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This last article in the series about building hoop houses for pastured poultry discusses the finishing touches to complete the project. You may have noticed in the photos that the front and back of the hoop house frame are about 5 inches off the ground. There are a few reasons why. For one reason, it’s easier to pull the house if the front and back of the frame aren’t digging into the ground. For another reason, if a chicken gets caught under the back of the frame as you’re pulling, that 5 inch gap is just enough space that the chicken can roll under the house and come out the back side without injury. And the third reason, the frame just seems easier to build and more sturdy that way. However, in order to prevent the chickens from believing that they can come and go through that gap whenever they please, we added a skirt made of old cut up inner tube that we got for free from the local tire store. Note that the gap under the front and back and the fact that there is no floor in this house means that it is not predator-proof. If predators are a problem in your area, you should run an electric fence wire around the house near the bottom.
Spray paint on the wooden parts will help keep them from weathering. We added an eye bolt through the skid on each side at the front to tie a pulling rope to. We also added a handle and latch to the outside of the door, and another latch on the inside of the door (so when I’m in there gathering eggs, I can keep the chickens in). We folded some more pieces of inner tube over the wooden frame parts that stick out on the back side of the hoop house and stapled them on. These pieces of inner tube act as padding around the sharp edges of the boards so they don’t rip holes in the tarp as easily. Then we covered the house with a 12X16 tarp. The silver kind works best at resisting deterioration from sunlight. We put the front edge of the tarp even with the front of the house, leaving the front side of the house uncovered. The back edge of the tarp wraps around and partially covers the back of the house, making it look somewhat like a Conestoga wagon. The tarp is fastened to the house with zip ties.
The hoop house is now complete. If you’re going to keep laying hens in it, you will want to add a roost and some nest boxes inside. We found that the feeder and waterer can either hang from the ceiling, or can be placed on the triangular corner gussets and secured with bungee cords. That way they will move along with the house as you pull it. Two adults can pull the house without too much trouble, but you could also loop the rope around a garden tractor hitch.
If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I recently purchased 6 Rouen ducklings. They are quickly outgrowing the plastic bin we’ve been brooding them in, so this weekend we built them a little hoop house of their own, in a style similar to the chicken house. We made the duck house 4 ft by 4 ft, and used welded wire fencing instead of cattle panels. The ducks are starting to get pinfeathers, so they should have enough feathers to move out of the barn soon.
Happy chickens and ducks!!
Posted by Cheryl
@ 09:30 PM CDT
A light drizzle outside made working inside sound like a good idea this weekend, so we pulled the hoop house into the barn to continue working on it. In Part 2 of this series we showed how to attach the cattle panels to the frame we had built in Part 1. This week we built the back and the front of the hoop house and put on the poultry netting.
The first step is to attach 1X4 lumber to the back upright board at about hip and shoulder level. They are glued and screwed to the upright, and attached to the cattle panels with plumber’s strapping and screws or bolts like we did with the upright board in part 2. Et Voila, the back framing is done. Simple, huh?
The next step is the door frame. We glued and screwed more 1X4’s to the bottom front board, two feet apart in the center of the opening. Triangular plywood gussets glued and screwed on the inside of the door frame hold a two-foot long header board for the door opening. You’ll want to place that header board high enough that you don’t have to stoop to get into the hoop house. We used an extra board to prop up the cattle panels so we could get a little extra height, and then attached the door frame posts to the cattle panels with the plumber’s strapping.
The door is made of more 1X4’s held together in the corners with more plywood gussets. We made our gussets for the door frame and door out of 1/2 inch plywood, cut into 8 inch squares, and then cut corner to corner into triangles. You’ll want to make the door with at least 1/4 inch gap all around, so it’s not tight inside the frame, otherwise the wood will swell and the door will stick in damp weather. Notice in the picture of the door frame, we dropped the gussets down and in a bit so they cover the corners of the door opening. This serves as a stop that the door rests against when it’s closed. You can’t see in these pictures, but we also made the door long enough that the bottom of it rests against the hoop house base when it’s closed. That serves as our door stop on the bottom. For the door, we placed the gussets flush against the edges of the 1x4’s. We also put a brace across the middle of the door, securing it with 4 inch wide strips of plywood.
The next step is to cover the back, front, and 4 feet high on the sides of the hoop house with one inch poultry netting (chicken wire). You will use a whole 50-foot roll of 4-foot wide netting. Starting with the back of the hoop house, stretch the netting across the bottom, staple it to all the wooden parts of the hoop house, and attach it to the cattle panels with hog rings or zip ties. We used zip ties in the corners to hold it while we were stapling, and we used hog rings for added strength. I think the zip ties might deteriorate outdoors in the sun. Four feet is not tall enough to reach all the way to the top of the hoop house, so you’ll need to cut another piece of netting to finish to the top. Again, staple to all the wooden parts and use hog rings to connect to the cattle panels. Where the two pieces of poultry netting meet, we connected them together with cage clips. We found the cage clips and this cage clip crimping tool in our local farm and ranch store in the rabbit supplies section.
Repeat the process to cover the front of the coop with poultry netting, covering the whole front. Once the netting is securely stapled to all the wooden parts, you can use nippers to cut the wire from around the door to allow the door to open.
Add poultry netting to each side of the hoop house, just one row high. Staple it to the hoop house base, and use the hog rings to attach it to the cattle panels.
That’s where we gave up for the evening. :-)
In the next article in the series we’ll talk about adding the finishing touches to the hoop house
Posted by Cheryl
@ 10:24 AM CDT
The first part of this series covered building the base for the hoop house. This part covers making the “hoop” part of the house. The first step is to add a 1x4 vertically to the center of the back edge of the frame. We used Gorilla Glue and screws to hold it in place. We also set the end of the 1x4 flush against the floor, to make it easier to hold straight while we were gluing and screwing it. Once we got the screws in, we cut the bottom of the 1x4 even with the bottom of the frame.
Next, we took a 4X16 cattle panel, available at the local farm and ranch store, bent it into an arch and aligned the back edge of it with the back edge of the hoop house base. We fastened it to the outside of the hoop house base with fence staples.
A second cattle panel was bent into an arch and placed overlapping the first one slightly at the center of the house, and aligned with the front edge of the hoop house base. This was also fastened to the base with fence staples.
Since the cattle panels had a tendency to want to spring back out to their original flat shape, we tied twine from one side to the other to keep them arched while we stapled them to the frame.
Where the two panels overlapped, we used hog rings to connect them together.
We adjusted the cattle panels so that the top of the arch visually aligned with the vertical 1x4 at the back, and attached them together with plumber’s strapping and a couple of screws.
In the next segment in this series, we’ll show how to build the end walls and door for the hoop house. The chicks and turkey poults will be here in April, so we really need to keep moving with this project!
Until next time, have fun, and think Spring – Cheryl
Posted by Cheryl
@ 07:13 AM CDT
Some places have two seasons – the rainy season and the dry season. Most everyplace else has four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Kansas has five seasons, and we’re in that fifth season right now. Kansas’ fifth season comes squarely between Winter and Spring. The nights are still cold enough to freeze everything solid, but in the daytime the 40-something temperature is just warm enough to turn the ground into a thick, soupy mess. You guessed it, the fifth season is Mud Season. This year’s mud season is especially muddy, due to the larger than usual amounts of snow we received this year. A walk through the garden makes ankle-deep footprints that immediately fill with water, and leaves a person wondering if their boots will be left behind with the next step. It is in this type of mud that we were out yesterday, trying to set up a new high tunnel that we got at Christmas.
Martin had a great idea on how to line up the poles that get pounded into the ground – he got a 20-foot long 2x4, and drilled four holes in it at the appropriate spacing, figuring that once we get the first four posts pounded in through the holes, we move the board down two spaces and pound in the next two poles. A brilliant idea, I thought, and so I suggested that we skip the usual batter boards and string, and just get started pounding poles in using his 2x4 alignment tool. Our son came over to help, and our daughter’s boyfriend did too, and we were making pretty good time, and got all 17 poles on one side pounded in. Then we looked back down the row of poles and realized that instead of a straight line, they drew an arc in the mud. Apparently the 2x4 had warped when it got wet, and the holes were no longer aligned. So, we put up our batter boards and string, and figured out which poles needed to be pulled out and moved. If there’s any blessing in the mud, it’s that the poles were fairly easy to pull out and move. We ended up getting only the 17 poles on one side done that day, plus the corner poles for the other side.
A day wiser, Martin and I set out this afternoon to get a few poles installed on the other side, and to get a few of the bows up, so it would at least look like we were making some progress. It turned out the 2x4 tool still worked well to get our spacing, as long as we used the string for alignment. Four done, 13 more to go! Then we just have to add the top purlin, bracing along the sides, the end walls, the plastic, etc…. I hope we’re done in time to start planting!
Keep your socks dry,
Posted by Cheryl
@ 04:38 PM CST
JustPicked Farms is planning to raise chickens and turkeys for meat this summer, and we’re planning to pasture them in movable hoop houses, moving them each day to a fresh spot of pasture. We did some investigation of others’ houses on the Internet, and used that as a basis for our design:
In this post, we’ll show you how to build a sturdy, lightweight, easy to pull base for this hoop house, and we’ll continue in next week’s post. To make the base, you will need:
(2) 2x4, 10 ft, and (2) 2x4, 8 ft treated lumber. If you prefer to avoid treated lumber, you should use a rot-resistant lumber such as cedar, redwood, or cypress.
(2) 10 ft pieces of 2” PVC drain pipe (optional, but recommended)
(4) 16 x 16 x 22 5/8 triangles made from 3/4 inch plywood
Jig saw or hand saw
heat gun or propane torch
Gorilla glue (a polyurethane-based glue that cures when exposed to moisture. We’ve found this glue to be quite long-lasting, with excellent hold, and impervious to weather, making it great for outdoor projects.)
1. On the 10-foot pieces of treated lumber, mark 1 inch from the corner on one end, and 6 inches along one side. Cut this off with the jigsaw or hand saw. These will be the runners, like on a sled, that the hoop house will slide on. Cutting off the corner keeps the runner from digging into the ground as you drag the hoop house to its new spot. Repeat this for each end of the 10-foot pieces of lumber.
2. On the table saw, cut a strip out of each of the pieces of PVC pipe, so the pipe will fit over the short side of the runner.
3. Clamp it down, and use the heat gun or torch to heat the pipe at the point where your board begins to angle. Be careful if you use a torch to not heat it too much and burn it. Once the pipe is warm, bend it to follow the board. Do this at both ends of both boards.
4. To fasten the pipe to the board, drill through the pipe, and fasten it with a few screws.
5. Here’s what the bottom runner looks like with the pipe attached. You can omit the pipe if you want, but I think it makes the hoop house slide across the grass more easily.
6. Measure 6 inches from the one end of the runner board, and glue and screw one of the triangles onto the opposite side from the pipe. Do the same with the remaining triangles. If the weather is cold, set your glue bottle in a bowl of hot water to warm it. It will squeeze out of the bottle much more easily and spread better.
7. Now you’ve got both your runner boards with the pipe and triangles on them. Flip them over so that the pipe is facing up, and the triangles of one runner board are pointing to the triangles on the other runner board, and place them about 8 feet apart on a good flat floor.
8. Take your 8 foot treated lumber, and place one on edge, underneath the triangles at one end of your runner boards. Line up the edge of the triangle with the edge of the 8 foot board, and make sure the end of the 8 foot board is even with the outside edge of the runner board. Glue and screw the triangles to this board. Do the same with the other 8 foot board on the other end of your runner boards.
9. Flip the whole thing over so the plastic pipes are once again on the bottom. Now you have a sturdy, lightweight, smooth pulling base for your poultry hoop house.
Next week, we’ll continue with Part 2 of building our pastured poultry hoop house. Stay tuned!
Posted by Cheryl
@ 09:03 PM CST
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