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July 19, 2014

 

FARMING: COOP CONSTRUCTION

 

COOPS

We are raising our chickens sustainably. That means they will be raised on pasture and not kept in a building.

We have now built FOUR different coops for the chickens: [Updated August 2013]

1) a Chicken Ark. It is basically an A-frame with a wire 'run' attached to it and it is small enough that we can move it from place to place in the pasture. We are making the nesting box area insulated to withstand the summer heat and the winter cold. The bottom has no wire so the chickens will have full access to the ground, insects, etc. The Chicken Ark is surrounded by an electric poultry 'net' fence so that the hens can range during the day without fear from predators. Since we have constructed the EggMobile, the Chicken Ark will be used as a 'hospital ward' and/or for introducing a few new hens to the group; as in the new hens stay confined to the Ark for a few days while in the same fenced area so the current hens can get used to them before we add them into the flock.

2) a Chicken Tractor. The 'broilers' (which is what most people call the meat birds) live in a different pasture coop that is a large rectangular box that we will also move every day and that also has no wire between the broilers and the ground so they can scratch and get insects, etc. as well. This coop is plenty large enough so the broilers won't need to range; BUT, we like our chickes to work for us, so the Chicken Tractor(s) are also inside a poultry fence and the broilers get to range during daylight hours. After a year of using this structure, we discovered it is more than we need for the chicken meat birds, so I designed the Cockerel Camper (see below) and we will use the Chicken Tractor for the transition between the brooder and going onto pasture... OR we could use it for a few turkeys.

3) an EggMobile. This is a large coop built on a flat-bottom trailer and can house up to 150 hens with it's 'roost ladders' and 24 nest boxes. It is designed so that both the food and water can be placed inside depending upon inclement weather; but those items are primarily located outside. We have insulated it so it will be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The hens can go underneath it for shade and protection from hawks. The tractor is used to move it and it does not move every day, but is moved when the hens are ready from fresh pasture. Yes, the birds poop at night while inside the coop, so clean out duty is needed daily. I collect the droppings in a basket and scatter them in areas that can use the potassium and fertilizing qualities. (I could be persuaded to sell some... hint hint.)

4) a Cockerel Camper. We discovered that the Chicken Tractor we built is much heavier and much taller than we actually needed for the meat birds. Since they are processed at 16 weeks old, they never get so big and heavy that they need what the Chicken Tractor provides. I designed the new structure so it is only 2 feet high with roosts a foot off the ground made from dowel rods which are smaller and lighter than those in the Chicken Tractor. It also accomodates water and feed inside on the ground (if needed). It is easily moveable by one person which made the whole trial and error process worthwhile.

While providing the chickens with a lifestyle that is both 'chicken-like' and safe for them... we are also thinking about the fertility of the soil in our pastures. All that scratching, removing insects and pooping will improve the pastures without the problems associated with over use (because we move the chickens every day)... which are toxicity from the high potassium content in chicken poop, denuding the soil and irritability among the chickens (pecking).


Chicken Ark Construction

I did quite a bit of searching on the internet for free plans for a mobile coop... didn't find much in the way of plans; but DID find LOTS of pictures on www.thecitychicken.com.

What I learned from my searches is that you can't really build a bad mobile coop so long as it is light enough to move, heavy enough to keep predators from lifting it or flipping it over, and strong enough to withstand weather, wind and predators.

I like the term coined across the Atlantic Ocean for a mobile coop: Chicken Ark. And I really liked the look of the A-frame versions I saw. So I sat down and designed our Chicken Ark to be an A-frame with extensions on either side to fit nesting boxes and with liftable lids for easy access. The dimensions were decided upon using standard lumber in 8-foot lengths.

Below you can see the construction. I'll try to give you dimensions as we go... because I didn't really worry about that in the design stage.

First, I decided to use pressure-treated 2x4s for the base.

I cut one 8 ft. length into two 3 ft. pieces to make the width. Which means the insided diameter (i.d.) is 3 ft wide. (The left over pieces were used in the corners to strengthen the base.)

The hubby and I decided it would be good to put the wheels about a foot out from the coop... so the length of the coop and run area outside diameter (o.d.) is 7 ft long.

The rest of the wood is non-treated 2x2s. It was not easy to find straight 2x2s at the lumber yard. So we just did the best we could with what we got.

I knew from the get-go that we would be using foam insulation in the coop area. Since the o.d. of the 2x2s is really 1.5 inches, we used 1.5 inch foam boards to insulate.

This also meant we needed a material on the inside of the coop (siding) so the chickens wouldn't be able to peck the insulation and/or eat it.

I chose to use inexpensive interior siding material that is light and easy to cut. It's basically a high density compressed wood product.

It was cut to size for each section and then screwed on before the foam was added.

This is the base of the coop. At 4 ft. wide, it hangs over about 4.5 inches on either side. It is 3 ft. long.

We decided to leave the middle open to the ground because there is a roost "beam" going down the center from one end to the other and this allows poop to land in the grass where we want it to go.

As you might be able to see from this picture, putting the base on top of the bottom frame leaves a gap under the coop. Since the hens will be mature, we are not concerned about the gap. Also, the run will be covered in hardware cloth and we will be moving this every day or two, so it's less likely that anything will be able to live under the coop.

Figuring the height was simply a matter of finding where two lengths intersected.

We don't have a wood working area yet, so getting things level and square was a bit challenging using saw horses.

Ever wonder why this trangular structure is called an A-frame? Look at the picture to the left. See the "A"s? That's why.

We had to add an additional piece under the A opposite the coop so it would be on the same plane.

There will be an A-hinged door on the run so we can open it fully for the hens to free-range.

Starting to take shape. Outside walls on the coop in place and insullated.

The angle of the lid over the nesting boxes was basically determined by where the cross piece of the A is and setting that end above it so as to miss the screws.

In case I didn't mention it, the roost sits on the A crosspiece which is about 18 inches from the ground.

We had to leave the top "beam" off while working on the coop so we could manuever.

This shows the pop hole to the coop and the insulation in the back wall of the coop. There will be a hinged hatch in the triangle above that back wall.

Siding on the back wall, front wall and insulation on the front wall, too.

The foam insulation was a left over board from another project. The hubby was in charge of cutting the pieces to fit snugly. He sharpened the curved side of a drywall tool (can't remember the name of it) to cut it. It was a suggestion he found in an internet search. Works great! Just need to keep it really sharp.

We did end up buying a second board (4x8) to have big enough pieces for the sides of the A-frame.

Now the coop is structurally done. There is a very narrow gap at the top of the A for natural ventilation.

We eded up dividing the area of the A-frame sides (as you can see) so that we would have somewhere to screw the exterior siding to in the middle.

The roost is in place and I will be sanding it so the top is rounded.

this angle lets you see the hinged hatch in the coop back wall.

The inside of the A-frame from the back.

We added a hook so we can hang a warming light if we want.

Here it is with the exterior siding. It is corrugated metal.

We would not have used this material because it is so heavy (and expensive to buy)... but the previous owner of our house installed it in the basement: walls AND ceiling. I don't like it there, so we have LOTS of free panels to use around the farm.

The lid of each nesting box is NOT insulated.

The dark gray is a rubber material used to line shower floors. We slipped it under the panel above the lid and it sits on top of the lid under the hinges. It was recommended as a solution to keep water out and be flexible by a Home Depot staff member. We think it's a great idea.

We chose to use 1/2 inch hardware cloth over chicken wire or even welded garden wire for the run. The length of the run is 4 ft. so the 48 inch hardware cloth is one piece that goes from ground to ground over the peak. It is attached to the wood structure with "U" staples. It is VERY secure. (Fingers crossed.)

The openings in the corrugated metal panels are filled with expansion foam to keep insects/spiders/wasps/etc. from making homes in those channels.

The excess was removed after I took this picture.

I opened the lids and the end of the run so you can see how they work.

All the openings are hinged and are securely closed using these hinged hook and eye pieces.

We are hoping no critters figure them out.

Oh yes, the wheels!. Almost forgot. We opted to put four (4) 4-inch wheels on the two (2) base pieces. There is one on either side of the wood with a bolt/nut with washers next to the wood on either side. It's probably overkill, but it's my Chicken Ark and that's what I wanted.

In hindsight, the thing is probably over-designed and heavier than it needs to be for the size of it. We are using an upright dolly under the run end to move it. It actually moves pretty easily.



Chicken Tractor Construction

It only made sense to raise some chickens for meat since we were getting chicks for laying hens. I read "Chicken Tractor" by Andy Lee and Patricia Foreman cover to cover and decided to make a mobile pasture coop for the meat birds. I used their design and modified it somewhat. Mine is 5 ft. wide by 10 ft. wide (which is a bit wider than theirs).

A few things we had to figure out for ourselves, because as good as that book is, there were gaps in the information about constructing the Chicken Tractor and some typos that took some work figuring out.

We made the tractor on the south porch because we needed to be sure it is square and that is the largest, levellest (is that a word? LOL) spot we have.

We used untreated 10 ft. long 2x4s and 'ripped' them in half so we ended up with the equivalent of 2x2s. The 2x4s were much straighter lumber than buying the 2x2s.

I pre-painted the wood this time. Should have painted the Chicken Ark wood as well.

I also pre-cut all the wood so we could quickly construct the "box".

Here's the basic box: 10 ft long by 5 ft wide.

We built the long sides first and then attached those to the end wood. The design didn't call for corner pieces from the ends to the sides, but we added some before we put on the hardware cloth.

Just a couple of fun pics of the hubby.

He opted to use both his electric drills so he could put the drill bit in one and the screw bit in the other.

"Drill (No Screw, No Drill, No Screw), Partner!"

Everything is screwed together so it can easily be taken apart in case we need to replace something or store it or make it work for something else.

I also had sanded the roosts (so the top of each is rounded) ahead of time. They are not painted because they are always under cover and besides the chickens will be sitting on them. (They are easily replaced.)

We opted to add supports mid-way on the long sides (not called for in the original plans) since the expanse is so long and the roosts rely on that single, middle set of boards.

Once again, we opted to use hardware cloth (1/2 inch) instead of chicken wire or even welded garden wire around the sides.

This Chicken Tractor is 3 ft. high, so the 36 inch hardware cloth fit perfectly. We had a few pieces left over from another project, so we figured buying a 25 foot roll would be plenty. Since the sides are 10 feet and one end is 5 ft., we thought to use that roll all the way around except for the 'front'. It ended up being 4 inches short of 25 feet. Hmm, that's annoying. But, no worries, we had a 5 foot piece and just stopped the long roll at the mid-support on the side. Then used the 4 foot, 8 inches left from the roll to piece the front around the pop hole.

These photos show the hinged top pieces.

The original plans call for one (1) 4 ft. fiberglass sheet (or equivalent), but since ours is 5 ft. and we have all those corrugated metal panels from the basement (see the Chicken Ark for my rant about those), the hubby used them instead.

We decided to put the top on in four (4) pieces and hinge them on the outsides so that they could overlap at the center. That was the hubby's idea - he is so smart! With a cement cap stone over each set, we doubt any predators can get in that way.

We had to invent how to put in a pop hole: it is a piece of plywood with corrugated metal screwed to it and the metal slides in a groove routed out of the two uprights on either side. A bolt strategically placed allows us to leave the door down and bolted or up and bolted.

 

Now you can see the enclosed area of the Chicken Tractor. The panels are screwed in place OVER the wire (see photo below).

One end is covered and 1/3 of each side is covered to make a shelter out of the wind and rain.

The Chicken Tractor is NOT insulated because the meat birds won't be in it over the winter.

The corrugated metal gaps over the wire can't be be protected from things wanting to live there, but we figure the chickens can probably eat anything that thinks that a good place to live.

Finally - here they are next to each other.

The Chicken Ark sure looks small next to the Chicken Tractor.

That's OK though because the hens also have a 164 ft. of electric poultry fence that the Chicken Ark will sit inside of so they can range during the day.

We'll have to wait and see if the Chicken Ark will be big enough for overwintering the hens.

Chances are we will look into one of the "hoop house" grants to use for overwintering small livestock.


EggMobile Construction

After the trial period of 2012, we decided that we like having hens that lay delicious, soy-free, wheat-free, corn-free eggs. This especially "came home to roost" (pardon the pun) when we had a list of people wanting the eggs before we had eggs to sell.

We decided to expand our egg operation and that meant building a NEW mobile coop that will accomodate up to 150 hens. Below is that construction... start to finish.

At first, I was looking for an old hay wagon (with 4 wheels)... but the price and availability of those was high and rare. I finally expanded my parameters and found this flat-bottom-boat trailer via craigslist. (I just love craigslist.)

It cost $100 and this first photo shows it after we removed the plywood/carpet 'bed'.

Here the hubby is removing extraneous bolts and other unnecessary weight.

The tilt feature is nice, but we don't plan to use it.

The winch was also removed so it can be used on the tractor or whatever.

1 of 2 pics of the stripped down trailer.

As the hubby was removing stuff, I was using the paint stripper to get the metal ready for painting.

2 of 2 pics of the stripped down trailer.

The hubby moved the third wheel (near the hitch) further forward to give us plenty of room for the base of the coop.

By the way, did I mention that the wheels didn't hold air when we got it? The tires seem fine, so we purchased inner tubes and after about $50, all is well.

(So make that $150 for the trailer, LOL.)

We needed a level surface to work on the base (8 ft by 12 ft) and the south porch fit the bill (especially considering all the snow we got). The bucket is minimizing the spray from the gutter leak.
Ready to shift to the trailer.
Dry-Fit.
Continuing the dry-fit by putting the plywood in place to test for 'square.'

Pic 1 of 2.

A break in the cold let me paint the metal trailer using Rustoleum's for Rusty Metal paint.

Pic 2 of 2. New paint job.
Storing the parts and pieces in the garage between work sessions.
Smart hubby... using wood as a "track" to roll the trailer (et al) in and out to work on it. Not to mention elevating the base to roll it underneath.

Base in place with bracing started.

The base is 8 feet wide by 12 feet long (outside dimensions) so that we can use 4x8 plywood without having to cut it.

The bracing extending across the center areas is for screwing the plywood down so instead of placing the 2x4s on end, their wide side is aligned with the top of the outside brace.

We were pleased to find that the cross bracing of the base aligned beautifully with cross bracing on the trailer. So with some shim pieces, the base is bolted directly through the bracing on the trailer.

This thing is STURDY.

More pictures of bolts into the base/trailer.
See the hubby sitting at the corner with his feet OFF the ground.
The rest of the base bracing before the plywood is attached.

Each wall of the coop is divided to allow for access to the nest boxes (the lower open portion) and the insulated area which must be sturdy enough to support the roof.

We temporarily used end bracing to keep these walls square. They are bolted through the base.

Here you see both walls in place with the beginnings of insulation ... that is 2 inch closed cell foam board that was found in our attic so we did not purchase any of it. It would have been VERY expensive to do that. If we did not already have it, we would have found a different, cheaper way to insulate.

Notice also the 3 wood pieces in the nest box opening area. They help carry the weight of the wall to the base... it's all about structural integrity.

The outside nest box walls can be seen in this image as well.

Only the base and the lids to the nest boxes are not insulated. Since we have that free 2" foam board, we ripped 2x4s to 2x2s to minimize weight. We used the left over pieces as well, but there is enough extra to start on another Chicken Tractor.

Here you see that we worked into the night on many occasions (LOL).

Actually, this photo is to show that we used 11/32nd sheet plywood to face each wall.

The side walls all done and ready for the endwalls.

I have to apologize here, I somehow deleted an entire cache of photos from my camera thinking I had already uploaded them to the computer. So you don't get to see how we constructed the endwalls and doors.

The endwalls are 1.5 inches wide so that the doors would not be so heavy. We used 1.5 inch styrofoam insulation (we had to purchase one 4x8 sheet to be sure we had enough).

We opted for a slanted roof to minimize water issues. There is a plywood ceiling inside the coop (partly it squares the roof and ties it to the walls) upon which we laid more 2" foam board. We had to cut an angle on the end of the foam board to match the slope of the roof.

The metal roof is the same material as used on the Chicken Ark. It came out of our basement where the previous owner had been using it for siding (don't ask me why). The piece you see is placed temporarily to figure out how much we need to take out of the basement.

The roof will be put on starting from the ends and working to the top where this panel will act as a top cap. Then silicone caulk is used on all penetrations and overlaps to minimize water issues.

Doors... The doors on the tongue end could not meet in the center because there is stuff in the way, so we added a 2x6 and two 2x4s to the center to increase stability and a place for the doors to latch. Each door on this end has a pop-hole built into it.

The doors on the back end are 'dutch' style, with the right one overlapping the left one about an inch or so. That choice was made because we figure with the prevailing summer winds, this end will face west. They need to open fully so we can get the ladder-style roosts inside.

All the doors have a hasp so they can be secured against predators.

We added a 3-inch lip to the nest boxes to stop the hens from kicking eggs out.

We intended to put closeable guards on the nests to keep the ladies out at night, but time was slipping by and we needed to get them moved in; so those were left off for the time being (and forever if we decide they are unnecessary).

This image shows the ladder roosts. Each 'rung' is rounded so the wood doesn't cut into the hens feet. They are 4-feet wide with 5 rungs; except for the last one which is 2-feet wide. The one closest to us can come out to leave space for the feeder and waterer when necessary.

About the paint... I decided to paint the plywood instead of putting the metal on all the exterior walls (like the Chicken Ark). Eventually, I will paint the name of the farm on the sides with some advertising.

Here is a close up of the nest boxes... each with it's own wooden nest egg.

A close up of one of the lids to the nest boxes. (Part 1 of 2)

We put some money into this... used rubber liner for showers above the hinges. One piece extends the length of each wall by a couple of inches down the lid and we used silicone adhesive caulk to seal the high edge and penetrations to keep water from dripping into the nest boxes.

Before we put those strips on, we laid pieces so they cover the space between each lid... those gray pieces you see coming down to the edge of the lid start out under the long one.

There are 3 nest boxes per lid. Can you see the piece of rubber on the right hand side of the photo hanging over the lid edge?

This is the best we can do to keep the water out. (Better ideas are always welcome!)

We are adding bungee cords to hold down the lids (for predator security)... until then, we have several paving stones to set on top of each lid at night. (I am certainly getting strong! LOL)

We did not put anything under the metal roof material, so we used minimal expansion foam anywhere we thought an insect/wasp/critter might make it's way inside. That's the yellow stuff in the photo.

You can also see how the overhang protects the 'windows' that are covered with hardware cloth to keep out predators and pests.

That is 3 inches wide and the length of both 12 foot walls. It provides nice ventilation (think of pulling the hot air out in the summer) and the open pop-holes add to this.

Notice also that we put flashing over all the doors to help keep water out there as well.

Once we were finished we remembered that we needed to make 'steps' for the hens.

We used leftover pieces of lumber and plywood to make this ramp. There is a wire 'hinge' at the top with an "H" frame to hold up that end.

The ladies like the tongue to sit on, although I haven't seen anyone go the the highest one yet.

Here is the completed EggMobile (with one of the west end doors open).

The large base provides lots of lovely shade and a place to hide from hawks. You can see the new waterer (white with red lid and base) that is easy to fill (what a nice change that is). We thought about switching to the nipple waterers set in 5-gal buckets, but wanted something that could be set inside when necessary. So we bit the bullet and spent the money on these lovely things. I LOVE IT! So easy to refill.

The green 'hat-thing' protects the feeder from rain. It's a bit odd, but the ladies have finally figured it out.

After a couple of hours with only 1 pop-hole open, I decided to see what would happen if I left both open (even though we only built one ramp at this point).

The ladies like having the option to hop/fly up to or out of the hole or use the ramp. Kind of reminds me of a restaurant kitchen and the directional doors. LOL

It's also nice because it keeps one hen from blocking the way in or out.

So there is the EggMobile. If you want the plans, I am happy to share them. I think we ended up spending about $1,000 on this thing (all totalled). Which sounds like a lot, but when you consider that it should last at least 10 years, that's a nice little investment. The most expensive parts were the trailer, rubber liner and hardware... hinges, hasps, bungees, etc.

We would rather spend a bit of extra money upfront to protect our hens from predators, than to spend that money to replace killed chickens. You see, a chick is inexpensive to buy, but you have to feed and care for them for at least five (5) months before they start to lay eggs OR you have to pay the price of a full-grown replacement hen... not so inexpensive to replace a laying hen after all!


Cockerel Camper Construction

Experience is an excellent teacher. After learning from the experiences of others and combining that to what I learned the first year of our chicken adventure, I decided to redesign our "Chicken Tractor" for use with the cockerels. And, to make a distinction between the two (2) structures, another name was desired... thus was born the "Cockerel Camper".

Basically, what I learned from last year was that

1) cockerels don't spend much time roosting because they are more chick-like than chicken-like, but they DO eventually roost.
2) three feet tall is overkill for chickens.
3) you can make your mobile coop TOO heavy.

Therefore, the Cockerel Camper is (inside dimensions) 2-ft tall x 4-ft wide x 10-ft long. There are two (2) areas dedicated to roosting (3-ft long x the width) and two (2) areas open from bottom to top (one by the door and one half-way back to accommodate a feeder and waterer).

wood4campers

The deck of the trailer worked well as our base for constructing the two (2) Cockerel Campers we made this year.

First, I ripped all the lumber from 2x4 to 2x2.

Then I cut the lumber to size.

After that it was all about drilling and screwing the lumber together.

frametogether

Construction of the frame was pretty quick. Here you see the frame with the back set of roosting dowels in place.

I used 1/2 dowel rods (4-ft long, cut to fit).

Form follows function... as little wood as possible! Less wood, less weight.

framingdone The entire frame (with the exception of the pop-hole door. It will be located in the end closest to the camera.
sidingon

The completed Cockerel Camper.

I changed the area covered by the siding on the south side to 3/4 instead of 1/2 to give them more shade and still provide plenty of ventilation.

The unsided area is covered in 1 inch hardware cloth. This is one detail that I did not figure correctly. Since the inside dimension is 2-ft., we had to buy 3-ft. hardware cloth so there would be material to attach to the wood using U-nails. I'm sure we'll find a use for that really long extra 8 inches.

The top is hinged on the sides with 2-pieces that overlap in the middle... for a total of 4-pieces.

fromthepophole

1x2 strips were used to add the pop-hole. The door slides up and down in a groove routed into the strips.

There is a cross piece of wood (as in an "H") with a hole drilled through it that matches the hole in the door when it is closed. This allows for a long bolt to slide in, keeping the door locked down when closed and locked up when open (the door rests on the bolt).

meatbirdsetup
Above is the setup for the meat birds. Each day the camper moves to a new spot so the boys sleep on fresh pasture and the previous nights manure is left to the sun and the insects (whom the chickens enjoy snacking on). The entire fence area is moved as the boys exhaust it's resources.

Brooder/Hover

It occurred to me that I keep referring to my Brooder with it's Hover and I have not provided ANY photos of it. I thought I had taken pictures earlier and during construction... but alas, can't find them. So I went out today (June 2014) and took some so you can see it. It's not as pretty as it was when newly constructed... but that's what happens when you have lots of chicks pooping and raising dust. LOL

The beauty of this thing is in its functionality. It is supposed to accomodate up to 200 chicks. I think that is estimating a bit high, personally. I suppose if you don't use walls around it and the chicks have the entire barn or floor or whatever, then, I can see that number.

It certainly does leave the chicks to regulate their own temperatures; and supposedly, they feather out more quickly because of that.

We leave them in this until they are five (5) weeks old, then they go to a Cockerell Camper (with a heat lamp) on pasture with chicken fence inside the electric poultry fence until they are big enough to NOT be able to go through the electric poultry fence.

Viola! Here it is. So simple.

The plans for the hover (the inverted box in the center are from a 1942 design. Here is the PDF.

The walls are simply 4x8 sheets of plywood (1/4") cut the long way (at the lumber yard for free, by the way) in half. They are nailed into 2x2 linear board, 8 feet long (4 pieces, 2 feet each) to make the corners (and that also helps keep the chicks from killing each other in those corners, less chance of piling).

We added a cover this year because a cat had moved into the garage. Lucky thing too, because we ended up with three (3) turkey poults, who quickly figured out they could fly to perch on the top of the hover.

This is pretty simple, no plans for it. It is basically made like a room divider with hinges. We ripped two (2) 2x3s in half for the hinged pieces (made sure they mated). The outside boards (closest to us here) are 2x3s on edge so they hang over the side of the plywood. The last 2x3 is both ripped and cut into three (3) equal parts to make the cross ends of each hinged section. (That's four (4) 2x3s total.)

We used L brackets to screw the corners together (since we used 8 foot lumber, to go over the 8 foot plywood, there was some gap even with the intended gaps for the hinges).

We put a small block on the center division under each end piece to stop the whole thing from sliding left to right. AND eye screws on the underside of the outside boards.

Here is the cover open on one side... either or both could be open at the same time. We hung baling twine (orange) from a rafter with a piece of wire to catch the eye screws.

And, of course, the chicken wire (which is actually plastic) is stapled to each division separately. One (1) 36 inch wide by 24 foot roll was perfect. Just a little trimming along the length with a carpet knife.

This works REALLY well. I like the blocks that keep it from sliding left to right because occasionally I needed to slide it front to back and didn't have to worry about it shifting and falling in on the hover.

Normally the electric line goes through a hole in the cover and plugs into a heavy-duty extension cord that hangs from the rafter and has it's own socket independent of the building's lights.

Speaking of lights, you use two (2) porcelain receptacles for the heat lamps... although you could put an incandescent white bulb in one and the red heat lamp in the other. They are independently switched (see next photo) so you can control the temperature under the hover by turning on one, the other, or both.

We thought we needed a plate over the switches, but as you can see, it broke almost immediately. The chicks have no interest in the switch, but some do like to peck at the screws. LOL

HURRAY! I found the 'lost' photos!!

Here is the brooder with hover when it was brand, spanking new.

We put a heat lamp on one side and an LED white lamp on the other so we could add 'daylight' under the hover.
The new chicks finding food on the paper and figuring out to go under the hover for warmth.
Another shot from their eye level.

Shade/Cover Roosts (July 2014)

Seems like there is always something to add... this year it is a structure for the hens in addition to the EggMobile. As you may be aware, I used the Cockerell Campers up on blocks in the hens winter area. That pasture is quite large and I wanted to be sure that no matter where in the pasture they were, they could get under cover in the event of a hawk or other airborne predator. The hens also were able to spread out and get less "cooped up".

Anyway, they got used to having that other place to go to and since I had to use the Cocerell Campers for their intended purpose come Spring... I decided to build a light-weight roost that would serve as cover from rain, sun and airborne predators.

There are no drawings of this structure. It is very basic:

  • 8 ft. 2X4s = 6 (+1 if you don't have scraps for the legs and corner bracing)
  • Deck Screws
  • 10 ft. 1/2-inch electric conduit tubing = 7
  • U shaped connectors (can't remember what they are called) to attach the tubing to the wood)
  • a pipe bender
  • 10 ft. PVC tubing with caps on both ends
  • 8x10 tarp with grommets on all sides
  • washers for securing the tarp to the wood
  • zip ties for securing the tarp to the tubing and also the PVC tubing to the conduit
  • 4 chunks of concrete

The support 2X4s are full size, the roosts and ends are ripped in half, lengthwise.

Two (2) of the ends are screwed in to the support 2X4s to create a square, with the support 2X4s vertical to leave lots of room to screw the tubing connectors and tarp/washers into.

All of the ripped 2X4s are rounded on top to keep any edges from cutting into the chickens feet. They are placed on top of the side 2X4s for extra support and screwed in place.

This tubing has 5 bends. You can use any number of bends at whatever angles you prefer so as to create your desired roof shape, but they have to end up equaling 180 degrees.

A detail of the corner.

I used a length of PVC pipe (I know, I know, I hate that stuff... but I had a piece that was salvaged and better to use it this way than put it in the landfill.) as a ridge line for the tarp. This piece happens to be 10 feet long. Zip ties crisscrossed over the PVC tubing on several of the conduits to hold it in place (on TOP of the conduit).

The tarp fits great because I planned it that way... 8 ft lumber with 10 ft tubing. No matter how you bend the tubing, it will still be no more than 10 ft long. I picked a reversible tarp, blue and dark green. The blue does a good job of creating shade without much heat gain. If I want to, I can reverse the tarp for the winter so that the dark green side DOES create a warmer space beneath.

Zip ties through the grommets and around the end tubing.

Considering the thing is light weight and has a tarp (translation: balloon) over it, I opted to use 4 concrete blocks at the corners to help hold it down.

I also angle this structure so the open ends are at the Northwest and Southeast because our prevailing winds in the summer are from the Southwest.

Can you see the hens in the shade under the roosts?

They tend to use the roosts to preen more than to snooze. I suppose that is becasue the ground is nice and cool. Plus, the roosts are a foot off the ground which makes for a safe place to be.

Oh, the washers... they are big... about an inch across with a small center hole for the screw. So the screw goes through the hole of the washer which then is on the outside of the grommet of the tarp and the whole thing is screwed into the wood. This is helpful to keep the grommet from coming off the screw.

The umbrella? OK, that is actually a novelty hat. I like to put a cover over the waterer to reduce algae and heat gain. I was going to buy some extra feeder covers (those green "hat" things), but they want $30+ apiece for them. I like to think outside the box and went looking for a less costly alternative.

The novelty umbrella-hat works well in little to no wind, but it comes off in high winds. Not a big deal to put it back on... haven't lost one yet (of course, if I know a storm is coming, I remove it). And at $7 each, it's a great alternative.


HOW TO BUY PLAYHAVEN FARM LLC'S EGGS

You can buy eggs by getting on the Eggs List. Go to the page devoted to Egg Sales by clicking here.

HOW TO BUY PLAYHAVEN FARM LLC'S MEAT BIRDS

Meat chickens are ONLY sold through subscription/pre-orders and orders must be received prior to processing. Go to the page devoted to Meat Birds by clicking here.



We started this chicken adventure in 2012 and there is a separate page for that portion of the story
(click here for how we got started).

To follow along the continuing adventure (2013), a page has been created
(click here for the continuing adventure).

And, for the CURRENT adventure (2014), yet another page has been made
(click here for the CURRENT adventure).



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