Disclaimer: This post will most certainly contain some type of grammatical error(s), will not be written nearly as well as usual and might be the ramblings of a mad man. This is Farmer Dickie guest posting on the blog.
If you have been following our exploits this summer you know we started off the 2013 summer season with a new batch of egg layers and roosters. To be exact, we started the season with 50 pullets (mama hens) and 6 cockrels (baby makers). To date we are down to a mix of 30 hens and roosters after a long summer of battling raccoons, skunks, opossums and whatever else tried to feast on our birds.
Long story short, our barn (shown below), regardless of how well I thought I secured it, was a killing ground for chickens this year.
We couldn’t go a day without losing at least one chicken while they were in the barn. Turns out you need armed guards 24-7 to leave chickens in the barn at Whistle Pig Hollow so we had to get cracking on a new coop. As some of you know, we are big fans of the Hoopty Coop and so I got busy constructing Version 2.0 of our version of the Hoopty Coop (HC).
For those not familiar with a Hoopty Coop:
Hoopty Coop [hoop-tee coop]
- a chicken coop of portable design that you would expect to find a homeless man living in
- generally constructed of whatever building materials might be laying around the farm
For this new HC version I was lucky enough to have almost all of what we needed already on our farm or over at my parent’s place for ease of scavenging. Part of our redesign from version 1.0 was a lighter, larger and more portable shelter that we could easily make changes to, should any of the design prove faulty. Our first version, pictured below, is pretty much the complete opposite of the preceding description but still meets our needs and those of our legacy egg layers.
For the base of our frame we used 3” schedule 80 heavy grade PVC pipe that I had left over from a soccer goal dad and I built back in the early 90’s. Note to self, never throw anything away that might later be repurposed on the farm. (Ashley’s note: this statement makes me itch. I hate piles of stuff laying around.)
As part of the goal to make it easy for repair or redesign, I chose to forgo glue and just use carriage bolts and nuts to secure the frame together.
PVC is so easy to work with and making cuts and laying out the frame can easily be accomplished without the use of help (although things go faster with a two year old on hand). I am guessing that you could also easily find a lot of PVC for little to no money by scouring Craigslist. Hardware (screws, bolts, nuts, washers etc.) are found for cheap at TSC, Lowe’s, Home Depot or your local hardware store.
We utilize steel cow panels found again at TSC, your local Co-op or farm and feed store. I have found these provide a nice secure framework to bind the chicken wire to and also provide a sturdier frame during the stormy winter months.
In trying to keep the design as light as possible, I do not use too much wood for cross bracing. A simple cross brace along the backside and a door frame are enough to keep everything stable after you cover the coop in chicken wire. We use heavy duty zip ties to bind all the wire together. Some folks use steel hog rings to secure the wire and they are great in this application though a lot pricier and require a special pair of pliers.
Version 1.0 of the Hoopty Coop has a rigid roost pole and permanently wired boxes for nesting and laying. With Version 2.0 I rigged the roosting system to be easily removed or adjusted as needed. Borrowing from my buddy Farmer Dan, I am going to use milk crates in this HC for nesting boxes. My plan is to secure them to the cattle panel frame in such a way that they can also be adjusted or removed as needed along with the roosting system.
This coop finds itself way out in the cow pasture, far from our house and an easily accessible water source. To ensure that our chickens have adequate water and to keep us from toting a 5 gallon bucket of water out to them every day (with our old watering system this was a given) we switched to installing watering nipples in the bottom of a 5 gallon, plastic bucket with lid. Look for a post coming soon on how easy and cheap it is to build one of these! This is hung inside the coop and gives them 24-7 access to water without the fuss and mess of conventional chicken watering solutions.
As a final consideration for how many chickens we already lost this season and with the knowledge that we will inevitably lose more as they free range from dawn til dusk, I rigged up a couple of hot wires around the coop that are powered by a DC fence energizer to keep night time predators at bay. Not a 100% guarantee but at least gives them a fighting chance.
Editors note: I love my husband. Also, if you’re interested in building one of these, Google “Hoop Coop,” which is the actual name of this style of coop, and you’ll find many sets of directions. This site has a lot of info. ~AshleyPAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: To support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for supporting our efforts at Whistle Pig Hollow!