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Bill Mollison's Chicken coop + greenhouse?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 7
Location: Southern Appalachia- Zone 6b
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Hi all-

I recently read Bill Mollison's original book on permaculture and there was an interesting idea/drawing about incorporating your chicken coop into your greenhouse. I wanted to start designing my own coop/GH complex, but what about the ammonia?

Bill says to separate the coop and GH inside with wire mesh/fencing so that chickens can heat the greenhouse and the plants can use the CO2 and moisture from the chickens. As I was thinking about how to situate things for maximum user-friendliness, I was thinking about how to clean out the coop and a recent article about chicken poo and a gasification plant came to mind-- will the ammonia trapped in the greenhouse build up to nasty/unhealthy/potentially harmful levels? Is it safe to be mucking around with chicken poo'd straw in the closed space of a greenhouse?

Any other thoughts about this kind of design or has anyone had any luck actually building/using one?

Any help would be appreciated. And I apologize if there's anything obvious that I've missed. I'm new : )

kate
 
pollinator
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I've had chickens in a greenhouse over  a winter.
Starting with a foot worth of bedding and adding more seems to deal with ammonia.
Mind you, my structure was never very tight,but it hadn't any drafts to speak of.
I want to try this again and add compost worms and oyster mushroom spawn, to see if we can speed up the nutrient cycle.
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Kate.

I like William's approach. I like the idea of a deep culture bedding, where you are inoculating a more durable bedding, like wood chips, for instance, with a compost extract. Whatever the specifics, the idea is that the bedding acts like living soil on the chicken droppings. Instacompost.

I also like the idea of making sure that the soil columns in the raised beds in my greenhouse are in contact with the deep litter. Realistically, I like to dig the paths around my beds down a few feet and fill with wood chips, so really everything is deep litter surrounding islands of healthy soil. And all those woodchips attract and breed lots of tasty food for chickens.

Let us know what you decide. Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
William Bronson
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One more thing. While I haven't planted in an occupied greenhouse,I do  free range my chooks.
Where I cage them out, plants thrive, but elsewhere, I got nothing,not even the bindweed survived them.
If the  openings in your barrier are smaller than 1/2" it should protect the plants well.
When I used cages with larger openings( milk crates) the chooks would get their beaks inside and pull the plants out by the roots.
Bye bye comfrey.

My next go round will start with 55 gallon planters.
The height  will deter them a little. I'm thinking any barrier  ,even a curtain could keep them from flapping up and getting a perch.
No perch, no pecking.
With barrels planters along an insulated North wall,a clear curtain could raise the zone by one more than the greenhouse itself.
 
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I didn't like the smell and dust of having chickens in the greenhouse. Seemed like the air was unhealthy to breathe.
 
pollinator
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I would keep the number of chickens really low in there.  As Joseph said, chicken dust is really gross.  If ammonia was an issue then remember that Biochar can absorb 90x it's volume of ammonia, but not sure what to do about the dust.  I guess you could filter through a Biochar bed if you wanted to run a blower.  Not sure of how to do it passively.

Joseph, how many chickens to how large a greenhouse did you try?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Greg Martin wrote:Joseph, how many chickens to how large a greenhouse did you try?



Two chickens in a 10' X 12'.
 
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I didn't like the smell and dust of having chickens in the greenhouse. Seemed like the air was unhealthy to breathe.



Histoplasmosis is a disease common with folks who catch chickens at the big factory farm chicken houses around here from breathing the dust.  https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis/index.html ; and https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis/index.html

I don't think I would share my greenhouse with chickens...maybe let them use it during the off season as long as there was plenty of ventilation and time to clean up and air out before closing back up?
 
kate campbell
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Location: Southern Appalachia- Zone 6b
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I guess I'll try to think of some other arrangement for the chickens, but I like the idea of wood chips instead of straw- seems like that might help cut down on the dust issue, especially if my wood chips are damp. I might clarify that the chicken coop was going to be inside the greenhouse, but the chickens wouldn't be running around free in the greenhouse. Does that change anything for anyone?

Does anyone have any suggestions for another mutually beneficial chicken housing arrangement? Is it a good idea to let the chickens free range in the garden? And! Would it change things if I kept ducks instead of chickens inside the greenhouse?

Lots of questions. Thanks for the input everyone!
 
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A couple points....

You should never have an ammonia smell if your deep litter is kept in balance. Straw is a terrible material for deep litter. Wood chips as was mentioned above is much better or any carbon source that doesn't clump up and can be turned easily. Meaning easily by the chickens not by you.

As far as dust with proper ventilation I believe this is very manageable. I am assuming your birds will not spends days cooped up in the coop and that your greenhouse isnt completely air tight.
 
Shannon Simmons
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There are many beneficial connections between a flock of chickens and your crops. As mentioned above check out Justin's YouTube channel. Free ranging in garden may not be the best though. Use your chickens on garden in the off season to clean up and fertilize.


Watch "Justin Rhodes" on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOSGEokQQcdAVFuL_Aq8dlg
 
Shannon Simmons
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Btw on my next property I do plan on incorporating chicken coop and high tunnel.

Year round coop will attached to green hose but not in green house. During winter months chickens will have access to parts of the greenhouse which I will rotate.

But I still think you could keep chickens in green house year round if the density was managed so that ventilation managed the dust.
 
pioneer
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I think that if the chickens are physically separate from the greenhouse the dust could be manageable.  I suspect that if you're in a drier climate the dust could be worse than in a humid climate.  And it clearly depends on the size of the greenhouse and the number of chickens.  Two chickens in a 20x20 greenhouse?  No problem.  Twenty chickens in a 20x20 greenhouse?  Maybe problem.

Free range chickens would love to be in your garden.  Unfortunately you would not get any veggies.  Unless they are somehow kept away from the crops. 

I don't know much about ducks but I believe they are gentler on plants.  I'm not sure if they could have free range of your greenhouse or not (from a veggie protection point of view).  They do need a lot of water to play in which could be a challenge inside a greenhouse.
 
pollinator
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I wonder if building something like Mike Oehler's earth bermed greenhouse, and having one end sectioned off as a chicken roost, would work. There would be a little door to outside that you either manually open/close, or use some timer to automate that. Outside, you have a short covered run with a solid roof and heavy gage wire mesh to keep out predators that several paddocks run up to. However many days you move the gate to the next paddock so the chickens get access, and they roost in their end of the greenhouse at night.

When you let them out, you can clean up the litter under the roost, gather any eggs, and put in some clean wood chips. Since the plant beds and the roost area is several feet up from your walking path, it would be easy to reach everything.
 
Chris Kott
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It occurs to me that if part of the deep litter culture process involves spraying the litter with a compost extract to enhance the soil and fungal life within it, or keeping it humid so that the microbiota continue to thrive, dust is unlikely to be an issue.

I would do this to keep the dust down, for my health and that of my chooks. And isn't that dust likely to be food for something living in that litter anyways?

-CK
 
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