Saturday Project – Movable Chicken Coop

The chickens are having a great time outside now.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-__t_nTP83CQ/Umb6QpFE-pI/AAAAAAAABy8/W12OWVUkuns/s144-c-o/IMG_20131022_152027_553.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5937708322546580114″ caption=”The chickens are finding that they indeed like the outdoors now.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131022_152027_553.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-8rQ0nnkGeHg/Umb5vLgBoeI/AAAAAAAAByY/XseFV9zZjyE/s144-c-o/IMG_20131022_151818_433.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5937707747670860258″ caption=”Feed and water is only outside now.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131022_151818_433.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-Yiq_qpCwA4w/Umb62Gfi4_I/AAAAAAAABzI/Fu9AnPu9WRA/s144-c-o/IMG_20131022_152302_106.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5937708966097380338″ caption=”They aren’t so sure about the chicken coop.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131022_152302_106.jpg” ]

One of my goals on the property is to improve the soil.  That will allow me to grow food more easily and it is just good for the environment.  That is one reason I got chickens.  The chickens get to do what they love – dig and peck and eat and … well, you know.  And I get to sit and watch them do the hard work of preparing the soil.  The plan is to pasture them and move them around property so that they can work for a while in each section.  After they’ve been in an area for a week or so (or however long I determine is a good time for that area), I’ll move them on to a new location.

Pasturing is kind of like free ranging.  But they do are fenced and that will keep them concentrated in one area and they won’t have freedom to roost on, for example, my car which I’d rather not have covered in chicken poop.  Also in pasturing, you move them frequently, unlike a stationary coop where they are always in the same place.  Some pastures are permanent and you move the chickens between the set pastures.  I will do a temporary set up using electric fences to keep the chickens in and predators out.  They will have free access to the coop night and day.

Now I have a coop on the property which the previous owners built.  It’s a great coop, but it has one flaw for my plan.  It can’t be moved!  Therefore the chickens would always be concentrated in one area all the time forever.  I could pasture them nearby, but that wouldn’t allow them to work the entire property.That doesn’t work for me.  Maybe I will use it for broody hens or something.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-lVYjIqlw7Qg/Um1g8nprCYI/AAAAAAAAB7k/Jyp3boWpWrs/s144-c-o/IMG_20131027_114910_508.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939510078123739522″ caption=”Permanent chicken coop” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131027_114910_508.jpg” ]

I looked and looked at chicken tractors, movable chicken coops, DIY plans for same, etc. etc.  I didn’t find anything that would fit my requirements.  I had a few must haves:  house the chickens, be easy to move by me with no tractor or ATV (since I don’t already have one), require no tools to make it that I don’t already have.  There are plenty of pre built and plans to house the chickens, that was no problem.  But the last two requirements were the tough part.  Most of the chicken tractors and movable coops were big and heavy for me to move.  Not that they are hard to move, they aren’t – most of them appear quite easy for a man of reasonable strength to lift and pull, but I am a woman and not terribly strong and it’s hard for me to walk long distances by myself, let alone pulling such a load – they would be hard for ME to move.  Or they needed to have a tractor or ATV to move them – which I don’t currently own. I may eventually get one, but I need something to fit what I currently have. Plus the pre-built or kit ones were expensive.  The DIY plans had the same weight and difficult moving problem.  Plus the DIY plans would all require tools and equipment that I don’t have.

All of this started long before I got the chickens.  In the end, I decided I would have to rig something up myself.  I decided on a small, cheap chicken coop that would house a few chickens fairly comfortably (at the time I only planned to have ~5-6 so it was just right.  It didn’t have wheels or anything, but it was cheap (and yes the construction shows it) and it only took me ~30 minutes to put it together.

Chicken Coop

I set it up in the backyard ready for the chickens.  So the last week or so, I’ve been putting half of them in the coop outside at night and allowing the others in the mudroom.  They aren’t very happy about sleeping in the coop, they want to sleep in their accustomed place, despite the fact that it has no roosts and now they are large enough that they should be using them.

It still had one problem though.  Sure it was light, but I couldn’t move it.  Also, it has a wood floor, so it has to be cleaned regularly (the easiest to clean coops have a wire mesh floor allowing droppings to fall through).  So I’ve thought about what to do about this for some time.  The floor was easily removable, if I just had something to put it on that was wire mesh.

My sister and Brother-in-law asked me to watch their new dog this weekend. She is FULL of energy, so spending lots of time outdoors is perfect.  She and Z could play while I worked on this project.  Z and I headed off to Home Depot.  I found the perfect wagon to put my coop on.

Tricam Farm Cart/Wagon

I put the cart together, leaving the sides off.  Then I removed the floor from the coop and put the coop on top of the wagon.  Well the coop is a bit wider than the wagon.  Thank goodness for the sides (I had looked for one without sides, but now I’m glad I didn’t find one!).  I laid the sides on top of the bed, under the coop, then adjusted them so that they made the “new” bed as wide as the coop.  Zip ties hold sides to the bed of the wagon and more zip ties hold the coop to the wagon.  Wa-la!  I have an easy to move chicken coop!

And should I ever get an ATV, I’m in luck, the handle of the wagon converts to a hitch toot sweet.  This setup should work great for moving the chickens around the property.  Here’s the final result!

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-seb-IdZV2Ao/UmxIyGcS2JI/AAAAAAAAB0k/2QkduUqVbGk/s144-c-o/IMG_20131026_155655_310.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939202034154789010″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131026_155655_310.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-tnzumx0k9E0/UmxJGsMkluI/AAAAAAAAB1I/LoRXqLZxljw/s144-c-o/IMG_20131026_155753_265.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939202387886773986″ caption=”Sides of the wagon doing duty as additional floor space, held in place by zip ties.  Coop attached to wagon again with zip ties.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131026_155753_265.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-s0v4QMEunBI/UmxJTiERwNI/AAAAAAAAB1g/5gSLz0ijuh8/s144-c-o/IMG_20131026_155843_548.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939202608505929938″ caption=”The finished product!  Chicken coop on wheels.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131026_155843_548.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Fp6wsRD6SC0/UmxJLfRtd7I/AAAAAAAAB1U/HH1RVOvLXaA/s144-c-o/IMG_20131026_155806_050.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939202470318012338″ caption=”Close-up of bottom and sides of wagon attached to the chicken coop.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131026_155806_050.jpg” ]

Now you may have noticed that this coop is not nearly large enough for the chickens I have.  As I said, my original plan was only to have 5-6.  Minimum order sizes and time of year made me end up with far more than my original plan.   They are fine now with the size they are, but they will quickly outgrow it (within a few weeks I expect).  So I need to find another similar coop and wagon (but a bit larger preferably) and do this again.  The other option is to set up some of them in the original coop and let them be more free ranging until I get a better setup. Also some may find their way to my table.

Now all this time I was working hard, the dogs were playing hard!

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-qGjrbGnR57g/Um1ffqFX_dI/AAAAAAAAB68/xXS4VKvUPMY/s144-c-o/IMG_20131027_085309_806.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939508481048968658″ caption=”Playing hard while the human works. Isn’t a dog’s life great!” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131027_085309_806.jpg” ]

 I would have loved to get a picture of them chasing each other.  Z grabs something and runs (or sometimes just runs) and Tk takes after him (he is always the chasee, she is always the chasor it seems).  But even if I had a camera at the ready, they would be mere blurs.  I’d need an actual good camera to get that kind of action.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-N2QPP8TxY_0/Um1lmXDAtMI/AAAAAAAAB8c/gttVw0NmYwI/s144-c-o/IMG_20131027_093837_518.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/113749325768518604662/20131026SaturdayProjectMobileChickenCoop#5939515193267631298″ caption=”S and E’s dog, Tk the energizer puppy… not so energized.  This is the second day at my house.  A tired dog is a good dog!” type=”image” alt=”IMG_20131027_093837_518.jpg” ]

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