Saturday, January 5, 2013

Community Creativity: Daryl's Coop Project

Several months ago, I invited all of the readers at Community Chickens to share their story with me.  Since then, I have been busy reading your creative solutions to chicken keeping challenges.  I have really enjoyed learning about your inventive designs for your coops.  

One of the more creative coop construction stories was shared by Daryl from Oregon.  He managed to turn an automobile mishap into an opportunity to reuse and repurpose materials and imagine a new chicken coop.  Here is his story in his own words.

"A few years ago, my son's friend backed into my 6x6 treated power pole where power comes into our house and snapped it off underground.  I replaced it and then wondered what to do with the shortened broken-off pole.  I measured it and found that if cut in half and the ends tapered, they would make excellent skids for a chicken coop.  Thus began my coop project.  

The coop from a distance showing the coop and the tractor pulling it

What I ended up with is a 10x10 coop with a corrugated roof and an electric chicken door that opens and closes with the sun. An old hand carved mahogany door and a large used aluminum window adds a little class, but the most important aspect is that we used composite plastic decking for the floor and treated lumber for the bottom wall sill.  

It won't rot or swell and makes a wonderful surface to slide my flat nose shovel over on cleaning days.  It's also 2 feet off the ground to protect from moisture and predators. I put a permanent chain on the front of the skids and in the winter, drag it with our tractor from our garden to high ground and then back in the spring.

Note the composite decking extending onto the “porch”.  It gets VERY muddy where we live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, so I was concerned about getting stuck since construction set me back two months in moving the coop to high ground.  But I put a load of bricks in the bucket, pulled the 3-point hitch up high to load the back of the tractor and put it in 4 wheel drive and it never slipped a bit! 

I’m an ergonomics engineer by trade and some other innovations I’ve incorporated into the coop are a spring loaded pivoting 2x4 door latch.  It’s dirt-cheap to make, easy to operate and it never needs adjusting.  I used a lock nut on the bolt so it will never come undone.  Also, in the picture, you notice that I used a repurposed fence stretcher to lift and lower the ramp that we use to get into and out of the coop.  This allows us to stow it when we tow it to high ground in winter and closer to the garden in spring. I used 1x2 cleats to give good footing even when we get snow or freezing rain. 

What you can’t see in the picture is the rainwater capture system.  Rainwater is caught by a plastic gutter and fills a water bowl inside the house.  An overflow 1 inch below the rim drains off the excess before overflowing the bowl.  We get enough rain that it does a good job of flushing out dirt and keeping the water fresh.  We use an improved varmint proof feeder built with plans from the Internet.  

 The coop up close to show the chain “yoke” and framing

 The coop is wired with a light switch by the door and a light fixture from Habitat for Humanity as well as an automated door that operates with a light sensor.  The power strip is covered by a hinged piece of plexiglass that keeps manure off the plugs while still giving us good access.  We run an extension cord for now, but we have run underground conduit and water lines to the pole for a more permanent installation as soon as I wire up lights and an outlet. 

The run is large with a quarantine section that can be closed off with a gate.  This allows us to put our yearly crop of replacement hens in close proximity to the older girls to get acclimated and reduce pecking and treading when they are finally integrated.  After the hens all become part of the same flock, we use the quarantine area for our crop of 2-3 turkeys that we raise every year. 

We treat all of our animals with kindness and affection and so I behead the turkeys with a Samurai Sword since it is the quickest, least traumatizing and most humane way I’ve found.  We don’t have to catch them and hold them that way and they bleed out very well.  During the year, I make “sword swinging” motions next to them so they suspect nothing and they are tame so we can get very close without alarming them.  If the sword is kept very sharp, it’s a quick and easy process.  

The trick is getting them late enough in the year that they don’t get too big by Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Two years ago we got chicks locally as late in the spring as we could but we still had one bird that dressed out at 42 lb.!  We had to quarter it and cook each quarter separately since it didn’t come close to fitting in our oven. 

Two Mallard drakes are also part of our flock.  They are voracious slug-eaters and they patrol between our outside fence and the garden fence with the chickens to reduce pests that compete with us for our produce.  Two miniature goats and our rooster have managed to keep our losses to hawks at ZERO for the last 5 years!  We’ve received so much pleasure and good nutrition from our poultry, I can’t imagine a farm without them."

Thank you, Daryl for taking the time to share your creative ideas.  If you have a story to share about your chicken keeping experience, I hope that you will share your story with me using the form on my blog.  I might just choose to share your story with the Community Chickens readers in a future post!

You're always welcome at 1840 Farm.
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