Brody said, "Keep the current coop for mobile summer use and build a stationary winter coop.
Lorinne Anderson wrote:I hear your concerns are a need for greater ventilation and height/headroom for the girls.
Without adding significant weight, and providing additional height/light/headroom could you not remove the existing roof structure and add a 6-12 inch band of hardware cloth (1cm welded avian wire) around the top that could be closed in with clear coroplast/greenhouse panels or Glas if too cold in winter. Reinstall existing roof system that you are currently happy with, just plop it back on.
I doubt the extra lumber would add much weight, and unlikely to push you past the point where it becomes unwieldy - I would guess only 10lbs.
Stacie Kim wrote:That was my thought, but I was thinking glass windows might be too heavy and breakable. I'm not familiar with the weights of greenhouse panels. My thought was clear plastic like shower curtains. They could be bungeed down to keep them from blowing in the winter winds.
Jay Angler wrote:I'm going to take a second approach: Build a second one like the one you've got and operate the girls as two smaller flocks that can socialize with each other during the day if they wish.
Reasons: 1) I agree - 7 chickens in 4x8 ft is plenty when you consider airflow/heat/etc.
2) Having an "older flock" and a "younger flock" allows you flexibility when you need to add new chicks to refresh things.
3) Some things don't scale down or up - I've met way too many "portable" coops that don't move regularly because as you identified, they're too heavy or awkward to move, or they only move easily on flat, level ground which can be hard to come by.
4) The only way I know of to go lighter, usually involves plastic and I'm trying not to end up with more of that as recycling it is really unreliable. One thing you could try if money isn't an issue, is look into aluminium roofing options. If you do decide to raise the roof a little, please listen to Lorinne and use "1cm welded avian wire" and *not* "chicken wire" as we've had too many things chew through chicken wire. If the roof blocks rain from getting in, with that density of birds, I doubt you'd need anything covering it - chickens can cope with cold so long as they're dry. Consider the weather when you choose their winter parking spot and plan now for wind abatement (start plants??)
5) With two coops operating independently, it gives you more options as to where you put them. One year I had a small group of ducks acting as my "front lawn fertilization committee" and it really helped to improve the soil and make it more drought-proof. However, our septic field is under there, so running birds there full-time is not a good idea. Similarly, I've got some fruit trees, and I was able to move one of my 4x8 shelters around their drip line easily which I couldn't do with a higher or bigger shelter.
Just my thoughts!
Anne Miller wrote:I like Jay's suggestion though if I were doing this I would:
Brody said, "Keep the current coop for mobile summer use and build a stationary winter coop.
Except mine would not be a winter coop. Mine would be a year-round coop.
I admit I'm *totally* biased to a portable system, but it's definitely more work. There's this attitude out there that "chickens are easy" and that "chickens don't need much" but many people who raise their chickens with that attitude don't seem to care if an eagle takes 1/2 of them or a bunch of new chicks die of cocci.
Brody Ekberg wrote: A permanent coop for the main flock and a mobile coop for youngsters, newbies or anyone injured or quarantined. But that presents new issues: twice as much chicken maintenance since there’s 2 coops and 2 flocks, and keeping chickens on the same ground year round really doesn’t sit well with me. I don't see how they wouldn’t ruin the yard, create an abundant parasite load in the soil and make for a stinking dirty mess. Unless their space was greatly oversized, which I would likely do anyway. Even now I usually give them way more than enough space in their runs.
Jay Angler wrote:I admit I'm *totally* biased to a portable system, but it's definitely more work. There's this attitude out there that "chickens are easy" and that "chickens don't need much" but many people who raise their chickens with that attitude don't seem to care if an eagle takes 1/2 of them or a bunch of new chicks die of cocci.
If you want to try a permanent structure I would take a page out of Paul's chicken book and design it so that you have:
a) the coop with a permanent guaranteed safe run that you can operate on a deep mulch system.
b) a minimum of 5 paddocks surrounding that first run with pop doors that can open and close to allow access at your discretion.
c) plant those paddocks with all sorts of chicken-friendly plants and ideally some things that attract and support insects as chickens are big on eating insects.
d) ideally, plant shrubs and trees that humans benefit from also +/- have an area that you can plant some annuals for human consumption so you can give that paddock a longer break from chickens and still have it productive. Example: if Paddock 1 has raspberry canes, don't let the birds in that paddock for a month or so while you get a crop off.
e) rotate the chickens from paddock to paddock at least weekly.
Even better, I'd also take a page out of my book - learn from your mistakes and make sure you build to be convenient for humans.
Things I really want: standing room for my height for the "people door" and for the main area with no low area out-side my arms reach. Having to kneel in poop to reach a scared, sick chicken is bad planning!
All nest boxes are individual 12 x 14" boxes that can be easily removed for cleaning or isolating a broody bird. (and not too many of them - 3 boxes for 10-15 birds is fine if the boxes are deep and chicken-friendly, but have a spare for back-up).
All perches are easy to remove for cleaning and oiling (I use whatever cheap veggie oil I can get, as it's not as if the birds are going to eat the stuff, but it smothers mites.) Then I let them dry/absorb in the sun for the day then put them back in.
The coop itself has simple lines with few cracks on the inside for mites and lice to hide. Every time I've met someone who was complaining their birds didn't like going "home" at night, a quick look showed a massive mite/lice problem. This can happen to anyone as they can be spread by wild birds. Having a coop that's easy to clean for when the inevitable happens, happens at the design stage.
Some of the paddocks might even have a "free-range" pop-door, if you're in a situation where you can let the birds go further for exercise and bug control. Make a "chunnel" system if you want to be able to guide the chickens to a specific area to range.
This is a lot of work up-front to get working, but once it is, it is far less work and the chickens will be genuinely able to forage for much of their food. Unfortunately, my land is not well designed for this, so I'm sticking with the lightest weight portable structures Hubby could design and build and they move every second day, but it's *huge* amount of work and we can only move them over grass/low forbs. A lady can dream though! I suspect my ducks will get a paddock system before my chickens do and hopefully that will be this winter, as moving their portable fencing is a drag... pun intended!
Brody Ekberg wrote:
I really dont like the idea of 2 separate coops/flocks just for the fact that it’s twice as much to manage. 2 feeders, 2 waterers, 2 places to scoop poop and change bedding, 2 coops to move around when its time... If I build a second coop, I’d rather it be stationary so that I can really build it well and convenient for them and us. Because the mobile coop is far from convenient for us. Its alright for them, but it’s main purpose was to be mobile and keep them sheltered, not be practical... I’m realizing that’s silly now that we’re a year in!
I do see all your points though and agree. Also, I could probably change up the roof to make it lighter. I could drop the roosts down a few inches, raise the roof a few inches and replace the 3 steel roofing panels with aluminum instead. That would provide more head space, room for ventilation and less weight. As of now, the roof is a full sheet of plywood with underlayment and 3 steel roofing panels. The roof is very heavy, so maybe changing that up would help alot.
Laurel Jones wrote:
My long term chicken plans include 1-2 mobile coops (depending on how many birds - the larger you get the more unweildy moving it is) and eventually once I work out the right location and build a really robust setup, a winter coop closer to the house with power run out to it and a covered run. This would allow for me to take advantage of the growing plants and bugs when they're available and eliminate the hassle of winterizing mobile coops, allowing me to have a heated water situation too. This would also allow me to either use it as a breeding pen or area to brood while the rest of the flock is out and about through most of the year.
Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Brody,
I will first correct your thought that the coop Justin had was not for Winter. It is not perfect, but if you don't have a more permanent structure like a greenhouse it can be used fine. He talks about how critical ventilation is, and how Chickens will do better with good ventilation and colder temps than warmer temps but no ventilation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCDdamA84Vk
Secondly, your coop does sound super heavy. Using 2x4's, 4x4's and plywood... those are all very heavy. I would recommend minimal 2x4's, using 2x2 or even 1" lumber for a lot of things. It needs to withstand being moved and to keep the chickens in. It doesn't need to be super strong. Hardware Cloth (chicken wire is not strong enough and the holes are too big) for part of the sides, and aluminum (although expensive) is WAY lighter than metal roofing. All of those could reduce the overall weight.
Another thing to think about is when you move your coop. I built a coop based on plans from Eliot Coleman. I like it ok, though I'd probably change a few things in hindsight. It is 6x6 with room for 50 chickens, and when it is empty, my 9yo can move it by himself with some effort. He and his 7yo brother can move it fairly easily. However, when our 30 chickens are in at night... and not in the middle to balance things... I huff a bit when I move it around. So if you have the fencing or chickens that don't stray, or are free-ranged anyway. Build a bigger one, and move it when its empty. Or, you might be able to get away building it bigger with lighter materials.
Good luck. Keeping chickens is an adventure, a learning experience, and very rewarding. Don't let perfect stand in the way of good. Having more people raising chickens in their backyard (even if its not "perfect") I think is a good thing. We all learn what works for our land, our chickens, and our lifestyle.
Chris Kott wrote:I love conversations like these.
My solution to large coop problems is twofold: use long handles on a coop with wheels on one side, such that you socket the handles when needed to move the tractor, and replace them backwards in their sockets for storage, and lean on the long handles to lift the coop and move it (so when you stop leaning, it stops rolling); also, landscape features such as crop/pasture/garden bed alleys sized for the length of the tractor, separated by rails on which the wheels (or alternate wheels) sit.
Such a design might move with a gentle lean on level ground. One could even install a winch, connected to a post at the end of the row, enabling a densely-stocked chicken tractor to be easily, even automatically, moved several times, just the distance of its width, such that the chooks get fresh grazing several times a day.
For the long-handled design, you'd still need large wheels to avoid ruts in realistic paddock situations. I would almost consider a doubled or fat-tire bicycle wheel setup.
I think about using tracks in situations where the ground might get seasonally muddy at bad times, or for aging gracefully into a permaculture retirement.
I second ideas that plastic is to be avoided at all costs. I am happy to know that strides are being made in not only the development of specific strains of fungi that eat specific formulations of plastic, but also different grown, processed transparent plastic alternatives. I don't see it as a reason to become jaded to introducing new plastic. However, if it's from a waste stream, and you can, say, take pains to secure the edges so as to avoid tattering and microplastics, you could get use out of it until it can no longer be used.
I was also wondering how translucent a product made from folded and woven transparent plastic glazing, specifically weathered and discarded. Imagine strips cut and folded in on themselves so as to hide vulnerable edges, then woven loom-like on, say, a cattle panel lattice. Would something like that have greater utility and durability than the same stuff used as plastic wrap?
As to any stationary coops, I know and respect Paul's opinion about the handling of animal excrement, and that if the structure moves regularly, you don't have to do that, and there's no smell, which tells you that's the right way to go. But I also feel that, especially in some areas of high-predation or extreme temperatures, having a stationary coop can have huge advantages. You can build out of masonry or earth.
One thing I would be especially aware of in their construction, though, is how they get clean. If I unfasten the roof assembly, stand it on end atop my compost pile, and give it a quick pressure wash, and then drive a front-end loader, or a mini garden tractor, or take two swipes with a shovel and a push broom, and it's clean, the ick of mucking it out is minimized. Same for if all the internal infrastructure can be pressure washed and left to dry in the sun.
Lorinne Anderson wrote:I saw a sweet adaptation to the laying box on a program the other day; for starters, it was not solid, but upcycled plastic "milk crate" type unit. This was mounted on a slight angle, with the lower 2 inches, on the back removed. The floor looked as though it was covered with astro turf type product.
The tilt and astro turf allows the laid eggs to gently roll outside of the nest box to a collection shelf, also lined with astro turf.
Please don't condemn the astro turf portion; not sure what it was (featured was a permie farm) and I am sure something such as felt could be used. But the key to me was the elimination of fishing for eggs from hens that often do not appreciate the intrusion; and the simple maintenance boxes like these would require. The reused plastic crates would easily hose/scrub off, and be less likely to harbor nasties (as wood may). Same for the matting, easily removed and cleaned.
The slope was less than an inch over about 6-8 inches...very slight, just enough for the eggs to leave the "box" and move to the "shelf" that was about 8 inches.
I’d be so worried about eggs smashing at first.
Yes, of course, and I accept that blame. In fact, i covet that blame. As does this tiny ad:
rocket mass heater risers: materials and design eBookhttps://permies.com/wiki/188812/rocket-mass-heater-risers-materials