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Ultralight chicken houses

Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6
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Hi everybody,

I am investigating the idea of raising 100-300 layers on pasture behind a dairy herd. Obviously I'm going to need a lot of lightweight housing. Right now my biggest question is how large a structure can I build given that weight is the primary constraint? We have a tractor that could move multi-ton stuff, but I'd rather not depend on it. Our four-wheeler is rated to pull 250 lbs, so that is one limit. By hand I would probably not want to regularly pull more than 80 lbs.

Here are some questions and ideas in no particular order:
Is it reasonable to make ultralight nest boxes using recycled billboard tarps or thin plastic roll up sleds? (floor of wire fence and straw)
Any other ideas for nest boxes that weigh less than 1lb each?

Hoop houses build of cattle panels work really well, but the weight is high. Does PVC work equally well if protected from UV (by used billboard tarp)?
What is the largest house you could build out of PVC before weaknesses become apparent.

I'm planning to have the houses on skids, and the skids are going to be soled with black poly pipe. This stuff slides really well on grass, and keeps the wood drier. The only problem is hauling it over gravel which shreds the poly pipe. I got an idea from Eliot Coleman. Basically it entails building 4 special roller skates. Then you can jack up each corner of the house, put a roller skate under, and voila. The idea is especially nice if the roller skates fit using simple 2x4 lumber and fit every such skid structure on the farm.
Posts: 469
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I don't have experience with such a large amount of chickens, but we have used cardboard boxes as nest boxes with good success. They're free to us and easy to replace.
Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I took an idea from Eliot Coleman too. I made a hoop coop out 2x4's, conduit pipe and chicken wire. I made a 6ft x 8 ft base out of the 2x4's and then made hoops out of the conduit pipe. They were attached to the 2x4's via pipe brackets and screws and spaced about 24 inches apart. Chicken wire is stretched over the frame and secured using zip ties. Over that I put a tarp large enough to cover all the sides except the front. The front is cut from a piece of plywood that I had laying around. I just cut out a door and boom. I added wheels on the back side so I could move it like a wheelbarrow.

If I had to do it over again I would forget the chicken wire. In my case the coops are inside electric netting so predators aren't really an issue for me. That could lighten the load more.

Posts: 200
Location: Augusta,Ks
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For that many hens, i would recommend something on wheels.
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