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Interested in ideas for siding a mobile chicken coop

 
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I bought this beast of a trailer at auction over the weekend.  It's homemade, assembled almost entirely out of angle iron and square tube.  It's extremely robust.  My intent is to turn this into a mobile chicken coop.  I'm going to tear the wood floor out and put in expanded metal mesh or 1/2" hardware cloth if I can't find a decent deal on mesh.  For the walls, the simplest thing seems to be to just attach sheets of some siding material from the inside to the frame.  Material choices that I'm currently considering include some combination of corrugated metal roofing, corrugated plastic roofing, and double wall corrugated plastic(like the type of stuff that yard signs are made of).  The area that we are in tends to get some amount of wind, and the tractor will be spending a decent amount of its time near the ridges of hills.  Is there a material that I should be considering that I'm not?  I'm concerned with longevity, ease of install, cost, maintenance, and not getting ripped off in the wind.

Thanks!

 
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Hi Laurel,
As to the floor, let me HIGHLY suggest that you go bigger than 1/2". I would suggest at least 3/4" or even 1". I put half inch in the bottom of my moveable coop and there was SO much manure that was too big to fit through. With the feathers and straw from the nesting boxes, it made a mat on the floor that I had to spray out quite frequently to keep it clean. I believe a larger sized hole would have reduced this.

As to the siding, I have heard good things about the weight and longevity of aluminum roofing, but I'm not sure about the price.

I wouldn't be too worried about the wind as long as you attach things properly. That looks like a pretty beefy trailer. Good luck with your chickens!
 
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I love the idea of converting the trailer to a chicken tractor.  If I were siding it, I would use a layer of OSB or some sort of wood on the inside.  If you use just metal, it's going to be very loud in it in the wind, rain, or hail and I would be concerned about stressing the birds unnecessarily.  I know wood products are very expensive right now, but you will have this for a long, long time, so that would be my suggestion.
 
Matt McSpadden
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Hi Trace,
I think you have a good point on the noise levels, but I would suggest only using solid wood for the projects. Plywood, particularly OSB, has a lot of places for water and bacteria to get into. Then it rots and provides breeding grounds for nasty stuff to make the chickens sick. Solid wood will rot too, but much slower. Kind of like how you can eat a steak rare because its solid (usually) and need to be more careful with hamburger because there can be bacteria all inside.
 
Trace Oswald
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Trace,
I think you have a good point on the noise levels, but I would suggest only using solid wood for the projects. Plywood, particularly OSB, has a lot of places for water and bacteria to get into. Then it rots and provides breeding grounds for nasty stuff to make the chickens sick. Solid wood will rot too, but much slower. Kind of like how you can eat a steak rare because its solid (usually) and need to be more careful with hamburger because there can be bacteria all inside.



Hey Matt, I didn't mean to suggest using OSB as the siding, I meant use OSB as an inside layer underneath the other siding materials mentioned.  My chick coop roof is osb on the inside with corrugated steel over that.  All screw holes are caulked to keep moisture out.  I agree with you 100% that it should not be exposed to the weather or to moisture.  I also agree that regular lumber is better if cost isn't a factor, and you can figure a way to stop drafts.  
 
Matt McSpadden
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@Trace - I'm sorry, I misunderstood. I like the idea of having it as a second layer. Helps with strength and noise.
 
Laurel Jones
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Laurel,
As to the floor, let me HIGHLY suggest that you go bigger than 1/2". I would suggest at least 3/4" or even 1". I put half inch in the bottom of my moveable coop and there was SO much manure that was too big to fit through. With the feathers and straw from the nesting boxes, it made a mat on the floor that I had to spray out quite frequently to keep it clean. I believe a larger sized hole would have reduced this.

As to the siding, I have heard good things about the weight and longevity of aluminum roofing, but I'm not sure about the price.

I wouldn't be too worried about the wind as long as you attach things properly. That looks like a pretty beefy trailer. Good luck with your chickens!



Thank you for this.  I guess my concern is that according to a neighbor, we have mink in the area.  While the chickens will be ranged in an electric net during the day, I suspect a motivated mink could figure their way through one of those at night and I want to be sure the floor is small enough to prevent those jerks from making their way inside.

I'll look into aluminum siding, I know the salatin style broiler tractor requires aluminum so we may end up needing to find a source for that eventually anyhow.  
 
Laurel Jones
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Trace Oswald wrote:I love the idea of converting the trailer to a chicken tractor.  If I were siding it, I would use a layer of OSB or some sort of wood on the inside.  If you use just metal, it's going to be very loud in it in the wind, rain, or hail and I would be concerned about stressing the birds unnecessarily.  I know wood products are very expensive right now, but you will have this for a long, long time, so that would be my suggestion.



I hadn't considered the noise that we may experience with it.  Perhaps I'll get it built with the metal siding (I'm really trying to keep weight down, especially higher up on the trailer), and if it ends up being noisy in windy conditions, I can spray the inside of the metal with something like truck bed liner to deaden the noise.
 
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Any kind of engineered wood product or plastic can be chewed by rodents.  Solid wood can't, and neither can sheet metal or small-hole metal mesh.  If you have metal mesh with big holes in it in the floor, snakes can come in.  We ended up building our coop out of solid wood framing and corrugated sheet metal, including on the floor.  We made a big "door" on the back that we can open up to let out all the hay and manure when we hose it out.  Your trailer gate could work the same way.  Just be careful not to park it in the sun because the chickens can roast inside if they're not let out early enough in the morning.  That could happen if you build it out of plastic or OSB sheeting, also.
 
Laurel Jones
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Jennifer Davis wrote:Any kind of engineered wood product or plastic can be chewed by rodents.  Solid wood can't, and neither can sheet metal or small-hole metal mesh.  If you have metal mesh with big holes in it in the floor, snakes can come in.  We ended up building our coop out of solid wood framing and corrugated sheet metal, including on the floor.  We made a big "door" on the back that we can open up to let out all the hay and manure when we hose it out.  Your trailer gate could work the same way.  Just be careful not to park it in the sun because the chickens can roast inside if they're not let out early enough in the morning.  That could happen if you build it out of plastic or OSB sheeting, also.



Thanks for the snake consideration.  I guess I'll have to look into whether any of the snakes in the area are ones I should be concerned with predating our chickens, and at what size that's a concern.  

Hopefully the automatic coop door will help, and I haven't worked out the design yet, but I fully intend to have windows that can be opened, even if it ends up just being panels that get swapped out seasonally, so they get a cross breeze during the summer months.
 
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I deal with problem wildlife; my suggestions are based on predator security and durability, rather than "chicken needs" so I may well have missed stuff critical to chicken happiness.

I may have misunderstood; you intend to attach panels on the INSIDE?  I would not do this for several reasons.  The frame cannot provide near the structural integrity when panels are attached on the inside; plus rain etc, would not be channeled out of the trailer.  In my opinion, all siding must be attached to the exterior.

Wood is heavy, rots and can be chewed, personally, I would skip the wood wherever possible.

Siding: metal roofing panels would be ideal, as they are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and critter proof.  If you can find used roofing, or metal siding from a barn teardown, you can likely get it for free.

Hardieboard (concrete siding panels) would work, but might be heavy and/or pricey, and climbable.  https://www.jameshardie.ca/products/hardiepanel-vertical-siding.

In my experience plastic, PVC and acrylic panels are pricey, have a fairly short lifespan, and a tendency to get brittle. If you are using this I would stick to a single panel or two on the roof that is easy to replace; make it the absolute last piece(s) attached so it is easily replaced without dismantling the entire structure.

Mesh: I would avoid using this on the floor or lower sides as even if the predators cannot get in, they can still harass and possibly grab or nibble chickens through the wire.

NEVER use or rely on "chicken wire" as a defensive or protective mesh to repel predators; it is only for containing chickens.  Expanded metal or Hardward cloth (galvanized 1cm mesh) of the thickest material is the only mesh worth investing in.

It might be worth considering going solid for the first three or four feet, then hardware cloth for a foot or so "below the roof" with a lift up/drop down panel that could close in winter and open in summer to provide extra ventilation.

Ventilation: I highly recommend hardware cloth on the exterior, mosquito netting on the internal side of all ventilation.  Never staple mesh, washers and screws or sandwiched between two pieces of wood.  The mosquito mesh ensures no wasp or other insect taking up residence inside.  I know chickens like bugs, but YOU will not appreciate a wasp nest up in the eaves!

Always ensure you have adequate insulation/ventilation.  Not only do you want to avoid ammonia build up but a sealed box in summer could get too hot; an uninsulated box in winter could be too cold.  If your climate is hot, you will likely want to create some sort of convection current that will draw ground air up, through and out the top.  BUT this may need to be "closed" at night or in winter, depending on climate.

Flooring: You may want to consider the "plastic wood" used for decks known as "composite planks" for flooring; spaced closely together it would be predator proof, allow ventilation, be sturdy enough to walk on and could be shoveled, hosed or pressure washed.  Although this stuff is pricey, with such a small area, the investment will likely pay for itself in functionality and longevity.  Combined with mesh below (at least 2 inches below planks, preferably 6), plank spacing could be as wide as an inch plus to cut costs and/or provide more ventilation.

Expanded metal openings are likely either too large or not strong enough, in my opinion.  What ever you use on the floor, keep in mind the effect it will have on fragile chicken feet (even with straw), you don't want foot sores or stuck toes.  Pay attention to how it will be attached and that the mesh is sturdy enough to support a human walking on it (how else will you properly clean it?), yet the holes are small enough to ensure against predators.

Doors: be they human access, chicken access or egg access, make sure they are truly secure; dog leash clips or other spring loaded hardware tend to be critter proof; latches, even padlocks can be puzzled out by animals like raccoons.  A simple screwed in eye hook on the door frame and door closed with a dog leash clip rarely if ever fails.  For long openings, the addition of a rod fed through eye hooks can be effective to prevent lifting or prying.

Wheels: you may want to consider no flats or solid wheels, tougher to work with, but worth it when you arrive in the back 40 only to discover you have a flat.




 
Laurel Jones
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:I deal with problem wildlife; my suggestions are based on predator security and durability, rather than "chicken needs" so I may well have missed stuff critical to chicken happiness.

I may have misunderstood; you intend to attach panels on the INSIDE?  I would not do this for several reasons.  The frame cannot provide near the structural integrity when panels are attached on the inside; plus rain etc, would not be channeled out of the trailer.  In my opinion, all siding must be attached to the exterior.

Wood is heavy, rots and can be chewed, personally, I would skip the wood wherever possible.

Siding: metal roofing panels would be ideal, as they are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and critter proof.  If you can find used roofing, or metal siding from a barn teardown, you can likely get it for free.

Hardieboard (concrete siding panels) would work, but might be heavy and/or pricey, and climbable.  https://www.jameshardie.ca/products/hardiepanel-vertical-siding.

In my experience plastic, PVC and acrylic panels are pricey, have a fairly short lifespan, and a tendency to get brittle. If you are using this I would stick to a single panel or two on the roof that is easy to replace; make it the absolute last piece(s) attached so it is easily replaced without dismantling the entire structure.

Mesh: I would avoid using this on the floor or lower sides as even if the predators cannot get in, they can still harass and possibly grab or nibble chickens through the wire.

NEVER use or rely on "chicken wire" as a defensive or protective mesh to repel predators; it is only for containing chickens.  Expanded metal or Hardward cloth (galvanized 1cm mesh) of the thickest material is the only mesh worth investing in.

It might be worth considering going solid for the first three or four feet, then hardware cloth for a foot or so "below the roof" with a lift up/drop down panel that could close in winter and open in summer to provide extra ventilation.

Ventilation: I highly recommend hardware cloth on the exterior, mosquito netting on the internal side of all ventilation.  Never staple mesh, washers and screws or sandwiched between two pieces of wood.  The mosquito mesh ensures no wasp or other insect taking up residence inside.  I know chickens like bugs, but YOU will not appreciate a wasp nest up in the eaves!

Always ensure you have adequate insulation/ventilation.  Not only do you want to avoid ammonia build up but a sealed box in summer could get too hot; an uninsulated box in winter could be too cold.  If your climate is hot, you will likely want to create some sort of convection current that will draw ground air up, through and out the top.  BUT this may need to be "closed" at night or in winter, depending on climate.

Flooring: You may want to consider the "plastic wood" used for decks known as "composite planks" for flooring; spaced closely together it would be predator proof, allow ventilation, be sturdy enough to walk on and could be shoveled, hosed or pressure washed.  Although this stuff is pricey, with such a small area, the investment will likely pay for itself in functionality and longevity.  Combined with mesh below (at least 2 inches below planks, preferably 6), plank spacing could be as wide as an inch plus to cut costs and/or provide more ventilation.

Expanded metal openings are likely either too large or not strong enough, in my opinion.  What ever you use on the floor, keep in mind the effect it will have on fragile chicken feet (even with straw), you don't want foot sores or stuck toes.  Pay attention to how it will be attached and that the mesh is sturdy enough to support a human walking on it (how else will you properly clean it?), yet the holes are small enough to ensure against predators.

Doors: be they human access, chicken access or egg access, make sure they are truly secure; dog leash clips or other spring loaded hardware tend to be critter proof; latches, even padlocks can be puzzled out by animals like raccoons.  A simple screwed in eye hook on the door frame and door closed with a dog leash clip rarely if ever fails.  For long openings, the addition of a rod fed through eye hooks can be effective to prevent lifting or prying.

Wheels: you may want to consider no flats or solid wheels, tougher to work with, but worth it when you arrive in the back 40 only to discover you have a flat.



Thank you so much for the writeup!  


Yes, I intend to attach the panels inside.  Due to the design of the trailer, this is the only truly feasible option, and screwing things to the inside of the frame shouldn't be an issue as long as they're adequately attached.  We do not have any large predators like bears that might push the siding in.  I expect to use wood in the lower portion of the coop as that will be where I have to apply a fair bit of framing in of things, and I don't want to deal with complicated or sharp cuts on the metal potentially cutting me or the birds.  

Siding:  I'll probably use an inexpensive metal roofing (I haven't found anything that makes more sense than this) and get it in a color that matches our shop.  That way a black frame/trim + grey roofing will be consistent in appearance. Hardie siding is not a consideration.  It's too heavy and requires wood to attach it to.  Absolutely not worth the effort/weight.  I may end up making some removable/replaceable windows out of clear polycarbonate, but that will take a bit more figuring to decide if it's worth the complexity or not for the added ventilation during summer and light during winter.

Mesh: Expanded metal is commonly used on the floor of utility trailers, which people walk on and it doesn't get damaged. It will be welded to the frame or otherwise extremely securely attached with bolts and washers. Chances are, I'll rarely need to be inside the trailer. With expanded metal on the floor only, I'm not worried about anything harassing the birds.  I'll be surrounding the trailer in electric netting which should eliminate all predators from getting through, but even if something like a raccoon (which we have yet to see on our game cams) got through the electric netting and could fit their hand through the mesh, the birds should be roosting feet off the floor.  I know better than to use chicken wire for anything.

Ventilation:  I believe the amount of ventilation that I have planned will be adequate, and also keep the birds out of drafts during the winter (which is the real concern with chickens, they can handle pretty extreme cold given enough ventilation and minimal wind blowing directly on them.  Additionally, I do not expect to keep any breeds of chicken that have full combs, I'm sticking with smaller-combed extra hardy breeds.  If we end up with too much wind blowing from bottom to top, I will have a sheet of vinyl flooring cut that can be put into the bottom mesh area to reduce wind.  I intend to use this vinyl flooring as a floor when I brood our fist group of chicks in the trailer.

Flooring: As noted, I'll be using wire mesh for the floor.  This allows poop to fall through.  Tons of people use this type of flooring (or hardware cloth which is even less strong) in chicken tractors.  I can't imagine my use case is so special that I have different considerations.

Doors: This is not my first rodeo.  The human doors are not something any predators in our area would be strong enough to work (2 huge bars that require rotating, lifting and shimmying to open).  Chicken door will be an automatic coop door.  I haven't done enough research yet, but I believe I'm clear on the downsides of each design, so I just need to evaluate what risks I'm willing to take. I'm a sucker for a locking carabiner going through a locking hasp.

Wheels: The tires will work OK for now, but it'll sit for a while before it goes into use. The tires are a bit dry rotted so we may need to end up replacing them with some cheap used tires if they lose air regularly. We have a gallon of slime we've used in all of the tires on equipment around the farm to seal leaks due to punctures.  Either way, I'm only a few minutes drive from our shop where we have a small cigarette lighter powered air compressor I can easily grab and fill a tire if we lose too much air.
 
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