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Chicken winter greenhouse

 
steward
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Hello friends, I think I've posted about this before but I'm not sure I've fully described it.  This is a protected place for my birds to spend their time on cold winter days.  It was inspired by the wonderful work of Sean at Edible Acres.

My 16 birds have a nice pallet wood coop that is 8x10'.  There's an automatic door to let them out and lock them up.  The door opens up into a covered run (greehouse) that is about 16' long, 8' wide and 7' high.  There's a human operated chicken door at the end of the run to let them free-range.  All summer long I let the birds out whenever I get around to it and close it after dusk.  If I can't, the automatic door keeps them safe.

The plastic on the greenhouse rolls up on the south side in the summer.

The run is a multi-function space.  The long north side is a series of pallets standing on edge.  Big odd-ball sized pallets I get from a local business.  They wrap around the west side to the storm door that gives me access.  The pallets are there to give me more working height in the coop and to have a place to lean compost up against.  In the fall I collect 50-100 leaf bags and put the contents in the run.  I have a board running down the center (on edge) a couple feet off the ground.  The leaves all go on the north side of the board and are piled up to the ceiling.  All winter long the birds dig through the leaves and poop on them.  In the late winter the leaves start composting and giving off some heat.  By late spring the pile has reduced by 2/3rds and I can scoop it out for a rest in the garden compost bin before using.  I got about 4 cubic yards of chicken compost from this system last year.

This year I started adding 10 gallons of coffee grounds to the pile (dug in and mixed with the leaves) every week.  They started the composting process shortly after adding the grounds and were hot even through the polar vortex.  So even though it's 2 degrees in there, the birds have warm feet.

Later last winter (when I wanted to get/keep the pile cooking), I'd dig a hole in the pile and throw in some wheat kernels.  The main reason was to aerate that section of the pile.  By the time I worked my way to the end of the pile and returned to a given spot, the wheat had sprouted and the girls got a green treat.  The vertical board tends to keep the pile of leaves/compost to one side so I can walk the length of the greenhouse.  I periodically pitchfork up leaves from the ground and put them on the pile.

I suspended some hooks from the ceiling that I could stab apples on.  They were high enough that the birds couldn't peck them without hopping.  It was like chicken tetherball and the apples lasted quite a while before getting eaten.

I sited the run/greenhouse under a big white pine.  This way in the summer it's shaded and in the winter it has good sun.

I'm sure there are further improvements or adaptations to make this work in many other ways.  For me it gets the chickens outside during our long cold winters and gives me a lot of good compost come spring.

The last picture is of the pile as I removed the compost in spring.
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gardener
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That is a great system.
 
pollinator
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I like your setup very much!

At a previous place we built a sun shed / chicken coop that worked pretty well for a small flock of chickens. The setup had its pluses and minuses, and had I stayed there I would have tweaked it significantly - a significant part of the problem was the design of the sunshed itself - I would never build one that way again - live and learn. We followed a blueprint we got at a home improvement center. The way the glazing was set up was designed to be high maintenance, to catch water at the bottom, etc. Though we kept adding ventilation, it was also not really designed as a plant growing house, and ventilation was another constant battle. It was an attractive design, but flawed for the purposes I used it for.

Our current chicken house is built on the south end of a barn. On the south wall there is a sally port into an enclosed, roofed chicken yard. There is more unenclosed space along the south side of that barn, where I currently have my composting set up. I want to put my new greenhouse there, and build the greenhouse immediately adjacent to the roofed chicken yard, so that I can allow the chickens into it during part of the year. Probably, the project will mean a rebuild of the chicken yard so as to match up rooflines between greenhouse and chicken yard. It’s a big project - one reason we haven’t done it yet! 😸

Anyhow, I like yours very much.
 
pollinator
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Mike, i am excited you implemented that system, I watched the videos and have been trying to figure out whether it would work here. I think it would with some modification for warmer areas. Edible Acres is great.

The chickens here are mobile, but that gets to be a pain when we start freezing, my automatic waterer broke. It is really only tough for maybe three months here (mid-Nov through mid-Feb), but I might make one of these right next to the Back to Eden gardens and let them live in there during that time. Just like Shawn I think they would have access to the old coop to lay in (hopefully) but have a warm party zone with lots of goodies, and a big scratching area for the warmer days.

Thanks for the pictures and information.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks everyone!  I really like how it's attached to the coop.  Then it's a protected run in the summer if we're gone for a few days (just leave them locked in).  I haven't figured out how to do a full Edible Acres system with feedstock going in and compost coming out.  I'd also have to import a bunch of scraps to make that happen.  I am getting two buckets of food scraps a week that I put in there for the birds to pick over and to turn into compost.  But that's a far cry from what Sean is putting in.

Next year I may try to figure out how to store extra leaf bags.  Then in late winter I can add 40 more bags to make even more compost.
 
pollinator
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Thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten the details, and this year being the first year I decided to keep chickens over the winter the usual questions cropped up: Keeping the water from freezing, and clean, but especially keeping the litter clean. I've installed a flat panel heater above their trough. It keeps them warm without getting them overheated and best of all, they cannot jump on top of it or poop there. But now that they are comfy, they may not want to go out as much.
I've used a push type shovel to clean up their yard outside, but that got old really fast.
I've cleaned their litter twice using the push shovel: I'd shove it under the litter, then pull it wherever I wanted it to feed some trees in the yard. Well, 2-4" of snow, no problem. Easy Peasy. Now we got more like 6" and are due for perhaps another 10", and that just will not work. Too late to fix it now. I'll just have to suffer
They are pretty good about keeping the poop under their perches but I was really looking for a winter run I would not have to shovel and where I could toss kitchen wastes, manure, leaves [Wow! you got a lot of leaves! How did that happen?]
Yep. Something just like that. Something I could open in the spring/ summer/ fall but keep winter tight too.I'll start to start looking for pallets in good condition. [Home Depot?, Lowes?]
 
Mike Jay
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Yes, with this system, the chickens are outside (in the greenhouse) all day in the winter.  I get my pallets from behind a local manufacturer.  They have beefy, odd ball pallets that weigh about 100 lbs and are SOLID.  Maybe Lowes or HD would have them.  Menards doesn't give theirs away, they fix and reuse them.  Check out industrial parks, manufacturers, outdoor equipment retailers and other places where businesses get stuff in on pallets and don't sell stuff on the pallets.

I get the leaves in town.  The nice people there must know that I need them because in the fall they bag all their leaves up and leave them at the curb for me.  I just put some pallets in the pickup angled out and drive around filling it up.  With the pallets I can pile quite a few bags in there (tied down with a rope).  When picking up bags there are several things to keep in mind:
  • If there aren't any weeds in the lawn, I skip that house
  • If the bag is really heavy it could be mulched up leaves (good) or full of rocks and junk (bad)
  • If there are a lot of pine needles the bag will be heavy and I usually skip them since I have enough pine needles at my place already
  •  
    pioneer
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    Hi, Mike. Finally going to be moving up to the N. WI, Douglas County farm in a few months. Love Edible Acres and Justin Rhoades. Our awful clay ground needs LOTS of help!
    Was planning to free-range layers and CornishX, starting in our orchard with a "chick-saw" for overnight safety.
    After the meat birds are butchered, I was hoping to be able to overwinter a small movable coop for 8-10 layers, place it under a movable hoop house to slide along a future raised bed in the garden area.
    Leaves are NO PROBLEM! Got about 60 bags in 2 weeks while visiting last October - had to pass up much more because I wasn't able to use the pickup.
    My question is about predators. We've got coyotes, etc - some say wolves! Very rural surround to our 105 acres.
    Even if the chooks were safe overnight in a little coop, wouldn't the coyotes,etc try to tear thru the plastic hoop house or dig under? I was hoping to be able to move that hoop house along as the birds worked their magic.
    Very little "woman/man-power" is going to be available on our place, LOL. Trying to be as efficient and safe as possible. Looking forward to hearing any advice from the permie "hive-mind"!
     
    Mike Jay
    steward
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    Hi Mary Beth, welcome to the northwoods

    I'd think that a coop under a hoop house would be very nice for them in the winter.  It would be possibly warmer than the set-up I have overnight.  I rely on electricity to keep their water from freezing and the automatic door.  Solar doors are available but water could be a challenge.

    If you're planning to move a hoop house in the winter, I think you'll struggle.  We have two feet of snow on the ground now with 8" forecast for tomorrow.  Moving that snow to allow a hoop to move would require a lot of man/womanpower.  I'd imagine a stationary hoop could be big enough to cover a decent chunk of ground.  Fill it with leaves and compost them.  Then in spring, shovel the compost over to wherever else you want your beds with cardboard or other sheet mulching beneath it to kill the vegetation.

    My run/greenhouse is covered with chicken wire and then the plastic.  Around the bottom is 3' of hardware cloth with the edge buried a bit.  I haven't noticed any digging or attempts to get in.  I'm rural but there are plenty of neighbors and activity.  I've seen moveable hoops for chickens that are pretty predator proof.  I think some of their success is that they move from time to time.  Leaving one sitting in one place could encourage the foxes and weasels to check it out a bit closer.
     
    gardener
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    Beautiful chook home you have made there!
    I started with a chicken greenhouse and due to municipal interference, switched to a "chook wagon"

    Mary Beth If you really want to move the chickens around  over the winter,  I suggest two sets of hoops,plastic and  chicken wire.
    The chooks can live in one hoop house, doing their job.
    Set up the other on whatever patch of ground you want them to work next.
    If you move them every week,  you will have a week to set up their new home.
    During the warm weather you could  lay out where you want to go,  and drive rebar pins for the hoops to go over.
    Cap them,  with safety orange caps of some kind,  lest they get lost in the snow, and/or someone trips and impales themselves.

    As to storing leaves,  what if we built a hoop house,  and then built a fence as tall or taller than the hoop house along one to four sides ,then we pile leaves bagged or loose between the fences and on top of the hoop house.

    It's a mulch fence,  but it's also a shelter.
    The hoop house should have a mesh covering and could have a plastic covering as well, if you need it to be water tight.
    Maybe if we leave the bottom foot of hoop house uncovered we could draw leaves from there, with them sliding down as they are removed, a self feeding process.
    An A frame might be better than a hoophouse to be certain light would come in at the peak.
    A gambrel roof might be better still.
    If your going crazy,  build a "monitor " on top the first roof and add clerestory windows!

    OK,  dialing things back,leave the north side of the hoop house open at the bottom foot, enclose that side with fence, fill that space with leaves,and cover with tarps.
     
    gardener
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    That looks like a great setup. We could use something like that, especially on potential high predator days. It probably won't happen this year but maybe next. Perhaps if it also served as a greenhouse for plants I could justify the building time this summer or autumn. Currently we have more coop than chickens so it's not high priority. But if was for plants too ... hmmm. Stacked functions!
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks!  I had little mouse dreams about using it to start plants but I never pursued it.  The plastic is pretty dusty from the birds, I'd have to protect the seedlings from the birds and it barely exceeds the outside temp at night.  At least the way I built and situated it.  Being under the pine it starts to get shaded more and more as spring proceeds.
     
    Mike Jay
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    I received a question about the pallets and how to secure them.  They are very heavy pallets which helps in this situation.  I started with a row of cinderblocks just sitting on levelish ground.  My ground is sandy so frost isn't much of a concern.  Then I set the pallets on the blocks.  I started at the coop, attaching the pallet to the coop.  Then two more pallets got me to the corner and a shortened one got me to the door.  Then I ran some wood along the top to help tie them together and keep the middle pallet from bowing out.  And I braced the corner with a diagonal.

    I attached some more construction photos so you can see how it kind of went together.  The structural wood is mostly pallet runners which are 6' untreated oak 2x4s in this case.
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    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Mike Jay wrote:I received a question about the pallets and how to secure them.  They are very heavy pallets which helps in this situation.  I started with a row of cinderblocks just sitting on levelish ground.  My ground is sandy so frost isn't much of a concern.  Then I set the pallets on the blocks.  I started at the coop, attaching the pallet to the coop.  Then two more pallets got me to the corner and a shortened one got me to the door.  Then I ran some wood along the top to help tie them together and keep the middle pallet from bowing out.  And I braced the corner with a diagonal.
    I attached some more construction photos so you can see how it kind of went together.  The structural wood is mostly pallet runners which are 6' untreated oak 2x4s in this case.



    Thanks for the awesome pics, Mike. I keep gleaning really good ideas from you. Here, having the south side going all the way down with the plastic is much better than what I was thinking of doing: They will keep warmer this way! (I was thinking of having the short wall all the way around- Not as good.)
    If I have the time I might pour a little cement in those blocs so they don't fill with melting snow and perhaps refreeze and bust the blocs[?] This way, I might also be able to sink rebars in those cinder blocks and have a way to really fasten the pallets. Although your pallets look like a charging bull could not topple them over. Lol
    I'm going hunting for good pallets now.
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks Cecile!  I do love these pallets.  If you're ever in my area I can hook you up with as many as you can carry home.  I didn't run the plastic down the outside of the pallet, maybe I should have.  The holes are mainly exposed to the leaves on the inside.

    I roll that plastic up to the first horizontal board during summer so there's more ventilation and it's cooler in there.  They only hang out there in the summer if we're on vacation and we've locked them in.  
     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Cecile!  I do love these pallets.  If you're ever in my area I can hook you up with as many as you can carry home.  I didn't run the plastic down the outside of the pallet, maybe I should have.  The holes are mainly exposed to the leaves on the inside.
    I roll that plastic up to the first horizontal board during summer so there's more ventilation and it's cooler in there.  They only hang out there in the summer if we're on vacation and we've locked them in.  



    Yep. I'm not sure how many I could carry in my Nissan Murano but they sound like really good strong pallets. Maybe my hubby's truck, if I ask nice. I still would have to make several trips [I want a big yard].
    Rolling up the wall...I would want to do that too or they would be cooked in there. But then I have to abandon the idea of placing corrugated plastic panels on the south end. Where did you get your transparent plastic wall? Hard to tell but it looks like it has reinforcement fibers in it. Really good stuff. I may hunt for that too.
    Since my contraption will itself be *within* the present chicken yard, the short wall will give them a chance to go around the building and get shade on the north side when I let them out.
    As far as protecting the outside of that wall, This might be a good idea against the wind, which I would think can go in there easily, even if it is not too drafty? Would stop horizontal rain too.
    I've seen some super heavy tarps in, I think DePere, WI. They reuse billboard tarps, fuse 2 of them together. Nothing can go through these suckers! they are black or white on one side and on the other side, is the advertisement. I think I paid $50 for a 40' X 12' a few years back, delivered. They are heavy to handle too if you get a big piece. Much heavier than the standard tarps you can get at Fleet Farm or Menards of Home Depot. I cut them in long strips in between my strawberries. Not a weed went through!
    Hmmm. Nope. I can't find the one in DePere but here is one in MN that is pretty much the same thing:
    https://billboardtarps.com/product-category/billboard-vinyl/billboard-vinyl-13-16-oz/
    Those suckers are super heavy. I didn't see grommets on these but if we ask? maybe they'd install some. I'd love to have grommets: Much easier to nail/ screw/ bolt in place! I might make the whole north wall that way, in black. It would really concentrate the heat in the building and would probably come up to less  than these corrugated plastic panels 4' X 8' at $17 a pop.
     
    Mike Jay
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    The plastic I used was the cheapest 4 mil plastic from the paint department at Menards.  You might be seeing the chicken wire that's underneath the plastic.  When my local Menards did some remodelling I picked up a huge piece of heavier poly with reinforcing material.  I'll use that once this plastic gives up the ghost.

    I also put a piece of Dimpled Foundation Membrane that I got cheaply between the composting leaves and the pallets (and coop) so that the wood wouldn't rot.
     
    William Bronson
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    The best place I have actually scored heavy duty pallets at is behind a medical place that felt in scooters and chair ramps.
    The consistently have long pallets made of strong wood,, and they want you to take them.
    I have another place I found that advertised on Craigslist as an ongoing source,  but I haven't been by there yet.

    Menard's sells a 6mil plastic sheet with nylon reinforcement, supposed to last years, even on construction sites.
    It's less than $85.00 for 20'x50',not too pricey, especially  if it performs as promised.
    Solar pool covers are often considered some of the best available flexible glazing, as they are actually insulating.


     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    William Bronson wrote: The best place I have actually scored heavy duty pallets at is behind a medical place that felt in scooters and chair ramps.
    The consistently have long pallets made of strong wood,, and they want you to take them.
    I have another place I found that advertised on Craigslist as an ongoing source,  but I haven't been by there yet.
    Menard's sells a 6mil plastic sheet with nylon reinforcement, supposed to last years, even on construction sites.
    It's less than $85.00 for 20'x50',not too pricey, especially  if it performs as promised.
    Solar pool covers are often considered some of the best available flexible glazing, as they are actually insulating.


    Thanks for the great ideas. I had not thought about medical ramps for wheelchairs. That just might be the ticket if I can find a place like that. I know they will be sturdy!
    I saw the 6 mil sheet with nylon reinforcement. The Menards crew was using it to do their remodeling and it looked really nice but they disposed of it before I could get it. The kind I was considering is 12 mils, so it should be even stronger, but with that comes the weight and pulling it above the run might prove hard to do. Rolling it up and down with the seasons might prove a challenge. I'll check the shipping weight of both products and see.
    I'll have a look at these solar pool covers. The bubbly surface would add a little insulation too... but would the bubble catch on the frame? Hmmm...
    (I love this forum: Ask ye of little faith, and ye shall receive tons of very valuable info... for free!).
     
    Mike Jay
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    Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:(I love this forum: Ask ye of little faith, and ye shall receive tons of very valuable info... for free!).

    I think you pay it back with plenty of information of your own
     
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    I am looking at creating something similar to your chicken greenhouse. It will be an arc attached to the front (south) face of the coop with bare frame covered with vines in summer and greenhouse plastic over the winter. Did you have any issues with moisture or air quality as a result of having the coop and the "greenhouse" together? As I am currently in the design/build realm, any advice is appreciated!Thanks
     
    Mike Jay
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    Hi Laura, I haven't had any moisture or air quality issues that I know of.  I may not have mentioned it but I left the plastic spaced away from the greenhouse for the 6" closest to the greenhouse.  It's slightly visible in the third picture at the top of the post.

    My initial idea was to remove the plastic in the summer but I ended up not bothering.  If you have vines on there in the summer it could be a challenge to get the plastic on and off.  Probably depends on the pokiness of the vines.

    If you just use cattle panels the arc may be a bit low for working in.  I think that's what Sean on Edible Acres experienced.  I really like the head room I got from the one pallet high wall.

    I probably have more insights but it's easier to trigger them from questions.  So keep them coming
     
    Laura Trovillion
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    Thanks for getting back with me. The 16 foot cattle panels will actually be tied into the front of the coop at roof level which is 8.5 feet off of the ground so I will have plenty of head room. Because of this I am still a little concerned about air quality, although I am hoping the gaps around the doors on either end will provide enough ventilation. Otherwise, I am really excited to see how the hens and the compost work together generating heat next winter  I will post build pix as we go! Thanks again for the inspiration!
     
    Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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    Laura Trovillion wrote:Thanks for getting back with me. The 16 foot cattle panels will actually be tied into the front of the coop at roof level which is 8.5 feet off of the ground so I will have plenty of head room. Because of this I am still a little concerned about air quality, although I am hoping the gaps around the doors on either end will provide enough ventilation. Otherwise, I am really excited to see how the hens and the compost work together generating heat next winter  I will post build pix as we go! Thanks again for the inspiration!



    Hi, Laura. You might want to verify the 8.5' headroom. I'm only 5'3" and it is true that I was using the cattle panel over a 4' wide bed, so I lost 6"of head room [since I lost a good 6"planting the ends of the cattle panel 6" into the ground. I was sowing vines in that bed, and it was pretty tight slipping under, and it was only 4' wide.
    I saw Mike's set up and he has the right idea: Once you lift one of the ends of the cattle panel and fasten it on the top of the North wall, you get a nice amount of head room [Mike is a lot taller than I am and he was not stooping in there! With arms extended, I could not reach the ceiling].
    As long as you are in the planning stage, figure for a little more headroom than you think you will need: It would be miserable to operate in there if you had to duck to give them water, duck to give them food, duck to bring in leaves or litter and to take it out. Make the door[s] wider than you think you will need too: will a wheelbarrow have to pass through?
    The air quality is also dependent on the total amount of air they have to breathe and the amount of litter they have. Ammonia concentrates at the floor but there too, making the structure a little taller will pay off.
    Most chickens deal a lot better with cold weather than with hot, and they will benefit from plenty of ventilation, especially in the summer: It can get stifling hot under a transparent tarp, and lung ailments can happen easily in chickens. A little ammonia, a little overheating and before too long, they can be in a heap of trouble.
    I'm planning to install wiggle wire on the hip of the chicken winter run, high enough that they don't think they can perch there. Figure almost breast high. It is called plastic wiggle wire. That is what they do in the [very large] green houses to keep the tarp tight. You screw/ attach a board where you want the tarp lifted to, screw the channel on it, slip the tarp over the whole thing, tighten the tarp and install the wiggle wire: It will pinch the tarp in the channel and that tarp will not budge. You can use a long plastic pipe on the low end, and roll the tarp around it. When you need to lift the bottom, you can use a cross piece like a crank and roll it up, fasten the crank and they are OK for the whole summer, sheltered from the rain... Lifting the bottom will remove the ammonia too.
     
    Mike Jay
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    Hi Laura, it sounds like the one end of your panels will be 8.5' off the ground and the other end will be on the ground?  That will be plenty of head room.  It may or may not be visible in the pictures but I have two beams running the length of the greenhouse to help with snow load.  If I'm understanding your geometry correctly, those would be very helpful for you too (if you get much snow).

    Or do you mean the top of the bend of the hoops will be 8.5' high where they meet the coop?  

    Maybe a better way of asking is: "Does the ridge of the cattle panel greenhouse parallel the coop wall that it attaches to or is it perpendicular?
     
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    Mike Jay wrote:Hi Laura, it sounds like the one end of your panels will be 8.5' off the ground and the other end will be on the ground?  That will be plenty of head room.  It may or may not be visible in the pictures but I have two beams running the length of the greenhouse to help with snow load.  If I'm understanding your geometry correctly, those would be very helpful for you too (if you get much snow).

    Or do you mean the top of the bend of the hoops will be 8.5' high where they meet the coop?  

    Maybe a better way of asking is: "Does the ridge of the cattle panel greenhouse parallel the coop wall that it attaches to or is it perpendicular?



    Now you have me wondering if I read it right. I read 8.5' as 8 ft 6 inches, which if the panel is 16 ft long would basically be folded in half, so I think that maybe you are right and the shelter is fashioned more like a lean to with, like you say one end 8'6" resting way up the top of a wall and the other end on the ground. I didn't read it that way at first, but it makes more sense. Although  the top end would be resting very high, no? how far away from the wall can the bottom be before snow collapse the structure? I'm nil in math, so I'll just listen.
     
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    Sorry for the delay, got caught up with family here over the holiday! I have realized that I didn't explain very well. Here is a rough sketch of what we have in mind. The coop faces south, and the view in the sketch is of the east side, which is closest to the house. Snow load could definitely be an issue, was thinking about  horizontal beam supported by posts. Plastic on the structure only during winter months so I can grow crops such as winter squash, sweet potatoes and cukes on the framework to provide shade and food.

    IMAG1604_1.jpg
    [Thumbnail for IMAG1604_1.jpg]
    rough sketch of chicken greenhouse
     
    Mike Jay
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    Great sketch!  I have two 2x4 beams to help hold up my snow.  They're pretty wimpy.  I'd presume that you'll need the same number but probably beefier.  Depends greatly on snow load.  I clear mine off if it gets much over a foot of snow on it.  It's also under a huge white pine which blocks about half the snow (excellent sector analysis if I say so myself )

    The chickens may pick at the plants if they can reach them.  But you could always have a secondary trellis for the first couple of feet to keep the greenery a few inches away from the hoop until it's above chicken height.  

    Another thing I do (can't remember if I mentioned it) is I have strings with hooks hanging from the ceiling.  In the winter I stab apples and other things onto the hooks so the birds can play tetherball with them.  They're deliberately a bit higher than they can reach so they have more time to play.
     
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    Love the chicken tetherball idea!!! Especially for winter time entertainment! I am going to try to be a little bit scientific this first year and record temps outside and inside the tunnel/sunroom as well as in the coop. Curious as to which generates more heat. Also hoping to create a small area within the shelter to grow some kind of forage crop for the girls to have a treat! So many plans, so little time! will let you know how things progress!
     
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    Mike Jay wrote:In the winter I stab apples and other things onto the hooks so the birds can play tetherball with them.  They're deliberately a bit higher than they can reach so they have more time to play.



    I do the same with cabbage.  It's great fun for all involved
     
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    Laura Trovillion wrote:Sorry for the delay, got caught up with family here over the holiday! I have realized that I didn't explain very well. Here is a rough sketch of what we have in mind. The coop faces south, and the view in the sketch is of the east side, which is closest to the house. Snow load could definitely be an issue, was thinking about  horizontal beam supported by posts. Plastic on the structure only during winter months so I can grow crops such as winter squash, sweet potatoes and cukes on the framework to provide shade and food.



    Where are you at, Laura? If you think snow load is a concern, then certainly adding support is the right idea. I like the way Mike did his: He has 2 doors, on opposite ends of the coop with a beam on each side of the doors, resting on the top corners.  This way, the entire floor of the coop is available. [For your orientation, you would have one door to the East, one door to the West, according to your sketch] I mean, instead of adding supporting pillars that might stop him from bringing in loads of leaves/ other stuff in the winter.
    As far as using it to grow food in the winter months, I hate to burst your bubble but chickens will jump up quite high when they see something green growing there. [They are starving to get something green in the winter. They will go positively nuts trying to get at it!] Tuberous plants are doomed, I fear, because you could not raise them up on high. Cukes & winter squashes might work if you can somehow plant  them 5 ft in the air and keep the whole plant that high. The other solution would be to devote part of the floor to your crops and have some chicken wire so they cannot get to your crops until you want them to. But then you lose valuable floor space...
     
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    Hi Cecile, to clarify a bit, I only have a person door at one end.  At the other end (against the coop) the beams just sit on wood blocks.  In Laura's case she could do doors on either end or just a wall on one side to hold up the beams.  If it's a long enough greenhouse (in the E/W direction), a post or two in the middle may not be in the way too much.

    I believe the temperature inside the greenhouse in the dead of winter at night is barely warmer than the outside temp.  During the day it's nice and luckily that's when the birds are in there.  I initially had little dreams about growing stuff in there but I never pursued it and I'm not sure how it would work.  I'm sure there's a way but I think you need to build the greenhouse first and see how to adapt to it.  Laura's will be modestly bigger than mine with more room to move around.

     
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    Mike Jay wrote:Hi Cecile, to clarify a bit, I only have a person door at one end.  At the other end (against the coop) the beams just sit on wood blocks.  In Laura's case she could do doors on either end or just a wall on one side to hold up the beams.  If it's a long enough greenhouse (in the E/W direction), a post or two in the middle may not be in the way too much.
    I believe the temperature inside the greenhouse in the dead of winter at night is barely warmer than the outside temp.  During the day it's nice and luckily that's when the birds are in there.  I initially had little dreams about growing stuff in there but I never pursued it and I'm not sure how it would work.  I'm sure there's a way but I think you need to build the greenhouse first and see how to adapt to it.  Laura's will be modestly bigger than mine with more room to move around.



    Oops! OK, so wood blocks, not the door. I mis-remembered. My bad. It is still a great design IMHO, and I will do something very similar, with beams, like 2"X 6" [?] screwed on top of the doors. I started getting my things together, and goofy me, I managed to get way too many blocks. Don't ask me how I could make such a mistake but here I sit with a bunch of blocks [crapped on, by now, so un-returnable] that I may not be able to use! AAargh! (Told you I was dyslexic with numbers!)
    As far as the temps in there in the dead of winter, you are absolutely right, that is why I was wondering where Laura is. When we have close to -30 for a week, and no sun, like it is most of January, I don't know what crops would survive, assuming the chickens don't make a snack of it all. I would pretty much need to have a good source of heat to keep cukes happy. I'd have to figure out how much money I'd save. Probably not much, if I have to pay for the heat. Maybe radishes, peas and other cool crops that do not last long and can be repeated?  protect them with chicken wire off to one side while they are growing, then on harvest day, I'd pick up the peas and let the chickens have the vine, let them have the tops of the radishes? Same with turnips, carrots?
    I have just started lining up my blocks, going all around the perimeter [That is how I found out I had WAAAy too many]. I managed to get 5 cattle panels from Tractor Supply: They've gone up to $21 a pop!. And I ordered the transparent film to go over. It should be here in early May. They had a deal for a 20'X 20', sturdy transparent tarp, so that is what I ordered [Actual size, hemmed and grommetted is more like 19'6". With the 16' cattle panel, I will have an excess of  about 3.5', with which I intend to protect the North wall from rain & snow].
    Since mine has grommets every 24"or so, so I will be able to more easily screw the film to some wood all around. [With bigger screws and fender washers, that sucker would need the 4 horses of the Apocalypse to come off ... I hope] I saw also a track, screwed on a piece of 1"X 4" with wiggle wire inside to hold the film snug on the South side, about chest high during the summer and winter, so I'm looking for that now. At the bottom, on the South side, I will have either a 2"X 2", wood on which I could fasten the grommets, or a PVC pipe  then it should be relatively easy to roll up. When I do that, I will roll it curl under rather than curl up, so the rain/ snow does not accumulate and sit there. I think also that the chickens will not attempt to perch if it is curled under. I'm still working out how I would have some hooks that would swing out somehow and hold the /South edge up chest high in the summer. If you have ideas on that, keep them coming! I sure appreciate!
     
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    I think the best opportunity for growing in the same greenhouse the chickens occupy would be either starting seedlings (protected shelf up high) or sprouting grain for them to then eat.  In our climate (Cecile's and mine) that would be just a month at each end of the normal growing season.  

    Your right to curl it under.  I didn't do that last summer and it held a witch's brew of goo.  This year I curled it under.  I simply hold it up with a few pieces of electrical wire (with the plastic insulation on it) that is wrapped around the cattle panel on the underside and around a screw on the outside.  Easy peasy.

    If you're much smarter than me, you use a piece of pipe to roll it around and you get another piece of thin wall PVC and cut 40% of it away and use that to snap the tarp onto the pipe.
    20190426_174911_resized.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190426_174911_resized.jpg]
     
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    Mike Jay wrote:I think the best opportunity for growing in the same greenhouse the chickens occupy would be either starting seedlings (protected shelf up high) or sprouting grain for them to then eat.  In our climate (Cecile's and mine) that would be just a month at each end of the normal growing season.  
    Your right to curl it under.  I didn't do that last summer and it held a witch's brew of goo.  This year I curled it under.  I simply hold it up with a few pieces of electrical wire (with the plastic insulation on it) that is wrapped around the cattle panel on the underside and around a screw on the outside.  Easy peasy.
    If you're much smarter than me, you use a piece of pipe to roll it around and you get another piece of thin wall PVC and cut 40% of it away and use that to snap the tarp onto the pipe.



    I'm happy you uploaded a photo: I had forgotten about the 1/4"wire to keep rodents out. I was thinking my chickens could go out through the cattle panel, but then I started thinking. Hmmm... I'm not sure I want to feed all the rodents in the neighborhood.
    Your electrical wire might be a better idea than the snap PVC: It would keep the tarp drier [?] At this point, I was thinking of a hook that would swing out when I roll up the tarp for the summer, but I can't quite visualize how to fasten it or make it swing in and out. The electrical coated wire might still be the best idea. Simple ideas that don't cost much usually are. The PVC to hold the pole or the 2"X 2" with the tarp rolled over it might work if I did a small section here and a small section there. If it was just a larger piece of PVC on the whole length, then you would be back to fighting the green goo that would not doubt seep in [?] I like the snapping part though. I feel it would hold it pretty secure. Some sort of a cinch, like a belt could be fastened under the hip of the building and tightened[?] All good ideas. Keep them coming.
    Tomorrow, we are due to have really crappy weather. It won't be as bad as originally thought, but still rain and snow. Just not sure how much exactly. I'm still holding my poor bees under the shelter. They are really on their last leg and I fear I may have lost a queen. One colony is really active, the other 3 not so much. It is a little too early to requeen because there are no drones. I'm going to check if I could steal a frame of brood with very fresh eggs from the good colony. The weaker colonies might make their own queen, but one of the hives is getting really weak.
    I planted the 2 trees from the grafting session. They are both good and alive under the graft, but nothing yet from above it. I removed the buds under the graft in hope of pushing that sap to the scions. We'll see.
     
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    Mike Jay wrote:Thanks everyone!  I really like how it's attached to the coop.  Then it's a protected run in the summer if we're gone for a few days (just leave them locked in).  I haven't figured out how to do a full Edible Acres system with feedstock going in and compost coming out.  I'd also have to import a bunch of scraps to make that happen.  I am getting two buckets of food scraps a week that I put in there for the birds to pick over and to turn into compost.  But that's a far cry from what Sean is putting in.
    Next year I may try to figure out how to store extra leaf bags.  Then in late winter I can add 40 more bags to make even more compost.



    I just leveled my blocks all around, next to put a cap on, next the north wall. I didn't remember how yours was attached to the coop. Because of the edge of the roof of the coop, which would interfere, I had to offset the 2 buildings anyway[the coop proper and the winter run] with their axis forming a square angle. So I will have 2 people doors, one East, one West which is going to make it more expensive. If you recall, the coop runs North South.. and Shopko going out of business means that I may have found my 2 doors! Yippee. [I'll have to wait a bit until they are done with them though].
    I really like how you set up the scrap pile and I will copy that: Because I have 26 chickens, the leaves, poop and food scraps might compost a little faster. [I hope] I have not quite thought through the second chicken door yet [that will lead them to the outside]. What is your automatic door like? Was it hard to set up? Expensive? Do you need electricity to it or is it solar?
    Since I will have 2 doors, the brace/ supports for the roof will sit on the doors. That ought to be plenty sturdy.
    When I approached the local food store about picking up their wasted food, they told me it was illegal for them to give it away [!?!?!?] They say it has to go in a dumpster[re!?!?!?]. Was he pulling my leg? Maybe I should approach a restaurant? In the meantime, I'll have to keep picking up leaves in the fall.
    There is no way I could get that many food scraps like Edible acres is doing. They seem to be turning the stuff, a lot of it, every day! Their chickens look plenty happy with all that but Wow: That is a lot of work.
     
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    Hi Cecile, the door from the coop into the run is automatic.  I got an "add-a-motor" from Amazon to put on my existing door.  It runs on AC power and a light timer.  I don't love it.  I installed a Pullet Shut door for some friends and it seems like a much better (and more expensive) door with the options for solar and dusk till dawn programming.

    The door from the run into the yard is just a simple manual one.  That way the automatic door lets them into the run at 8 (the coop muffles the crowing) and then I let them out whenever the time is right.  They put themselves to bed and the automatic door locks them in.  Then I close the outer door around dusk.  If I forget, the chickens are still safe but they get out in the morning if I don't close it before 7:59.

    I've heard the same thing about not being able to give away expired food.  Not sure if it's a state law?  I'm sure it's to keep us safe somehow

    I get about 10 gallons of food scraps a week from a small operation.  It's nothing like Edible Acres.  But it helps.  Change of pace for the birdies.
     
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    As I'm looking for automated chicken doors, I'm shooed away by the price. Yikes! I'd have to sell quite a few eggs to pay for something like that. I'll keep looking but the manual door I have now suddenly does not seem so bad.
    We would like to go out more and having the chickens locked up automatically is certainly an appealing feature.
    The fence I have is quite secure, and I have not even seen squirrels venture in. At the end, I will have the coop, the run and the secure fence, so they should be OK. It is a little like Kachina dolls: A coop within a fence within a fence. That outside fence has 2 doors and I'm planning to let them out to forage farther, so they could have 3 "pastures" [The one they have now plus 2 more, one out of each door. For during the day, I have a very long snow fence, and I think they would stay in there: Stretched, it comes chest high, but they would not be safe from a passing fox.
    I also noticed the damage to some of my trees by the deer, so I will plant fence posts around the orchards and electrify with a solar fencer again. I had brought it down thinking the trees were tall enough. but these pests can stand on their hind legs to pluck the best morsels from up on high. The fence they are in now does not provide enough foraging, although there will be wild cherry trees and juneberries galore in a year or two. I'll be checking local restaurants for food scraps that I could bring in weekly. It is more work to bring them forage, but if it is cheaper... I'm all for cheap, if it works!
     
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