June 11, 2011
When it came to making a movable chicken house for our day range layers this year we turned to none other than our good friend and mentor Eliot Coleman. Last year Eliot designed and built a fairly lightweight and reasonably affordable movable house made entirely of material readily available at the local hardware store. So what did we do? We got the plans and copied it!
The frame is primarily made up of 1 3/8 inch fence post with 1 inch emt conduit for the bent hoops. With a little creative bending on the quick hoop bender, a lot of self drilling tek screws, some standard fencing hardware and a boatload of carriage bolts the design came together rather nicely. We modified our design slightly and mounted the nesting box on the rear. We shortened the depth of it so it would fit and, figured it would resolve the issue of having too much weight at the handle. This meant mounting the door in the front, which caused no problems.
You'll also notice the burly 26 inch cart wheels. They help the cart over any uneven ground and additionally serve as a shady spot for the ladies on hot days. The height allows for the birds to sit under the house comfortably.
The inside has 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch hardware cloth for the floor. The idea is that the droppings will fall through the floor when the birds are in the house at night, continuing to fertilize the fields. We already know that as they get older there's a good chance it will cake up and have to be cleaned out, but 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch by 1 inch cloth are hard to come by without special ordering and potentially pose the risk of predators being able to reach in.
I cut the roosts down from some old 1 3/4 inch thick lumber into 2 1/2 inch tall pieces long enough to stretch the length of the house. After angling the tops and giving them a quick sanding they're mounted onto the frame with some 5 inch carriage bolts. This was the other modification from Eliot's design. His box is mounted lower than the floor of the frame, but by making the roosts taller, I'm hoping the birds won't sleep in the nesting box. If it becomes an issue we'll have to put doors in the nesting box or use brackets to mount it lower.
The nesting box is constructed using some 1X8s, 1X10s and 1X12s. It's a simple design with some bracing and a hinged, angled roof. I coated the exterior with Thompson's Water Seal and left the inside all natural. The design will allow for plenty of room for our 30 bird flock and can easily accommodate more, but we like the idea of each bird having a little over a square foot to itself. Eliot puts 50 in each of his which works out well and I imagine you could push it to upwards of 70, but any more than that and the birds would start getting pretty cramped.
Birds in the chickshaw coming soon so stay tuned.