Chickens come in all shapes, sizes, colors, purposes and breeds. Why shouldn’t their homes? This is the chicken coop that I built as a personal project while here at Spring Rain Farm and Orchard. Though most onlookers have commented on the “hoop house,” it’s actually a light-weight chicken tractor, sans wheels. It mimics two other chicken coops they have on the farm that are moved about in the apple orchard; this one is actually tall enough that you don’t have to crawl through it to enter. It has no bottom, is easily moved by 2 or 3 people and will hop around the pasture every week or two as the birds peck, scratch and fertilize the footprint of the coop at each move. John, the farmer, has been more than helpful offering me his guidance, patience and carpentry knowledge every step of the way. So here I present to you, my first farm building project!
To begin with we used reclaimed lumber from a barn that used to sit on the property and leftover pieces of plywood. These I cut into angled pieces for end walls and gussets to sandwich panels of chicken wire. The chicken wire was also stapled in along the length of the boards and further sandwiched with skinny pieces of lathe attached with an air-compressor staple gun.
The side boards we attached at the base of the end walls and reinforced at each corner with brackets and bolts. These bolts proved to be the most time-consuming effort of the whole project as the thread was rusting and tightening the nuts down the length of the bolt was a process only as fast as the arch of a hand wrench could leverage – an arch impeded by tight corners, other screws and the low situation to the ground. To these side boards we screwed in and clamped eight 1- 1/2 thick PVC pipes bent over 2 top-supporting boards, also connecting the end walls.
Chicken wire panels were stretched out along the length of the coop (15 feet) and sewed together with light gauge wire at the seams to critter-proof our vessel.
And finally, we constructed a door out of one leftover board, a strip of plywood, one piece of lathe and the last pieces of chicken wire. Two freshly oiled hinges were attached at the top and bottom and we had ourselves a finished mobile chicken coop. It took 4 of us, 2 hand trucks and some strategic guiding to get it down the driveway, through the pasture gate, and up and over the hill to its first setting in the field. But now the 50 or so Rhode Island Red’s who were growing more crowded by the hour in the chick brooder are now happily at home outside in the pasture. They have free-range during the day outside and at night are partially covered by a tarp pulled tight over one half of the coop to provide shelter.
And now I can add using a circular saw, air compressor and staple gun as well as structural support knowledge to my farming repertoire.