Like so many different passion farmers, I’m by no means actually carried out with my hen tasks. Along with the common duties of creating positive they’ve recent clear water, ample meals and treats, clear bedding and enrichment actions, I’m at all times in search of methods to enhance their surroundings. I need to make it possible for my hens have what they want, are protected and have room to roam.
As such, there’s at all times extra that may be carried out.
Within the spring of 2020, my spouse and I moved into a brand new house. I, after all, couldn’t take my hen coop from my earlier house, which was constructed onto the aspect of our barns. So not desirous to abandon my passion of elevating chickens, we wanted a fast answer for the women.
We hold a small flock of between three and 6 birds, which offers us with greater than sufficient eggs and many to offer away as effectively. On the time of the transfer, we had simply three chickens, a Black Australorp, a Rhode Island Purple and a White Rock.
Making a Coop
My spouse is at all times taking a look at critiques and hacks to see how numerous fashions of hen coops have labored for folks and what they’ve carried out to change them when wanted. Primarily based on favorable critiques from different hobbyists with small flocks, we opted on a well-liked farm-supply setup. This was a fast answer to get the hens someplace the place they could possibly be protected.
As soon as the coop equipment arrived, I assembled it. Then I started to make some modifications in preparation of the pure parts it might be uncovered to, each weather-related and from the native inhabitants of predators comparable to foxes. The very first thing I did to amend the coop was to spray the outside with a waterproofing answer. I then set about reinforcing the construction itself.
Ch, Ch, Adjustments
With added safety in thoughts, I stapled an extra layer of hen wire over prime of the wire mesh by which the coop was manufactured. I then gave the coop some extra help by including boards to the outside body. This offers it extra weight and stability.
To arrange the positioning the place the coop now sits, I laid hen wire on the bottom to assist forestall animals from burrowing underneath the coop. As I continued to plan, I made a decision to place the coop up on a layer of cinder blocks for 2 causes.
The roosting bar on the hen coop out of the field appeared too low to make the chickens really feel protected whereas perching. The layer of cinder blocks helped to lift this some, although admittedly not loads. It doesn’t sit the 4 toes or increased they would favor to perch at within the wild.
I wished an extra barrier between the wood body alongside the underside of the coop and the bottom. This may assist alleviate issues of rotting wooden by holding the body out of fixed contact with floor moisture.
These hacks allowed me in good conscience to maneuver our little flock into their new house for spring and summer time. Nevertheless, we knew that they would wish extra safety and heat for the upcoming Maine winter.
The Northeast isn’t distinctive in having a prolonged winter season. Many right here joke that there are solely three seasons in Maine: winter, mud and getting ready for winter.
However actually, the place we stay, winters and chilly climate predominate for practically half of the 12 months. We didn’t need to go away our coop uncovered to the harsher climate that may befall us within the coming months.
Not like the coop from our former house, which had the advantage of being connected to a barn that blocked the colder winter winds and offered some ambient warmth, our new coop was free standing and didn’t get pleasure from such advantages. The answer, we determined, was to take a lesson from my years as a horticulturist and to place up a greenhouse construction to maintain them heat.
Learn extra: This cool customized coop retains issues tidy.
Greenhouses are designed and utilized for his or her very capacity to lure photo voltaic vitality as warmth. Mild vitality from the solar enters the inexperiencedhome. A few of the vitality escapes as gentle, however a few of it’s trapped and transformed to warmth vitality.
The greenhouse design that we chosen was massive sufficient to fully cowl the coop with loads of room to spare. It had a large opening and 6 side-ventilation home windows to permit for good air stream. By late summer time, I had constructed this new greenhouse and put it in place to guard our coop from the winter climate whereas offering some warmth for our flock.
By no means content material to depart something be, I then set about including extra help to this construction as effectively. I added six 2×4 studs for extra help, anticipating there to be some quantity of snow load at instances. The help studs had been set into cinder blocks. I then drilled a gap on the prime of every one, zip-tying every to the middle body of the greenhouse.
Angled steel brackets had been added to every nook of the greenhouse body to offer extra stability for the excessive winds and heavy snow that may inevitably come. I then put rocks round three sides of the greenhouse to crush the masking in an effort to forestall chilly air from getting into and as an extra deterrent towards predators.
As extra measures to maintain our small flock heat and hydrated over the winter, I added a panel heater and a heated watering base to maintain their water from freezing. I suspended the heating panel from the middle help of the greenhouse body and positioned it in order that it would supply warmth close to the roosting bar space.
Their waterer with the heated base was positioned outdoors of the coop within the greenhouse space, to assist forestall frostbite on our hens. Conserving it within the greenhouse portion, as an alternative of of their precise coop, additionally aided in holding their water above freezing temperatures. Uncovered to extra gentle, it absorbed extra warmth in comparison with the shade of the coop construction.
The greenhouse stood sturdy for its first winter. Every day, I’d ventilate and shut the construction relying on the climate. I’d make sure to brush off the snow when it fell in order that it didn’t stress the construction. I additionally wished to make sure the snow didn’t block daylight from getting into and warming up the greenhouse.
As soon as the temperatures began to heat up within the spring and early summer time, I knew the greenhouse would probably develop too heat for our women. So, I then additional modified the construction. I lower the masking at every of the corners excessive sufficient in order that the 2 longer sides could possibly be rolled up with the intention to enable air to stream extra simply.
I added hen wire to the greenhouse body the place the plastic sides had been in order that the chickens couldn’t wander out and so nothing else undesirable may wander into the coop. Bungee cords proved to be the best fastener to carry the rolling sides. We may simply drop them again down if a chilly snap occurred, and this might forestall heavy rain from getting into their coop area.
Constructed to Final
We’re at the moment into our second winter at this house and the greenhouse continues to be standing, doing the job we hoped for. The plastic reveals slight indicators of wear and tear across the higher body the place it rubs towards the steel pipes.
I made an extra modification for this present winter. Along with reinforcing these weak spots within the plastic with heavy-duty tape, I added foam pool noodles to the higher body of the greenhouse. It will forestall the screws within the body pipes from poking by way of the plastic when snow sits on the construction.
I definitely don’t anticipate this greenhouse to face eternally. It was in spite of everything simply a web based DIY equipment and never meant to be a everlasting construction. Nevertheless, with some continued modifications, upkeep and care, I could get one other couple of winters out of it but.
That’s, after all, till we decide to construct a a lot bigger and grand construction befitting our rising variety of feathered mates!
Predators, particularly foxes and even bald eagles, are considerable in our space. Anybody who raises free-range chickens is aware of how troublesome it may be to lose a number of of your women to a predator.
I perceive it’s a part of the circle of life. These creatures solely do what they instinctively know to do. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make it any much less heartbreaking to seek out the stays of one of many hens you might have raised and whose persona you might have come to know and respect.
Adapting for Security
Consequently, we made the troublesome choice to not allow them to free-range at sure instances of 12 months. Technically the greenhouse construction supplied sufficient sq. footage per hen, a minimum of by textbook calculations. But it surely didn’t appear to be sufficient room to us, particularly after they had been capable of cowl a number of acres unfettered.
With that in thoughts, I constructed a number of modular items to create a run for them. This expands their roaming area past simply the footprint of the greenhouse and coop area. I may simply transfer the items as wanted if we opted to offer them some supervised free-range time.
Moreover, if we select to extend the variety of our flock, it’ll be simple so as to add extra of those constructions to proceed to broaden the quantity of room obtainable to them.
This text initially appeared within the March/April 2022 concern of Interest Farms journal.