Our happy chickens lay healthy eggs!
Our free range birds have large open coops. They are floored with shavings and cleaned out a few times a year. They all like to sleep on their ladders and have a variety of nesting boxes. They are locked up at night to keep safe from predators and are let out every morning. They are allowed to run the entire farm at their leisure.
Our penned breeding birds have large tractors that are moved every few days for fresh vegetation and bug hunting. We have many different sizes and styles that we have built since starting.
We try to be vigilant to keep out predators but know there isn't always a way to keep hawks or persistent foxes or raccoons away. Traps and livestock guard dogs can help on a large working farm.
Mobile Avian Sectional Housing.
This tractor was designed and built by my husband, Terry. It measures 10x10x6'.
This photo shows the frame with the wall panels laid down. Notice the roof has fencing across it with three 12' 2x4's to support the wire and PVC roofing panels.
Terry designed it this way so that all the walls can be interchangeable. It is also very practical for attaching 2 units together to make one tractor 10x20' by simply removing the extra walls since they are merely bolted together with 4" carriage bolts. The frames never come apart, only the walls.
The panels are less than 6' tall because they set against the frame and the fencing is sandwiched between the frame and the wall panel. As you can see on the frame the corners are made of three 2x4's put together and the bottom 2x6 rail and top 2x4 rail of the frame are bolted to the corners. This frame is extremely sturdy but not heavy to move with wheels.
This photo can show you how the corners look and how we attached the wire so it will be safely sandwiched when lifted into place. The wall is laying down in this photo.
You can see how the bottom rail was attached to the corner boards using 4 carriage bolts. On the other side, not shown, the other 2x6 is attached by 3 lag screws.
Three bolts across the bottom rail and across the top rail attach the wall panels to the frame.
The door is easy to make into one corner of a panel and the panels are fairly lightweight but still predator proof. They easily lift into place on any wall and it is my suggestion that the door is put on the side with the PVC running across to have a drip guard during rain.
After we put the wire over the top and we were ready to add the PVC roofing we started it with a few panels to keep it straight, removed the walls and tipped it up on it's side. So light weight we had no trouble doing this.
Using a ladder or the back of the truck to stand on, it went very quickly. We used roofing screws with rubber washers. This roofing has lasted in 60 mph winds and as you see it is out in the open.
Roofing is finished. You can see the 12' support boards sticking out. We were able to tip it right back over without any trouble. We then were able to attach all the walls and it was ready for use.
Here is the inside corner of the finished project. You can see the fencing on the roof, the PVC panels extend a bit over the outside. The fencing on the panels is sandwiched between the frame and the wall and you can see the carriage bolt on the left side that is holding the wall panel to the frame. We use a drill to zip these in and out.
You can see the 4 carriage bolts holding the 2x4 in place at the top of the frame but the other 2x4 on the left side of the photo is attached to the corner with 2 lag screws.
Terry drilled holes through the 2x4 on the wall panel and the 2x6 frame board. He bought 8" tires and we slip a bolt through the tire. Because we use these tires on every large tractor we move with this design, we lift the corner with a board and crow bar and slip the tires right on. We push them up against the frame for support.
These wheels fit all these tractors and we move the tractors very easily. Each tractor is moved about once a week and only about 10' over for fresh grass or new ground for them to peck and poo on.
It is so simple to slide the tires on and off but one day Terry may get around to putting levers on them to make it a one person job. One person can push this tractor and the birds are very good at walking along with the move.
You can see the height that the wheel raises the tractor. It is enough to get it over uneven ground but not enough for the chickens to escape.
It takes about 10 minutes for us to put the tires on, move it over and take the tires back off.
Terry wanted to keep to the earth tone color when he painted them. However, I kept stealing his paint for my projects and he had to take some of mine. It makes for some interesting mixes.
This is the finished product. We usually put a tarp on the west side to block them from the hot setting sun in the summer and the storms that come through.
You can also see where we attached a roosting board across the back. Two 3 1/2" screws on each end at whatever height your birds enjoy.
Terry also put Chicken Guard Plus on this one. He took a piece of hardware cloth about 2x2' and attached it to the wire wall with zip ties at each end of the roosting board to keep predators from reaching in at night.
This is another one showing that we have attached tarps all the way around except on the east side.
You can see how the snow has blown in a drift up against the north side. We don't get a lot of snow but our temps do get down in the teens and we get a lot of wind.
The birds do just fine in the cold and snow. They have their own insulation with their feathers and each other. The east is left open for fresh air and the warm morning sun.
Being used by feathered friends.
Our horse enjoys the shade or wind protection when he is in the pasture with them. Or he tries to convince the birds to kick out some grain his way.
These tractors have been wonderful in our pastures for free fertilizer. The grass is so green and the horse says it tastes great.
Terry calls this Rusty Top shed. It was just thrown together when I really needed extra space for more birds. It needs a lot of love put into it but right now it is fairly predator safe. I have bantam Cochins, Silkies and Frizzle Cochins in these pens since they don't fly over the fence.
For in depth look at how we built these tractors scroll down this page. Instructions are under M*A*S*H unit.
In the summer we are able to have the coops open air. It is best to have plenty of ventilation for poultry.
In the winter we do cover the front up some with tarps or plastic to knock off wind, a killer for poultry.
Never let an opportunity pass. These crates looked like just the thing to make more coops. I needed duck breeding pens and a safe shelter for them at night so I got busy working on them.
I sat them down on the skids and put an 8 inch gap in the back with the front raising up to 12 inches. Wire around that and they have great ventilation. Here it is before I finished the top.
Here I am getting ready to measure and cut the PVC roofing material. You can see the other one on the left where I have cut out the door but have not yet started on the roof. Or even put the coop in place.
Don't laugh, it works! The end of 2012 I disassembled this pen due to the turkeys walking on it and destroying the black top. But it held up for a few years!
The big snow of 2011. It blew in from the east but the birds did great!
My first tractor. I built it by myself without knowing what I was doing. Here it is, years later in the big 2011 snow, still doing a fine job.
April showers bring....high winds! The wind caught the tarp during the night. I found this pen and birds up against the Silkie/Cochin shed and trees the next morning, flipped up side down. All the bantam Cochins in this pen survived without a scratch but the eggs they were incubating were long gone.
It takes me a lot longer since I don't know how to build but I eventually get it done. Friends help paint and hold boards while I cut and in only a few short months I finally finish something.
The lids raise up from the back and are hinged on the front so I can avoid having to go in through the small front doors to collect eggs.
It all starts here........in the incubators. I use the big brown Sportsman GQF 1202 to incubate the first 18 days, then I move them over to the Genesis 1588 to hatch out. From there they go into an aquarium in the house until they are stable enough to head to the barn.
Down in the barn they go into plastic brooders with heat lamps. Some are 4 ft long to accomdate large hatches.
Once they start flying out of those they go into brooders on the floor. And when they get under my feet from jumping out of those they go into the grow up brooders.
These I can't take credit for. My husband helped a lot with framing them and getting the doors on the top. This was our first one. It is 6 ft long and 3 ft wide and only 2 ft deep so I can reach in. Still too wide for me though. They have wire bottoms and 2 separate doors that open at the top.
My "Just Peachy" duck coop. Not my crowning achievement but it is very useful.
I love this sliding plexi-glass window. I might could have done better but I decide how I want to build something as I go and it turns out how it turns out. The ducks don't care what it looks like, only that they are safe and dry.
I put in 2 pop doors on the front and each end is one big door so I can open it to clean each side and get the duck eggs out. They have an open window in the front and air vents at the top for plenty of ventilation.
The winter of 11/12 will see the birds protected with great water proof canvas that a wonderful customer gave me. It has served one of the other M*A*S*H units for 18 months with great results so I added it to my others. There is ventilation at the top for those warm winter days when the south sun makes it a bit too warm.
Please check out the duck page for another coop I made at the end of the barn for the Muscovies, who are constantly broody.
And check back here to see a few condos I will be working on through the winter. Those big crates are just begging to be used in different ways with a lot of new ideas!
Soon to be added are my Peafowl pens. After building the farm up with other pens these seem simple to construct in camparison. They will not be mobile. The stationary pens will be for pairs and I already have a peachick pen in place with a wire bottom. Please check back during the winter of 2012/2013!
Because of good friends the pens should go up well. In this case I mean John Beaton, not the turkey, Peggy Sue. Though she thinks she has to advise John on his every move!
A lot of the material is coming from the old peafowl place but we also are getting slabs from a local mill to help with contruction. Right now we are constructing 2 pen side by side measuring 10x30 each.