Ok, so my chickens are getting on my last nerve, they've eaten lots of vegetation and gotten into my garden so much that I doubted I would even have one this year. We've been thinking over designs and rejecting them. Too heavy, too awkward, too flimsy to move, too short, not big enough. Etc, etc, etc. Last night, driving home I had an epiphany!
We have these.
I got a "damaged" bundle of 25 and they have been handy dandy. 4' tall, about 1' gets pushed into the ground, up to the top of the triangle brace thingie. We had some top rail for chainlink fencing laying around since forever ago when we bought our chainlink fence. It was used and we got the whole kit & caboodle real cheap. We didn't use the top rail, instead we've run eletric around. Those rails have also been handy dandy! Hubby bought a roll of deer netting a few months ago. Plastic, small chain netting. I don't see how it would work for deer, being black and almost invisible. Neither of the goats saw it and bounded right into it the last time we had it set up. But there it is, 7' tall, 100' long.
Okay, so putting it all together. We zip tied the mesh to five 7' lengths of the top rails. This gives us 4 corners & a door post. We measured out the distances to make a box of roughly equal sides. At the 4 corners, we pushed in the rebar type posts (pictured). Then we slipped the top rail over the rebar post. The top rails are hollow with open ends, so it was just like slipping on a new roll of TP. That gave us 600 (roughly) square feet to put our 41 birds. If I'm remembering my math right, that gives each bird about 14 square feet to itself. And it only takes 15 minutes MAX to move it to a new spot. The door was just slightly trickier. We overlapped the mesh around the first post, measured where the last (door) post would end up, and pushed in the rebar post there. Slip the bottom over and voila! We've decided to trick the birds by moving the pen before we let them out, then feeding them in the middle of the pen and closing them in. In the evenings, they'll all be lined up on the side closest to the coop. We open it up, they scurry home. We've seen this happen before with the trampoline tractor. Then, we check it and if it needs to be moved, do it then. DH's contribution was that when we move it, two of the corners would be stationary from one configuration to the next. Only the door post and two of the corner posts would have to be moved, just "wrap" it around to the next box. We could "walk" it all the way around our plot, improving the soil as we go. No pictures yet, but you get the idea! And of course this wouldn't work for larger animals or digging creatures, but its good for smaller poultry. Edited to add, the backyard is fenced in, so we don't have to have a reinforced pen, just something to keep the chickens from flying off.
Thanks! So far so good! We've moved it twice since we set it up and the birds were NOT happy to begin with, but being birds, they got used to it pretty quick. I do see now that I need to take out a few more roosters (mmmm soup)
These are the rebar post. They are a triangle metal brace on a 4' piece of rebar. These are the "anchors".
Closeup of the door configuration. It simply wraps around the first post placed & slides over its own rebar post. You can barely see the mesh, so I've highlighted the path in blue & purple. You can see how easily the top rail slides over the rebar post. The rebar posts are easily bent and mostly snap back into place, taking the top rail along with it, which pulls the mesh tight.
The whole kit & caboodle. Posts are located at the blue arrows. Left forward corner is the door post, so there are two posts there.
With the chickens, waterer, nest box (cut up piece of wood in the center is for privacy while egg laying the nest box is behind it)
Okay, tips. Don't use deer netting. It is too flimsy. But it's working for now while I pay off some stuff on my account at work. I'll get a roll of poultry netting. That will keep it light & moveable, but be more durable than the deer netting. We've already had a couple of tears. When you plant the rebar posts, angle them away from the center of the square. This will make them pull tighter across the top. Move ALL your chickeny stuff (waterer, feeder if you use it, nest box, etc) BEFORE you move the pen. Let your chickens out (if they don't have a shelter inside) about 15 minutes before sundown, or even a bit earlier. I let mine stay in just a bit past sundown and they were already trying to roost. I had to toss them out to make them go to the coop. I'm thinking about using the same logic to lure them into the coop at night that I use to get them into the pen. Food I can go out at ten o'clock & rattle a feedbucket and they would come running if they could get out of the coop.