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Pasture chicken coop v4

 
Posts: 13
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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When we lived in Oregon I had built some mobile coops for our laying hens. I didn’t have a whole lot to go on, but since we had no tractor, 4 wheeler, etc. it was important to make sure it was moveable by hand. Other things I wanted to incorporate: hold up to 30 hens, ample nesting boxes, poop falls through the floor to the pasture, secure at night so if a critter breached the electric netting I had minimal concern they would get inside the coop, use large enough wheels so that uneven ground would not be an issue. I had read Elliot Coleman’s chickshaw idea in The New Organic Grower and set out on a design derived from what he described.

The first version was basically a square box rickshaw, it was made of OSB, had a metal roof, and used wheels from a children’s bike. It worked pretty well until the rains rolled around and I learned that painted OSB still soaked up a lot of water. It got too heavy to move for one person. Back the the drawing board.

When it was time for version 2, i had just built a small hoop house (12’x15’) and I though “why can’t I plop a hoop house on wheels and instead of plastic, use metal roofing?” It wouldn’t soak up rain, would save significantly on lumber, and would be light weight. I mounted a laying box on the back with 6 divisions. The laying box design was not quite right and once again, rain showed the weakness. Water would come off the roof, go down the front of the boxes, and soak the material in the boxes, making a mess. I also upgraded to mountain bike wheels in this one. I ground out the middle of some metal T plates used for framing to act as axles. Not that strong so I had to double them up. On steep hills, they bent when loaded down with mature birds.

Version 3 mostly fixed the nesting box issue and instead of the T plates, I used 1/2” EMT sections bolted to the wooden fram as I found that the axles on the wheels slid in and were about the right size if I left the nuts on. Still a bit of a pain, but it worked. I still bent rims on occasion crossing contour on steep hills, but since what I had mostly worked, I though I’d focus on more pressing issues.

Well we moved to Missouri this year and I set about trying to figure out how to improve the design. I stumbled across a Justin Rhodes video where he showed his chickshaw v2 and he had a good wheel design. It was going to cost more than what I wanted to spend, but in the interest of time, I decided I would just try it and see. So I took his wheel design and combined it with my hoop house style and PRESTO! Version 4 was born. I have only been running it for about 3 weeks but so far I have no complaints. I moved the nesting box to be internal, made a bigger roof overhang, and went with a 4 ft communal nesting box instead of individual ones. I plan to add a trailer hitch to the front like he did later so I can move it long distances with the UTV, but should an emp  or something wipe out our ability to use it, it’s still moveable by hand. Plan for the worst case!

I had several people in Oregon tell me that I should sell them, even some strangers who pulled over to look at it. Recently some people here have told me the same thing, but most of those people didn’t keep chickens to my knowledge. So I thought I’d share some pictures and ask the question... is this something you’d consider buying? I think it would work well for backyard, homestead, or small farm. If so, what would you be willing to spend?

I haven’t calculated my final cost yet, I’d guess it cost me somewhere around $400 for all the supplies, though I do have some leftovers like wire for the floor.

Please let me know what you think. Thanks in advance!
Pasture-Chicken-coop.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop
Pasture Chicken coop
Pasture-Chicken-coop.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop
Pasture Chicken coop
Pasture-Chicken-coop-ramp.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop ramp
Pasture Chicken coop ramp
Pasture-Chicken-coop-with-roof.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop with roof
Pasture Chicken coop with roof
Pasture-Chicken-coop-laying-boxes.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop laying boxes
Pasture Chicken coop laying boxes
Pasture-Chicken-coop-egg-hatch.jpeg
Pasture Chicken coop egg hatch
Pasture Chicken coop egg hatch
 
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I think it looks great. The metal roofed hoophouse is a very good look and definitely does seem like something people would buy. 500 - 600 maybe. Not sure though. Keep up the great work
 
pollinator
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A total price of $600 with 1/3 of that for your labor/profit and the other $400 aka 2/3 for the cost of material, sounds very reasonable.

I wonder how hot it gets.
I wonder how easy it is for critters to rip off there heads from inside the coop at night.
 
pollinator
Posts: 405
Location: Vermont, USA
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I spent some time trying to figure out how critters would pull off their heads.  I guess that the wire on the bottom is 1" X 1"?  I think conventional wisdom is that half-inch, heavy gauge hardware cloth will protect them from almost anything, but I wouldn't use 1" x 1".

Heat is another interesting question.  Insulating the ceiling seems pretty difficult and awkward.  I would vote for shade, but then what's the point of a mobile coop if you have to move it to the shade?

But I love the design!  It looks quite nice, seems like the hens would be comfortable, and could be weatherized a bit more for our cold winters (it just needs windbreak on the ends, I think).  What are the dimensions?

Those bars across the floor are for the girls to roost on?  Mine prefer to be elevated (instinct tells them it's safer).  That would also be a big improvement in my book.

Nice coop!
 
A J Stevens
Posts: 13
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Michael Quartz wrote:I think it looks great. The metal roofed hoophouse is a very good look and definitely does seem like something people would buy. 500 - 600 maybe. Not sure though. Keep up the great work



Thanks for the feedback.
 
A J Stevens
Posts: 13
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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S Bengi wrote:A total price of $600 with 1/3 of that for your labor/profit and the other $400 aka 2/3 for the cost of material, sounds very reasonable.

I wonder how hot it gets.
I wonder how easy it is for critters to rip off there heads from inside the coop at night.



Thanks, your pricing method makes sense. I just may put out an ad locally and see if I get any bites.

Heat has not been observed to be a problem so far and we have had several days in the mid 90s. I think the reason for this is that the there is pass through ventilation at the peak of the and so nowhere for the heat to build up. The area above the nesting box is 1/2” hardware cloth and the same goes for the entire area around and above the door. I believe the light color of the metal is important too as I am not sure i’d Her the same performance if it was dark green or something like that.

I close the coop every night as extra protection. I have yet to lose a single bird to predators at night in the 6ish years since version 1 began. Whether that would hold true without being used in combination with electric netting is unclear. I had to take the netting down one year for about a week due to a large snow storm, but it didn’t seem like much wildlife was out and about so I don’t consider it a good test.
 
A J Stevens
Posts: 13
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Anne Pratt wrote:I spent some time trying to figure out how critters would pull off their heads.  I guess that the wire on the bottom is 1" X 1"?  I think conventional wisdom is that half-inch, heavy gauge hardware cloth will protect them from almost anything, but I wouldn't use 1" x 1".

Heat is another interesting question.  Insulating the ceiling seems pretty difficult and awkward.  I would vote for shade, but then what's the point of a mobile coop if you have to move it to the shade?

But I love the design!  It looks quite nice, seems like the hens would be comfortable, and could be weatherized a bit more for our cold winters (it just needs windbreak on the ends, I think).  What are the dimensions?

Those bars across the floor are for the girls to roost on?  Mine prefer to be elevated (instinct tells them it's safer).  That would also be a big improvement in my book.

Nice coop!



Thanks Anne! Yes, the bottom is 1” x 1”. The first version started with 1/2” mesh on the bottom and it was clear real quick that the manure was not going to fall through. It was a week before I had the time to fix it. That was NOT a fun job haha. The only thing I can think of that can breach both the electric netting and the 1” mesh is something from the weasel family, but I have never had one get in. I kinda expected they’d eventually find a way, but maybe it’s too awkward for them to or I have been incredibly lucky?

Agreed on insulating. If heat was ever observed to be a problem, I’d probably try to add shade cloth somehow. It just sounds cleaner. Past versions have not seemed to have a problem with the cold as at the chicken level there are 3 solid sides. I try to be mindful of orientation so that if there is cold or wet wind, it’s hitting the solid sides and not the door side. But I did make the door larger this go around (3’ x 3’) so when closed it gives a partial 4th solid side. Maybe I could make some inserts to go on either side of the door in the winter to give them 4 solid walls at chicken level.

Inside footprint is 6’ x 6’ and the height is something like 42” (I don’t remember off the top of my head). Total length is 10’ when the handle is included and I’s say the wheels add about 8” - 12” to the overall width.

Yes, the roosting bars are across the floor and are about 15” off the ground. Making them higher is an interesting idea. I’d have to come up with a way to do that without adding too much weight since part of their function is to have more area to staple the mesh floor to. But if I could come up with a good design, they may be more comfortable and it would provide better predator protection. Thinking a raccoon could only reach so high through the mesh floor. That may open up the possibility for using it without the netting if one were so inclined. Let me know if you have any ideas. I’d probably need to be careful not to make them too close to the roof otherwise my heat observations may no longer be true. It would be interesting to put in a thermometer at various locations and see what looks like.
 
Anne Pratt
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, USA
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Oh yes, I’d forgotten about the Prime Directive (manure falling through)!  I guess the main reasons for 1/2” hardware cloth are weasels and raccoon’s little fore paws. They have a nasty habit of pulling off their heads. The electric net probably helps a LOT.

I didn’t realize the roosts were already pretty high off the ground (likely due to their proximity to the floor). I suppose the other way to protect the hens from beneath would be a hardware cloth fence around the base, which would take a miracle of engineering given that this must roll over pasture in the daytime, but protect the hens at night.

I’m a little extra sensitive to the predator question. Since March we had a bear tear the door off the coop at night (got one of my four) and a coyote or fox take one from the edge of the woods in the daytime. With only two left we just got two more. And the coop has mega bolts on everything and we installed a long 2” x 4” bar across the door that goes in every night. Never had a predator all the first year. Mine free range in the daytime and (1) they love it and (2) they eat all the ticks. We aren’t willing to change that.

I realize there’s a solid wall when the door is closed, or nearly so. Depends on how cold the winters are, I suppose. They can’t have no ventilation, either, or the ammonia would make them sick. But not if the coop moves away from the poop!

Anyway, a great coop and looks very practical.
CE727338-32C1-49AA-B2BF-E7FAF05485F1.jpeg
Chickens and granddaughter!
Chickens and granddaughter!
 
A J Stevens
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Anne Pratt wrote:
I’m a little extra sensitive to the predator question. Since March we had a bear tear the door off the coop at night (got one of my four) and a coyote or fox take one from the edge of the woods in the daytime. With only two left we just got two more. And the coop has mega bolts on everything and we installed a long 2” x 4” bar across the door that goes in every night. Never had a predator all the first year. Mine free range in the daytime and (1) they love it and (2) they eat all the ticks. We aren’t willing to change that.



Sorry to hear about the predators. It’s a hard thing to deal with! Have you considered putting electric netting around the coop? You could open the net during the day and then close it and energize it at night. That way they still free range in the day. Premier 1 says it deters bears, but I don’t have a personal experience with that predator.  
 
Anne Pratt
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, USA
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You're very kind!

The coop is attached to our house (strange, I know, but it works well) so surrounding it with the electric netting or other fence is a bit awkward.  We have additional reinforcement (bolts instead of screws, additional lumber to strengthen access points, motion sensor alarms, and an actual bar for the door, like in ancient fortresses) and the bear hasn't come back.

And now I only let them stay out when I'm home, and trying to make as much noise and presence as I can.

I still think about that electric fence, though.
 
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