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Mobile Chicken Coop Build

 
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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I'm putting together a mobile chicken coop and I plan to post progress of the build here. I'm not in a hurry and have plenty of other projects, so progress may be slow for a while.

I have a question - Does anyone have experience with nesting boxes being at an angle? Say if 4 of them were in a row, and one end is tilted up about 30 deg? What if they were tilted slightly, say 15deg back to front? Will the hens object? I'm planning to tilt the trailer back so the end sits on the ground and I can create an effective barrier without having to block off under the trailer every time I move it. This would require tipping it back, thus the question about leaning nesting boxes.


Here's where I'm at so far.

I got the trailer squared away. My uncle built this to spray chemicals (boooo!) on the fields. It held 4 55gal drums, and then it was converted to hold 2 centered over the wheels.

I'm sorting out how to set everything up now. I'm going to pull 1/2 of the floor supports and put down some mesh screening so the poop will fall through. Any size/material recommendations for this? I plan to put a fold up ramp on the back, and attach poultry net to each back corner.

I'm thinking the nesting boxes will be on the front so I can tilt it back, setting the butt end of the trailer on the ground. That will give me a contained yard for the chickens. Otherwise I'll always have to do something to block predators from getting in from under the trailer at the corners of the net/trailer connection.

When finished it will be a mobile setup with solar power, a 15gal water tank w/ poultry nipples for clean water, LED lighting to increase laying in the winter, motion activated exterior predictor lights, and even an 110 outlet to run small pumps, tools or country music (apparently they like it).

I would love to hear any ideas or suggestions you may have.
IMG_1028.JPG
trailer
trailer
 
pollinator
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Why don't you put a skirt around the base, leaving the tires outside? That way it can be fairly level all the time and you don't have to do any tilting (which can startle the birds). At times, my chicken tractor has a gap at the bottom of 4" because of uneven terrain, but I've never had any problems from predators using that to breach security.

The chickens may also like multiple levels in the coop, spending the day down on the ground, and jumping up to perch, roost, and lay.
 
Sam Dodson
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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I thought about a skirt, but I don't want it getting caught on the ground and torn off when moving. I think a 4" gap here would be detrimental. We have skunks (dog still smells from last week), 6' chicken snakes (one in my freezer), and coyotes that dug under my neighbors turkey pen, took 2 turkeys and dug another tunnel out.The sandy soil makes it easy. Plus this coop will be up to 1/4 mile from the house in the bottom pastures. I thought about flaps that fold down to block the sides, but that seems like a PITA to manage. I'm thinking about a wedge shaped ramp to minimize tilting while still blocking the sides and back. That would at least minimize the tilting.

I'm considering using a photocell tided to a 12v linear actuator to open and close the door at dawn/dusk. That would offer the absolute best protection at night. Then I only need to make sure the coop is solid and the batteries hold.
 
Sam Dodson
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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An Update on the Coop
Working.jpg
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We straightened out the bent top rail, and cut some of the base supports so the chicken shit will fall through to the ground. The sides are on, and on the ground you can see one of the nesting boxes coming together.
Cutting.jpg
lots of cutting wood
lots of cutting wood
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Uummm . . . yea. That's a really nice pair of cut marks she's got there
 
Sam Dodson
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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Another Update
Back2.jpg
mobile chicken coop frame
mobile chicken coop frame
Boxes.jpg
mobile coop with nest boxes
mobile coop with nest boxes
Water.jpg
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Two 15gal water tanks will be filled from a single hose connection, but are otherwise independent. They will go to 2 separate sets of water nipples - one inside and one outside. That way if one leaks or gets stuck open there's still a second set.
 
Sam Dodson
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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This forum software sucks. I just uploaded 3 pics and added descriptions. Because one was too long it dumped everything and I had to start over. . . tisk tisk. . .

Here's the full power panel description = Here's the power panel on the left side. The top plug/switch will turn on the inverter and give about 300W of AC power (enough to run a drill, water pump, radio, etc.)

Below that are the 12v switches to turn on everything form the fence to the lights (for winter egg production) to the 12v accessories below.

Under that are two 12v terminal posts and below that are two 12v car cigarette lighter plugs.
Back.jpg
solar panels mounted on roof of mobile coop
solar panels mounted on roof of mobile coop
Power-Cabinet.jpg
power cabinet for solar on mobile coop
power cabinet for solar on mobile coop
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Here
 
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OK. Mine was waaaaay less technologically advanced but this is working great for me. And the tilted nest boxes don't bother them a bit.
This pic is of it before I sheeted it in.
20130413_181744.jpg
mobile coop before sheeting
mobile coop before sheeting
 
Sam Dodson
Posts: 32
Location: East Texas
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Thanks Travis! I figured it would be okay. I'm curious, how many chickens fit in your (guessing) 6'x8' trailer?

I spent the day banging my head against the wall working out the relays, pulse timers, liner actuators, wiring, and so on. It's going to be fantastic when it's all done, but it's a major pain in the ass to get sorted out.
 
Travis Charlie
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I use this as mostly a laying house. My birds are free range and they tend to roost in the bushes and small trees in their pasture. The flock consists of about 40 layers and another 90 ready to lay pullets. I am about to open up the other side wall and build another set of 18 nest boxes for the up and coming layers.
I only closed in 3 sides and they come and go as they please. I have burlap hanging from the ceiling to cover up the nest boxes at night to keep them clean.
if they were going to be closed up in there at night I would limit to 2-2 1/2sq ft per bird.
 
Posts: 24
Location: Dawson City, Yukon
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My chicken tractor is almost constantly at an angle and the hens don't seem to mind a bit. The just love fresh straw. Fresh straw=lots of eggs.
 
garden master
Posts: 2714
Location: West Tennessee
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Thought I'd resurrect this old thread because I'm building the same thing! A few weeks back I picked up an old wagon frame/running gear on craigslist. I already have a mobile chicken coop I built five years ago, but it's too small, only having a capacity for about a dozen chickens, and it's on skids. I want a coop that can accommodate about 50 chickens and is on wheels. I'll be using my old chicken coop for housing new chicks this fall until they're big enough to move in with my existing flock and then it will be the broody coop. Today I started working on my new mobile chicken coop getting a basic wood frame to build off of. The challenge I have is I don't have an easily accessible nice level piece of ground to roll this frame to for construction, so I'm winging it my framing square. I'm also trying to use as much of what I have on hand from an old dilapidated cabin and leftover building supplies from building my new home. I did have to purchase a few 4x4's and 2x6's, but otherwise I think I'll be able to repurpose materials laying around here on the farm for the rest of the build.
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old wagon frame/running gear on
old wagon frame/running gear on
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gardener
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Sounds like a fun and useful project!
What are the dimensions of your wood base, so I've got some perspective?
Our sheds are on wheels and I find wheels are better in the wet season as they don't tear up the turf. I find it hard to keep the overall weight down while still housing everything you need.
 
James Freyr
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Jay Angler wrote:Sounds like a fun and useful project!
What are the dimensions of your wood base, so I've got some perspective?
Our sheds are on wheels and I find wheels are better in the wet season as they don't tear up the turf. I find it hard to keep the overall weight down while still housing everything you need.



Thanks Jay! The overall dimensions are 12x6 and will be 4-5 feet tall with a sloped roof. The coop will be 10 of those 12 feet, and my plan for the 2 foot platform for some sort of rainwater catchment barrel thing and a metal trashcan full of chicken feed, in some sort of enclosure to keep the sun off. I haven't thought about keeping the water from freezing yet, I'm in building mode but I'll get there. The water and food storage on the coop idea is inspired by the chicken coop in this post here https://permies.com/t/106301/critters/Moving-day#868399 from fellow permie Tj Jefferson. I've had five years of feeding and watering several times a week, which isn't really a bad thing but since we're tripling our flock size, I'm looking for a way to reduce the food & water labor.
 
Jay Angler
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James Freyr wrote:

I've had five years of feeding and watering several times a week, which isn't really a bad thing but since we're tripling our flock size, I'm looking for a way to reduce the food & water labor.

I've found that summers are busiest, so even if you have to shut down the water catchment system in the winter in the coldest weather, you'll still be ahead. That said, I would want to be checking on the birds at least once a day even if it's just to collect eggs, so that I spot little problems before they become big ones. A sick bird caught early often recovers if I put them in the "chicken hospital" (a tote with a hardware cloth covered lid) where they don't need to compete for food or water. My most recent occupant was spotted limping - 2 days of rest and she's been fine ever since.
 
pollinator
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James, thanks for linking that post, my internet sucks and I can't post pictures. Kuntry Life.

I wrote a post and lost it. Poop. I would say make a list of your desired design features. Number of birds, thermal issues, moving frequency/strategy, stuff like that. Water is heavy, batteries are heavy (but not as bad). How long do you need to leave them between welfare visits?

Mine was priorititzed to my climate and my small number of chix. It is honestly mostly for soil building, the number of eggs you get will never pay off. The cost to me was about $1000- trailer was $520, roofing and plywood and fixation was all designed for 20 years- and we had a hurricane with no damage. You could build one for much less if you have an axle like JAmes, but I was starting from scratch and I don't weld. I looked on craiglist for over  a year and then just sucked it up.  

I think the idea of skids is fine for very light structures. You could even use the water as ballast potentially, but you would need to drain it each move. Wheels are a critical feature IMO. We move this thing all over the farm, even down the road to the neighbors (as I am looking at "leasing" grazing rights on 80 acres).

Upgrades to the Poutry Palace include installing a windshield reflector thing on the water tank. This keeps it much closer to the average daily temperature in summer and winter. You could proably just do a mylar sheet, but we had the windshield reflector. They have been drinking much more water becasue its colder, and we are getting more eggs and better soil building. Plus they look less stressed in summer.

If you guys have questions I'd be happy to answer, just pictures are a pain. I have a bunch of data points from my brother as well, we both built mobile coops. Mine is just more awesomer...
 
Tj Jefferson
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I forgot to mention (maybe in the other post) that I wanted this monstrosity to be moveable by me. Going up a hill, I sometimes have an assistant (and our hills are not very steep). If I was planning on using a tractor or machine to move you could easily have a much larger coop. I highly recommend electronet. It takes me about 20 minutes to move the 200' fence, and another 10 minutes to clear the fenceline prior. The first few moves MUCH longer but you figure out how to collect and reinstall the net without tangling pretty quick.
 
James Freyr
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Hey Tj thanks for chiming in. I’m still going to be visiting the coop daily for eggs and just overall checking in. With this new farm I’m on, I want to be able to pull this coop all over 35 acres of pasture close to cows, which we don’t have yet, but I’m always trying to build and plan for the future. It doesn’t matter to me how long the food or water may last necessarily, I would just rather toss a 50lb sack of feed on the four wheeler and take off to the back 40 and be able to scoop from a bin to refill feeders instead of retrieving an empty feeder, taking to the house to refill and return it. Same with water and that’s what I’ve been doing for five years and it’s worked for me and made sense for having 13 or 14 birds. Food and water will last 3 or 4 days.

So far, the wagon frame set me back $250 and I’m in some lumber another $90, but hopefully that’s it. I will likely be purchasing something that’s the right size for water storage but I’ll figure that out a little later.

I also have two 100 foot sections of polynet electric fence which has worked very well for me over the years. The only downside is when it goes too long between rain and my soil, in its current state, gets too hard to push the posts in the ground. Staring off, I may get one or two more sections of fence and make paddocks larger for the birds to forage in, but I think the ultimate plan is no fence, fully free ranging and a pair of livestock guarding dogs, not just for the birds but for future goats and piggies as well.
 
James Freyr
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Posts: 2714
Location: West Tennessee
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Day 2 went well, with a floor installed, a roof line coming together and the overall rough shape of the chicken coop starting to appear.
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Tj Jefferson
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James, looking good! The metal frame of the trailer I got was a giant pain to frame on, because it wasn't perfectly square (go figure) but it is very strong. I went with the mesh floor, but I think wood is fine ironically. The fasteners may get corroded but the chicken manure is so caustic it seems to preserve the wood it has come in contact with. I used regular plywood and it looks good. I did build the roof as a single removable unit because I figure the plywood walls will be the first thing to go. I keep saying I am going to repaint it but its down the list.

The wood floor is much better in the winter, we did get some frozen red nubs last winter and it wasn't a particularly cold one. Ventilation is a concern, but based on Joel Salatin's videos, if they are ranging during the day, and you occasionally pooper scoop the coop, it won't get too nasty and you can pack them in a little tighter. We had 15 in a 30 SF coop and they were totally happy, and these are Jersey Giants! In Tennessee the number of days they can't be outside the majority of the day will be very low. I think (aganst the internet advice) you can have 2 SF or even a little less with a mobile setup and a paddock in a gentle climate. Definitely getting lighter color chickens next round, the black ones look miserable all summer. I'm thinking Brahmas but I'm open. We want big birds, we have had a couple hawks make an attempt and they are big enough to make it interesting. So far no losses and the hawks are out there quite a bit.

On the electronet: definitely I plan the moves around rain. For one thing as you mentioned getting the posts  in can be tough, but getting them out is no picnic and the ground/negative is absolutely critical. I am upsizing my energizer to 1.2 J and moving to a 400 ft net, which they will share with sheep. There are times when it sucks to move them, but this should give a longer lag between moves. The perimeter fence (which is more for the LGD containment than predator exclusion) is taking me forever due to all the crap I am having to fix this summer. I will say, we have friends that have several LGDs and they still lose a lot of birds because the birds go outside the LGD territory, and the predators know exactly where the dog smell is. If you have high chicken turnover, you need a place for them to brood and hatch, and mobile setups are tough to design for that. Or you just have to have an annual batch you brood yourself, but that was a giant hassle in our bathroom!  

On the water container, I got mine from a friend who was using it for camping water, but I have another friend who gets them from a car wash. They have the MSDS for the detergent, and I got several for various other projects involving ethanol and fish emulsion. Um, two different projects.

I will say the big net cost me an arm and a leg, about $1 a foot, but we have used less than one bag of feed since April. They pretty much feed themselves in a big paddock.
 
James Freyr
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Day 3 of building and the nesting boxes are mostly complete with just a little trim remaining to make things shed rain which I'll do at the end of the build with other trim work. Seven nesting boxes in all will hopefully allow plenty of choice and room for hens needing to lay and avoid the kind of overcrowding I've been seeing. My current chicken coop has two nesting boxes and a dozen hens, but often I see two hens in one nesting box and sometimes a hen will make a nest in the bedding in the corner of the coop. In my old chicken coop, the lid to the nesting boxes is on hinges for access which has worked fine, but after talking with my wife we're trying a new route with the top fixed and the wall on hinges and chains so it acts like a shelf when open to place our egg basket on while we collect the days bounty. While building today I realized that the wall on hinges and side access may make it easier to clean out and change the bedding too.
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Jay Angler
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One of my pet peeves is how hard it is to clean nest boxes, so I back your wife 100%! The back opening will not only make cleaning easier, but probably make it easier to waterproof the "roof" of the nest box. It's a bit late now, but I've also found that chickens prefer a "deep" nest box over a square or wide one - ie more length from the entrance to the back - as it gives them more of a sense of privacy. My husband complains that no matter the number of nest boxes, the hens will all fight over their "favorite" and try to jam in anyways, but I think he's just not seeing the problem from the hen's perspective - there are things the hens are looking for when they make their choice and we non-chicken-speaking 2-legs just don't get the subtlety in their little bird brains!
 
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Tj Jefferson wrote: I have a bunch of data points from my brother as well, we both built mobile coops. Mine is just more awesomer...


As the sister of four brothers, I laughed!
 
James Freyr
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Day 4 saw a little more progress. Had some distractions today, but some rafters are up and a piece of plywood for one of the walls. I scavenged the 2x4's for the rafters from an old cabin that is falling down mostly already on the ground.
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Resources!
 
James Freyr
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A litte more progress on Day 5. I used pieces of beadboard leftover from building my home to span across the rafters so I have a nailer for the steel roof panels. I also recovered the steel roof panels from the old cabin, removed what nails were hanging on and cut them to length. I think they look great and I can't go to any building supply store and buy roofing panels with that nice rust brown patina. Also, this thread needs a cat picture.
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kitty getting some sun
kitty getting some sun
 
James Freyr
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Day 6 and I have the roof panels installed. Hurray steel roof!
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James Freyr
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Day 7 found a new wall with three windows installed.
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James Freyr
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Today, on day 8 of the build, involved a trip to the hardware store for some hinges. Once home, I trimmed some of the remaining pieces scrap ply & osb for two top-hinged cleanout doors beneath the windows and I also installed a door on end of the coop that I scavenged from the old cabin. It fit perfectly!
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Jay Angler
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I think a big point to make to people about this build, is that James is making clear but *small* progress each day. Many of us have a bunch of things that just have to happen each day. Trying to bite off too much of a big project can leave other tasks building up or unattended. Or worse, can lead to fatigue and errors or injuries. It really impresses me that he's steadily made progress and either consciously or unconsciously has broken up the task into sections that are achievable. James, you are awesome!
 
James Freyr
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Thanks for the compliment Jay! You've got me figured out for sure I do have other things to do each day but one thing I've done for myself is I quit making goals, for the most part. I'll explain. I do have overall goals set for the farm, such as getting this chicken coop done before fall, planting some blueberries and fruit trees later this year, working on fence, etc., but I stopped setting goals for what I am going to accomplish in a day. Instead of planning to accomplish x today setting a goal and having expectations, I just go and work at a steady pace and whatever gets accomplished is what gets accomplished, and I have no shortcomings or disappointments. Some days seem to be filled with more distractions than others, some days the mornings are great and then I just can't focus in the afternoon, and sometimes I find myself in this kind of magic flow where everything goes smoothly, one thing after another, and I enjoy it so much I end up working almost non-stop and get a ton accomplished. Now in my forties I've settled into working whatever works for me each day.
 
James Freyr
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It's day 9 of the build, and I have all the openings around the top for ventilation covered in 1/2 inch square wire mesh, or what they call hardware cloth. I also made some simple locks for the top-hinged doors from a couple pieces of 2x4 that were laying on the ground and two lag screws with washers. I cut a couple short lengths of chain and made one link on the end of each into a hook and fastened these to window frames that I can hook onto those top-hinged doors so they stay open. I started cutting my remaining longer pieces of 2x4 to make roosting bars inside the coop. I only had two, so I found some 2x6's that were long enough and ripped them to 2x4 size on the table saw. I still need a couple more roosting bars so I'll have to do some more searching to see what I've missed in the scrap piles of lumber. Also, while I was working, a wasp carrying a locust landed on the wire mesh. It appeared the locust was not having a good day, and the wasp only stuck around long enough for me to get a picture before flying off with his hostage. It made me smile because I caught a glimpse of nature playing out, and one that I've never seen before.
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James Freyr
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It took a few weeks to get to day 10 with other things needing to be done. I got a door installed with an automatic door opener/closer that runs on batteries. The door is a small sheet of aluminum, and runs in a guide that I rabbeted in a couple pieces of cedar. Even though I tapered the corners and rounded them over, the door got hung up once while closing during testing the opener. Once is all a raccoon needs to make a meal out of my chickens. I need to redesign the door guides, and I'm planning to try and make two tracks for the door to slide in from leftover aluminum sheet the door was cut from.
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Jay Angler
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I hear you about sliding pop-doors. We have a wooden one that they didn't get the center quite lined up properly and it frequently jams. We don't have one of those nifty auto open/close things. I'd be worried that some chickens would not make it home before curfew. Yesterday I had one that got herself stuck in an open box by the door because she wasn't smart enough to exit the box, go around, and go in the door - bird brains! On the other hand, having to always make sure someone is home for birdie "bed-time" can be a nuisance at times. Sometimes you just make a choice.
 
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Nice build!
I would be tempted to hijack some drawer slide hardware to make the door closing  go more smoothly.
The metal on metal approach has the advantage of being made of available materials and bullet proof simplicity.
I imagine the device can only move a small amount of weight, or I would suggest adding weight to the door.
A little grease or soap probably wont hurt either.


 
James Freyr
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It took another two weeks to get to day 11, and things are shaping up nicely. I made two guides for the door to move up & down in, hoping this will solve the binding I was having with the alimunim on wood track I was using. I cut two strips of the same aluminum the door is made from, and using the steel frame on the yoke of the wagon I wrapped it over the edge in 3 or 4 passes and made the little U guides. I hadn't planned on painting the chicken coop, but my wife wanted it to be painted, and she persuaded me by saying it will last longer if it's painted, which coating wood, especially pine, will indeed make it last longer. We decided on yellow, and today I put a coat of primer on the coop. My plan is to put the finish coat on tomorrow.
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Jay Angler
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I back your wife - a coat of paint is not that difficult or expensive, but it will make it look "finished" and "intentional" rather than a homeless shelter for chickens! I've also found that chickens seem capable of getting shit *everywhere* and dander when they're molting, and painted surfaces are much easier to clean.

Speaking of cleaning, do your perches come out easily?  I've learned that it's worth the effort to make easily removable perches, both to allow a human in to thoroughly clean, and to allow me to use lots of water to scrub perches clean, let them dry and then I oil mine with a vegetable oil (usually canola because I was given some and although I don't eat the stuff, it won't hurt the chickens feet) and about 3 drops of tea tree oil per ~250 ml. This seems to help decrease the risk of mites. I particularly like to do a thorough clean up if we're getting new birds or on the occasion when I have a broody chicken that might hatch chicks out.
 
James Freyr
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Hey Jay, yes the perches do remove relatively easily. There is a single screw at each end holding them in place. I've decided not to paint the interior of the coop and am just going to leave it as is.
 
James Freyr
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Day 12, and I did get the coop painted this morning. It's starting to look like a finished chicken coop, but I still have a few things to do. I want to put up a gutter and do rain water catchment, and get all the related plumbing done, and also build a little enclosure over the small platform that will house the water tank and feed bin so those at least stay out of the sunlight. Hopefully just a couple more days of work and it will be ready for use.
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James Freyr
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Day 13 had me doing some trim paint that I had forgotten about. My wife is currently out of town, and I sent her the pics I posted above, and she said it looked good, and if I was painting the window frames and top of the nesting boxes white like we discussed. I said yes.

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Jay Angler
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I had figured you'd left the window frames natural wood intentionally. Now that I see them in white, it brightens up the shelter. Looking good!
 
James Freyr
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I've been working on the rainwater catchment, an hour here and an hour there over the last week or so, but I'll call this day 14. If I had thought it through better, and not had to make 3 trips to the hardware store for supplies, this could have been done in a morning. Since I'll be pulling this chicken coop all over my farm, which is hardly anything flat, I put supply feeds and overflow drains on both ends of the water tank, so no matter which way the coop is leaning, it will work. The two overflows come together and have a single garden hose connection, so I can lay a short piece of hose on the ground, be able to tie it up during moving, and not have the overflow falling from a height and causing erosion. The water supply lines also come together into one line, which I put a valve on so I can stop the flow when I need to clean the water fount. A picture of that, the finished plumbing will soon follow in another post (I gotta make another trip to the hardware store :P). I made some little leaf guards from hardware cloth and stuffed them in the downspout openings to keep the leaves out. Also, the baby chicks moved in the other day. I felt like the brooder was becoming crowded as they grew and wanted to run around more. Also, they were flying out of the brooder when I changed their water or gave them more food and I was chasing chicks around the basement. It was time for them to move out.

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