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Our mobile coop experiment for steep terrain version 1.0

 
pollinator
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Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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So a while back I wrote a post about wanting to build a mobile coop that was suitable for our incredibly variable and steep terrain.
Most mobile coop designs out there have wheels under them and are usually quite wide, making them perfect for more or less even ground, but unpractical and potentially dangerous on steep terrain (imagine a coop on wheels rolling unhindered down a slope!!).
In my previous post I was considering making a double decker chicken coop with a narrow wheelbase, at least allowing us to navigate the narrow pathways that serpent up the various slopes. But that idea brought with it lots of top-heavy designs that would have likely been too easy to top over. So in the end we scrapped the whole wheel-base idea and reverted to a simple structure that can be carried by two persons, taking some inspiration from litter designs from over the world.

The resulting design was a skeleton like structure with mesh bottom, very light boarding, removable inner structures and roof, that is light and maneuverable enough that me and my husband can easily cary the coop to a new location each month or so. We've been using the coop for three months or so now and I thought it would be interesting for you fellow permits living in hilly terrain to share some of my observations. The coop is still a work in progress though, so we are constantly adding/removing features and improving on the build
Below you can find some notes about the coop, how it functions and keeps up with the weather, and what I would change in future designs.

Pro's:
-Very light structure, could be carried by two small females (me being one of them!)
-Removable roof and internal platform reduce weight even more and allow easy cleaning and repairs
-Mesh bottom and windows allow for good ventilation: a bonus in our humid location and hot summers
-Very cheap construction. The skeleton structure could be made for around $15. The boarding was the most expensive part for us as we wanted something that looked pretty and natural, so we paid about $60 for the pine boarding. But this could have been replaced by any other kind of sheeting material available
-Houses up to 6-7 chickens depending of the breed
-Very manœuvrable to move the structure over uneven ground. We have successfully carried the coop on 50% slope, a narrow beam across a river. Just make sure to wear good shoes that provide grip so you don't slip!
-The mesh bottom and mesh window allow for the person carrying the coop in the back to look through the mesh screen to see his/her feet. So this person can still see where they are going/ positioning their feet in a sure way. The front person doesn't have this problem since they are looking in the other direction.
-The front panel opens completely, allowing for easy cleaning and acces to the inside.
-The side panel opens as well, giving access to the nesting boxes
-Removable nesting boxes made out of crates allow for easy cleaning
-Mesh bottom means less poop in the coop!
-Enough height in the coop that we can add a thick layer of hay/straw in winter for them to walk on.
-Coop can be easily used in combination with electric netting.
-Your chickens will look like Chinese royalty when being transported in this design!

Con's:
-Current build of coop means we need to first build a quick level platform with a couple of bricks and 2 planks to have a level spot to put the coop on.
-The coop alone would not be bear proof at all due to the light build. Luckily we don't have bears so that's not an issue, but relevant for anyone wanting to make one for themselves.
-You always need two people to move the coop.
-The coop can only house a small flock. A larger design would no longer be practical to move in this way, due to being too big/too heavy to transport safely across uneven ground.

What I would improve in future designs:
-Current walls are single walled. In the future we want to have internal paneling as well to allow for some space between the panels that we can fill with insulating materials
-Don't use nails!! Only screws!! Our mistake was to attach the outside boards with nails to the structure. Due to rain and snow the boards warped and wiggled themselves loose from the nails. Replacing all the nails with screws more or less solved the issue.
-We need a better roof. We used the leftover wood boards with a plastic backing to make the current roof because we didn't have anything else at the time. But a removable lightweight metal roof would be a better solution
-The internal platform that functions as a roof for the nesting boxes and an extra platform for the chickens to sit or access their roost is a poop trap! We would need to make a system where we can cover the platform with bedding material that they can't easily kick off, but is still easy to clean.
-The large mesh window will need a panel that we can use to close off most of the mesh in colder times, currently using a piece of leftover styrofoam.
-Would curtains be a silly idea to attach in front of the mesh, still allowing for good ventilation, but giving the chickens a bit more of a sense of protection? I feel that given that their roost is at the same level as the window, the chickens could feel more exposed, less safe? We have been using an old blanket to hang over the window on windier days to prevent draft.
-Making legs for the coop that can be individually regulated in height, so that there's no more need to build a level platform first to put the coop on.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on our coop experiment!
IMG_4698.jpg
Our MMC - Mobile Mountain Coop version 1.0
Our MMC - Mobile Mountain Coop version 1.0
IMG_4161.jpg
Basic skeleton without reinforcements
Basic skeleton without reinforcements
IMG_4674.jpg
Side door allowing access to internal nesting boxes
Side door allowing access to internal nesting boxes
IMG_4713.jpg
Inside view
Inside view
IMG_5793-2.jpg
Moving the coop!
Moving the coop!
IMG_4703.jpg
A window with a view
A window with a view
IMG_4861.jpg
Side paneling warping due to humidity and wiggling free from the nails - mistake on our part!
Side paneling warping due to humidity and wiggling free from the nails - mistake on our part!
IMG_4857.jpg
The coop on one of our terrains.
The coop on one of our terrains.
 
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Awesome! First off, I'm a firm believer that everything in a chicken coop should be easy to remove for cleaning and I also totally agree that it's worth screwing projects together because then they're easy to unscrew to fix!

Legs: Where we live, there's a type a square metal tubing that comes in two sizes so that one nests inside the other and the municipality uses them to mount road signs so they are easy to adjust for height and to remove the top section for sign maintenance. Hubby bought some at one point to attach to a trailer so the trailer wouldn't tip if it wasn't attached to a vehicle, so it's fairly sturdy, but I don't know if it would be sturdy enough for your needs. At the very least you might need 6 legs rather than 4 and you would likely still need something on the bottom of each so they don't sink in. (Telespar made by the Unistrut Company)

 
S. Bard
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Hi Jay,

That's a good idea for the legs. I haven't seen those around here yet, but I'll keep my eyes open! Thanks!
 
Jay Angler
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S. Bard wrote:That's a good idea for the legs. I haven't seen those around here yet, but I'll keep my eyes open! Thanks!

It occurred to me later, that if you always orient the same side facing "downhill", you might get away with fixed legs on the uphill side, and only need sturdy telescoping legs on the downhill side.

Yes, I realized you live no where near the West Coast of Canada, but it's more the idea that matters - yes, keep your eyes open for anything that can work that way. I'd suggest the gizmos that people add to trailer tongues with a crank that adjusts the tongue up and down for ease of hooking a trailer up to a vehicle, but those things are really heavy and would be more complicated to attach to your coop.

Would recycled car jacks do the job? A car junk-yard might have a surplus of those at an affordable price? They would be carried separately, but you might have to put wood supports on your coop to make sure they can be attached with a pin so they stay in position when in use. Your poor chickens would not be pleased if a storm tipped it off them.

I'm really just trying to think outside the box - your photo shows concrete blocks, so they aren't light to carry around either!
 
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Would recycled car jacks do the job?

Many of the older European had a jack that fit in a socket on the bottom rail of the car, they might work.
My chicken tractor works on a slope because it is long and narrow and low the plastic or metal  roofing determines the shape and size. It is about one meter wide and high and three meters long. The wire mesh floor is only on the roosting end with a wire wall and gate opening to the rest of the enclosure. So I can lock them in there when moving longer distances but I don't bother in the daily move. This narrow design fits between my rows of berries and trees running north and south on a slope about half as steep as yours. The wind and rain most always come from the south so only the roosting end needs a solid wall and it has adjustable lawn mower wheels under it There are loop handles on each end for carrying it but in most cases I just pick op the light end ad wheel it along.
 
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