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Portable coop idea help wanted

 
Tim Canton
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I am trying to figure out, without much luck,  a good design for a portable coop.  Everything i see is for like 8 hens.  What about one of 25 hens?  or portable housing for 50 until the broilers reach age?  I had thought about a stationary coop with multiple doors to be able to rotate around the coop??  That will limit my area i can put them though without just letting them out.  I have a good area they could rotate over 4 areas with a stationary coop but there is 3 other places i could put them as well.  I guess the big issues are being able to move a coop big enough to still give the birds enough room.    I would appreciate any input on this.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Sorry this image is rather poor but its the only one I could find of my poultry field pens:



8 feet by 8 feet by about 6 feet at the highest point, for mild winter/hot summer climate.  Needs to be moved by 2 people, one pulling on a rope, the other pushing.
 
Tim Canton
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Ludi,

Do you just leave them in there all the time?  doesn't look like there is nesting boxes or shelter for them??  I am looking for portable housing they can come out of into a fenced off area.   

Thank you......did you just make that or was is something else to begin with??
 
Tyler Ludens
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That particular coop doesn't have a nest box but others did.  The birds roost up under the roof at night.  And yes, the pen is meant for them to stay in all the time though I have since re-fitted one to let the birds free-range.  It has hinged side panels so it's easier for them to come and go (the turkeys seem to have trouble finding the one door on the end  )

I'll try to get some more pics of this design.  It's worked pretty well in our climate except when we had unusually cold temperatures or high winds.  In the winter I staple plastic over the ends to keep the wind from whistling through and when a windstorm is forecast we move the pen next to the trees for protection.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's our first field pen.  This was meant as a night shelter for free-range chickens.  We found it didn't work as planned because the chickens got eaten by hawks and never had a chance to grow up. It has four wheels.  It has since been retired and is now a house for raising baby chicks.  There's a human-size door on the other end:



Here's the latest design of our field pen, this one modified for turkeys.  It is presently stationary, but could be moved into the field.  There's a hinged flap on each side as well as the people door on the front:

 
Tim Canton
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Ok  i see now...

I am trying to figure the best scenario for my situation.    I am using electric mesh fence  and just need to come up with a shelter for them.  Preferably one they can access in and out on there own into the fenced area.  I want to keep about 12-15 hens year round and raise maybe 40-50 meat birds a year.  So if i give 2 sq ft in the house for the hens thats 30 s0 sq ft    so realistically how much more space do i need to raise the rest to processing weight?  I could run 2 sessions of 25 birds or 50 at once if that makes a difference.

or do i just have a nice coop for the year round birds and then have some temporary shelter in the warm months for the rest??

So much to consider
 
Tyler Ludens
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I have found smaller houses much easier to move, so I suggest making more than one coop - one for the layers which could include nest boxes, and another (or a couple more) for the meat birds.  This will also give you more flexibility in how many you have in each area of your property.
 
            
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Alternatively, depending on manpower/equipment at your disposal (i.e., if you have a bunch of strong folks in your family or a farm vehicle you can haul with), you could build a rather larger model on skids. There are multiple examples of Joel Salatin's various constructions to this effect on YouTube. 
 
Tim Canton
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Ludi,  That was sort of my leaning when i thought more about it.   How much room do i need to give the meat birds??  is 1 sq ft enough for them?   And just dry shelter right?   do they need perches in there?



M.Edwards     its just me for man power and the extent of equipment is a ride on lawn mower.....   But i suppose the mower might capable of pulling a shelter a small distance.   I'll check out youtube and maybe i can come up with a smaller version.


So....is there an opinion on raising the meat birds in 2 shifts or all at once??   I'll have to move them more frequently if I do them all at once but if I do 2 sessions they will be on the pasture for twice as long.....Any other big considerations?


thank you very much.......this forum is a wealth of information.
 
            
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I would raise the meat birds in as many "shifts" as possible to spread out the work of processing them. You'd be hard pressed to clean fifty carcasses in a day without some pretty substantial help.
 
Tim Canton
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M. Edwards (fiveandahalffarm) wrote:
I would raise the meat birds in as many "shifts" as possible to spread out the work of processing them. You'd be hard pressed to clean fifty carcasses in a day without some pretty substantial help.


VERY valid point.....so i plan on raising heritage breeds    so   16+ weeks until processing....I guess 2 runs shifts would work best and i can try to time it so the new run goes out right when the old ones get processed.......


Are there any other breeds out there that finish faster?   But real chickens that actually reproduce themselves?      Of course i guess there is always an argument for the barnyard mix.

Thanks as always
 
            
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The Cornish Cross is the preferred breed in commercial broiler operations. I think they cull at 6-8 weeks, but the animals put on weight so fast many are essentially lame by time they're processed because their skeletal structures don't develop quickly enough to support all the fat and tissue. It's not so gruesome when the birds are allowed range rather than confined and stuffed full of grain, but I still think pastured heritage birds are the clear route for the conscientious. Besides that, their flavor is far superior.
 
                                      
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Hi Folks, Just saw your post. The forum "coops, runs, tractors, etc" has a lot of info re; portable coops. I had asked on that forum if anyone has tried an old camper or travel trailer - little to no response on that idea.
  I have talked to some locals and found one that did convert a small camper and he loves it - says he used a 16' travel trailer and can move it with a ball on the back of his riding mower (don't know the size of the mower) or with his truck depending on how far he wants to move it. He advised the trailer keeps out varmits, etc. and he has room to keep the feed and tools, etc.
I have located several campers on 'craigs list' under $500 - 13' to 20' and just waiting to find one close enough.
Hope you fing some good answers for your situation on this or the "coops" forum.
Good Luck     
 
Tim Canton
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M. Edwards

I tried searching you tube but could only find stuff on tractors and salatin pens from him.  How did you find them?

I dont really like the idea of a travel trailer and all the nasty stuff that could be hiding in the walls.  but i have found some utility trailers that have 40 sq ft decks.  thinking I can build a coop on one of those and move it with a mower.  ??  Should i just put a wood floor with slats

Think 40 sq ft would do for 12-15 hens and say 25 meaties for their time?    or should i still do a secondary for the meaties?

Thanks all.
 
            
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Some good detail on one of the large ones for laying hens. (edit: posted the wrong video - here is the fixed link)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfw2ybbRTYs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Also if you just query "chicken tractor" there's videos of all sorts with different people's takes.
 
Tyler Ludens
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M. Edwards (fiveandahalffarm) wrote:
I still think pastured heritage birds are the clear route for the conscientious. Besides that, their flavor is far superior.


Cornish Cross also require a special diet or they have heart failure and other problems.  Personally I would never raise them.  I spend extra $$ on heritage and especially rare and endangered breeds to keep these genetics in existence.



 
            
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There's two other parts to the video I posted, for a total running time of ninety minutes. If you query "polyface farm pt.", it will display them sequentially for you. It's all worth a viddy.
 
Tim Canton
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Thank you for the link......now my mind is thinking about the open house idea....


Ludi,      Yeah i just cant do the cornish cross for a sleuth of reasons either.
 
Tim Canton
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ok so after watching and reading a bunch I have a basic idea for my setup.

I am going to build a coop on lightweight utility trailer that i can move with a hand tow dolly or small mower.  This will serve as housing and create a shade are under the coop as well(at least for the small birds)

But now I have 3 options and would love some input

1  a coop big enough to house all the birds ( maybe 50 max at one time and that will only be when the meat birds are around)  Bringing a second question of can I raise young birds with say year old birds or do they need to be separate?  In other words if i get 40 birds this year and keep 12 over winter  when I have chicks again in spring to raise more meat should they be separate?

2  a coop big enough for my hens  and temporary open housing/shade for meat birds.....again having the same question as above about raising them together.

3  Have open style housing as Salatin does in an egg mobile and then keep them in a hoop house in the winters coldest months??

I would appreciate any info regarding the setup and also the best way to raise them when I have mutiple generations if you will?

Blessings
 
            
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Alternately you could have an open-style house with walls/doors that could be affixed in winter and removed when it warms up. I'm not big on greenhouse plastic.

 
John Polk
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I would not keep new chicks with year olds.  The pecking order will keep the new chix from getting enough feed for proper growth.

I would also consider processing in weekly stages.  As the chix get larger, they will need more space, but if you are processing several each week, you will be providing the extra space by the reduction of flock size.  It is also a lot easier to process 10 chix per week than trying to do 50 in a day.
 
Tim Canton
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thats what i was thinking John


So...the first run I'll be fine but after that I should really be keeping separate flocks essentially correct?  Maintain my hens year round and then run a batch or 2 of meat birds and just run separate paddocks for them?    Is it ok to introduce new hens once they are bigger without tooo much upset?

Thanks as always.
 
            
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So far as mixing the laying hens.. as long as they're full grown, they'll integrate fine. It may get hot for a day or three but they'll establish a new pecking order and settle down. Thing is, you probably want to cull every couple years as they drop in productivity with age (they cost the same to feed regardless of how much they're laying, so it makes sense to sell them as stewing birds after they've come off their production peak); for this reason you'd need to devise some system to distinguish them. Legbanding would be the simplest I can think of. That aside I see no problem.
 
John Polk
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It can be quite intimidating to any hen being introduced into an established flock.  If there is a large age/size difference, the smaller/younger birds will lose the battle.  What does help is to put the new birds in an adjacent pen for a few days.  The two groups get used to each other being around, so when you remove the temporary dividing fence the transition is much smoother.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Here's ours:

http://images.google.com/images?q=site:flashweb.com+chicken%20hoop%20house

as well as some other hoop things.
 
Tim Canton
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pubwvj wrote:
Here's ours:

http://images.google.com/images?q=site:flashweb.com+chicken%20hoop%20house

as well as some other hoop things.


What a great idea.  so you guys basically use the same house all year and change the cover with winter is that right?      Thats a great, simple, and I imagine low cost concept.  Some shorter ones would be great for shade to I suppose.

How do you keep it vented in winter?  What do you cover it with?

Thanks
 
Walter Jeffries
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organick wrote:
What a great idea.   so you guys basically use the same house all year and change the cover with winter is that right?      Thats a great, simple, and I imagine low cost concept.  Some shorter ones would be great for shade to I suppose.

How do you keep it vented in winter?   What do you cover it with?


No, actually it has a permanent cover of foil-bubble-bubble-foil at this point and then there is an outer protective cover of some typar on it. What covers has varied over the years as the cover wears rather than the season. The 'greenhouse' is separate from the hoop house since the hoop for nesting and laying needs to be dark but the greenhouse for the winter needs to be light.

To vent it we simply leave the front door open.

In the winter it is covered with snow which gives it lots of protection from the cold and wind.

We did have a shorter one before. As our chicken flock grew they needed more space so we built the larger one. During the summers the birds are mostly outside roosting in the trees at night and coming into the hoop house to lay eggs.

What has surprised me is that that hoop house with its wooden 2x4 base has lasted so long. I expected the wood base to decay more quickly.
 
Tim Canton
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OK,  how long does the foil bubble last?    So the hens need dark in the winter?

Are the hoops cattle fence or just rebar and wire?

I live in NC  so I rarely have extreme cold like you all and little snow.    Thanks again
 
Walter Jeffries
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The hens need dark in their laying area. In the winter we have a light bulb to extend the daylight to 14 hours. Separate issues.

What you're seeing in those photos is about a decade(?) of use so there was some change over time. The FBBF has been on there for about six or seven years I think. The chickens are the only issue on that - they peck and walk on it. Thus the typar.

The hoops I did were rebar with netting wire over them but if I were doing it again, which I have, I would use cattle panel instead.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Tim Canton
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Thank you.
 
Tim Canton
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Walter,

I have been reading you blog a bit and find it very informative and helpful.  I had one other question about wind.    I have no real wind block in several area my coop will be.  Have you had big problems with wind and the cover?  Also having basically open housing when you move your fencing to a new area how do you move the birds?  Just give them time to migrate on over to the new area and then close them?

Thank you again for all the help
 
Walter Jeffries
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organick wrote:Have you had big problems with wind and the cover?


I have not had problems with wind but I do consider it a concern. We get high winds as we're up in the mountains. The base of our hoop house is quite heavy. There are trees to lift the winds. So far so good. If necessary one could stake it down or hang a bucket or rocks in it.

organick wrote:Also having basically open housing when you move your fencing to a new area how do you move the birds?


Years ago we rotated them with poultry netting. Then we discovered that the chickens will follow the pigs and sheep so now we pretty much just fence for the larger livestock. They get rotationally grazed and the chickens naturally follow. This is how it happens in the wild too - the birds follow grazers to get at the turned up earth, insects, manure, etc.

We do fence tightly around gardens where we don't want chickens. If we get potato bugs, for example, we put in a couple of ducks and chickens. They clean up and we remove them.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Walter Jeffries
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One more thing is we have livestock guardian and herding dogs. They eat coyotes and other predators for breakfast. Without them I would have to fence very hard.
 
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