IMG_0226

After three previous attempts at making mobile coops with varying degrees of success, I think I have a design that has proven secure, functional, and one-man manageable. This latest design is loosely based on designs by Joel Salatin and Harvey Ussery, with a good dose of reality. There were three pieces I purchased for this coop, otherwise I used salvage lumber from an outbuilding I took down on our farm.

My design principles were basic:

  • I needed it to house 50 birds.
  • I wanted it to provide roosts and nesting space. I did not intend this for meat birds, but for egg layers)
  • I wanted it to be lightweight enough that I could move it by hand, but sturdy enough that I could pull it with an ATV when moving between pastures.
  • I need it to be secure enough to keep out foxes, possums, raccoons, and stray dogs.

The dimensions are loosely based on Joel Salatin’s pastured poultry pen. 2×2 construction with reinforcing cross bracing from 1×2 and 1×4 lumber to keep weight down. base footprint is 8’x10′.

The “upper deck” I based on Harvey Usury’s a-frame mobile coop. Prior attempts to build according to his plan did not work for me. When I would attach wheels, inevitable the corners would sag and ultimately break. I did like the roost space that the joists provide. I also know that A-frame is very sturdy in windy conditions.

Below you can see the frame of the coop. I don’t recall the exact dimensions of the A-frame portion, but I did subsequently add additional cross braces to give the chickens multiple levels of roost space.

mobile coop frame

After assembling the framework I special ordered a custom tarp (specifications were 8’x12′ Super Heavy 20mil Poly Tarp) from  www.tarpsupply.com. It cost $89.90 after tax and shipping. It is heavier duty than what you’d get from a big box store and I wanted white to keep it cooler in summer.

I wrapped the entire framework in 1″ chicken wire. I covered the bottom, sides and top. Anywhere the chicken wire created a seam, I looped 14 ga wire to hold the seams secure. I used screws and battens to hold the wire to the framework (this allows me to replace the wire when needed without damage to the framework.

On each end, I built in nest boxes. The nest boxes were two cells about 12″ x 12″, I made external access doors and used leftover tarpaper and shingles to waterproof the nest boxes. (more on the nesting below)

For mobility, I searched craigslist.com and found a small boat trailer that someone was selling for $100. It was an 8′ x 4′ trailer with an OSB deck. The trailer was light enough that I could easily wheel it around by hand and sturdy enough to support the weight I needed it to carry.

I  completed the coop framework by mounting the tarp with woodscrews and stainless steel washers. I keep the gable ends open for ventilation and have not had issues with rain. I then propped up the whole structure on sawhorses. I wheeled the trailer in underneath. To support the coop on the trailer, I used sections of 1/2″ pipe that I found in one of our barns. I liked using the pipe because it wouldn’t accumulate poop, and the excess provides outdoor roosts for the chickens.

For doors, I made wooden frames from 1″x4″ wooden rails and stiles and used hardware cloth for the panels. I used some old hinges I recovered from an out building and secure the door each night with some 14 gauge wire (or paracord, or whatever I have around at the time).

As you can see in the image at the top of the article, I provide feed to the chickens using some 4″x6″x4′ home made feeder troughs. I use nipple drinkers that I made for PVC pipe and a 5 gallon bucket with a bulkhead. The drinker is run inside the coop so they have access to water day-or-night. I provide shell and grit is a box feeder made from leftover plywood. and I wound up making a 4-cell nest box that sits on the ground. I discovered that the chickens preferred to lay their eggs on the ground underneath the coop instead of using the nest boxes. Not sure why but I assume it is just darker underneath. So it isn’t quite as self-contained as I would like (I have to make multiple trips when moving the coop by hand…move the coop, move the feed can, move the feeders, move the nest box). But all-in-all I am happy with the setup.

Additionally, I should note that I use Premier 1 Poultry Net to provide a safe border around the paddocks. This keeps out ground predators really well and I have not had any issues with ground predators. I have had hawks take out chickens, but that is not an issue with the coop itself.

This past weekend I cleaned out the coop. Note that I keep my chickens in a fixed coop during winter. Cleaning out the coop involves me lifting the corners of the coop onto sawhorses (I can lift the corner by hand) then rolling out the trailer. Scrape and hose everything down. Re-assemble. The cleaning process takes about an hour all-told.

This year will be my third year with this setup. I did have to replace the chicken wire on the bottom (I neglected to clean the poop out last fall so I think the acids just accelerated it rusting). I also removed the OSB from the trailer in the hopes that poo will fall through to the ground.

Advertisements