city limits of Austin. Things have changed a lot since then—the neighborhood is considered practically central now—but it was during his semirural childhood days that Hudgins first came to love both chickens and gardening.
“I planted my first garden when I was seven,” he says, “and built my first coop when I was thirteen. The two go hand in hand.”
The family moved to Indiana for a while, but Hudgins returned to Texas as a young man, working in his dad’s body shop. Still, he kept raising chickens and gardening as hobbies.
When he and his wife bought their first house in Leander in 2000, his passion and flock grew. But a move to Burnet in 2004 prompted even greater interest in expanding the idea, and the family started selling chickens.
In an effort to keep the breeds separate, but without having to build large, separate chicken houses, Hudgins had an idea. “I built miniature coops and used them in and around the garden.” The chickens got a regular change of scenery and a chance to feast on bugs and grass, and in exchange, they provided excellent fertilizer.
Folks who came to buy chickens liked the coops so much, they wondered if Hudgins might build to order. “I started doing that as a side business nights and weekends,” he says. “It got to be a full-time job.” Soon, Mobile Chicken Coops was born.
Zeroing in on a typical coop customer is impossible, Hudgins says. “We sell to such a broad range of folks.” Among them are those enthralled by the urban chicken craze, Dellionaires with gentlemen’s farms and even clients convinced the world is soon ending, thus necessitating 100 percent self-sufficiency.
The coops—all built with environmentally certified LifeWood treated lumber—range in size from mini to mega. All feature wheels. Some include whimsical touches, like a paint job designed to resemble a cow. And what Hudgins does appears to be working: his customer base continues to grow exponentially, and sales are up 35 percent this year over last.
With the ever-growing interest in personal flock-keeping sweeping the area, Hudgins has added an all-inclusive package for first-time fowl farmers: pick up the coop, the birds, a feeder and a watering device all in one stop. You can also pick up pointers from the man who has dedicated his life to his egg-laying friends, even if he can’t precisely explain the pull. “I don’t know exactly what it is,” he says. “It’s kind of a fascination with the different breeds and colors. It’s being able to watch them grow from chick to full-grown chicken. Just all around, it’s an enjoyment to watch them. It’s a relaxing thing—I can tune everything out working in the garden, with the chickens right there at my feet getting every last little crumb.”