From plan to reality- a mobile chicken coop that works!
We finally have a mobile chicken coop that is appropriate for our needs and that suits the landscape of the property!
I have kept chickens for coming on three years and would consider myself an over-protective parent. I still haven’t lost a chook to predators even though we have lived adjoining bush land the entire time and our neighbours have suffered losses. I also think I have made all the mistakes in coop design possible in the past and hopefully have remedied them all in my new design!
After we moved here, I had no chicken coop. I stumbled upon an old trampoline frame which I quickly converted using materials that I brought with me from the old house. Unfortunately, it was a bad design for the chickens, me, and the land. Access was poor for egg collection and it could only be placed in a couple of spots on the land that were flat enough. When the ground was too steep, the chickens wouldn’t use their roosts and they would slide around in the nesting boxes. We ended up with lots of broken eggs and egg eating became a bad habit for a couple of the younger chooks. At least 1-2 eggs were being lost each day. We had looked around for manufactured chicken coops that were suitable but we were unable to find any. It seemed all the coops were designed to sit on flat ground. Great, except that we have little to no flat ground!
I came up with a concept of a coop that would suit everybody and was designed for our hilly, uneven landscape. This new design is specifically planned to suit our needs. It is an exclusively free-ranging coop and is not a chicken tractor. The chickens roam outside during the day but are free to come in and out of the coop to lay at will. The chickens have no access to the soil whilst in the coop, but since they’re either laying or roosting most of the time that they’re in there it’s not really an issue. The floor is made of wood which I can easily fill with grass, straw and other treats, and just as easily empty out onto the garden or compost after they are finished with it.
To work out how my dream coop would be, I needed to consider both the requirements of the chickens and the requirements of the humans using it.
The requirements of a chicken in the coop:
- protection from weather and predators
- access to food and clean water
- enough space to nest and roost
- Access, access, access – it had to be easy to clean and change food/water, as well as good access to tend to brooding chooks (a big one most people don’t think about). If you are planning on raising chicks you need to be able to separate the brooding hen with the fertilised eggs from the rest of the group. If you don’t it can turn it to utter chaos. We have a separate small cage that has its own food and water and it can be placed inside the main coop. The brooding chook is placed in there for the gestation period and no other chickens can get in. If you try and take the broody chook away from the rest of the flock, she can stop being broody and then you lose the fertilised eggs.
- Easy to move – although the new coop is quite large, I can move it alone by wheeling it around the property (though it’s much easier with 2 people).
- Able to sit flat on a hillside – The 2 front legs can be adjusted to different heights depending on the slope and there are wheels on the back. This also creates a shady space under the coop for chooks to rest on hot days or in rainy weather if they don’t want to go inside.
Cost and materials:
The coop cost about $200 in materials as I was able to use some recycled materials. The roof and sides were all tin (recycled) and the wheels came from a retired BMX from our local “Freecycle” network. If everything had been bought new, it would have been more like $400-500. (This cost excludes labour. This is not something a beginner can make. I had to get a fellow Permie friend, carpenter and all-round builder who was able to weld this up for me. I was lucky that he taught me to weld in the process so I can now make these sorts of things myself.)
Posted on January 15, 2013, in Chickens, Raising chickens on pasture, Sustainability and tagged chicken coop design, chickens, mobile chicken coop, permaculture, Raising chickens on pasture. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.