Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Coop

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Re: Blueberry Hill - If You're Having Fun is it Still Work?

Post by Tater Raider » Sat Jul 19, 2014 3:40 pm

Taj MaCoop now has a Bill of Materials and a Cost Estimate.

Previous Coop design came in at near enough so as not matter at $2,000. This had a traditional barn look with a gambrel roof and a "shed" on one side to use for nesting boxes and storage. At 120 ft² it provided room for about 24 chickens over the winter.

Taj MaCoop is an octagonal barn design and keeps the gambrel roof which makes the roofing... complicated. I've got the math down close enough to construct but exact figures aren't happening. It also comes in at 120 ft² but the cost is $2,250.

On the first design I didn't figure the foundation properly so if I correct that the cost of the simpler design goes up to $2,500-$2,700 so despite the complications I save $250-$450 by going octagonal.

Figures do not include the installation of electricity, which we'll need if we're going to have egg production through the winter. We'll have to run an electric line to the coop and put a circuit breaker in the power distribution box for that so whatever the electrician charges is what we pay on that one but all he'll have to do is hook up the wiring (already run) and put in the breaker.

I've just got to do a write-up and proposal to submit to my conservatorship - this is a bit beyond what my disposable income covers and it's over the threshold where I can avoid a judge approving me.

Pics of what's happened this week will be posted in a day or two. I've been busy though and hit the 1st service interval on the tractor already, so it's OOC until Monday.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - If You're Having Fun is it Still Work?

Post by Tater Raider » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:49 pm

Sorry, been busier than usual.

The Taj MaCoop has been approved and a construction budget set by the conservatorship. I'm working the utilities for locating buried stuff now per state law (you gotta locate everything before you trench, plant a tree, do foundation work, etc.) and will be setting up a timetable soonest. Groundbreaking should happen within a couple weeks and could happen this very weekend.

Tractor is up to 75 hours now. I can install or remove the front end loader and (yes, and) backhoe in under 20 minutes now. Removing the mower deck is 10 minutes but installing it can still take me up to an hour sometimes. Lining up the middle PTO shaft is the only thing I don't like about it and suggest others take a good hard look at pull-behind on a 3 point hitch. Also, don't get a tractor unless you like servicing vehicles because you will be lubing the attachments fairly often. Because Young Son said I had to name her, you might hear me refer to the tractor as Bessie now and then.

The chickens had a Cocci scare a bit back but 0 losses thank's to Lady Tater's sharp eye and Ryder358 giving me a ride to take care of things.

Ryder's and my project (very hush-hush so keep this between you and me) is on hold for now while several tons of manure turns into compost and awaiting a few other materials.

So that's it for now. I'm off to set a schedule and line up construction monkeys that promise no flinging of poo and willing to work for pizza and beer.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:15 pm

Tater Raider wrote:Pics of what's happened this week will be posted in a day or two.
:oops:

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Wednesday is Food Pantry day and the refurbished trailer is sometimes needed due to the size of the order. This one was just a smidge too much for Dusty to handle.

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When I head up to Mason City I tend to stop by the landfill and pic up around a ton of compost - it's free.

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Provided you load it yourself.

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Speaking of loading, the front end loader came in handy when I got the ag diesel tank. It needs some work done and that's on hold until winter or spring.

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Once upon a time this was a poultry building. If you look at the foundation you can see why I tore the building down and turned it into a staging area. On the left, composting cattle manure. On the right, sod.

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First load, mostly concrete.

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Assembled wheelbarrow and the best one I've ever owned. Loops make tipping very easy and wide wheels make it very stable.

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Coop construction staging area after first load.

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Sand delivered to the main staging area with compost and soil, now blended together, behind it - still composting but much slower than before.

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Smudge the Cat just realized that the chickens are now free range.

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"I wasn't doin' nuthin'..."

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Chickens don't care that Hemi is a good dog. They just go, "Gojira! Ahh!"

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Remember this?

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We're filling it with this. 1 part compost, 1 part soil, 2 parts sand.

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Some tractor work, some wheelbarrow work. My back aches looking at this pic.

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All the stuff for the foundation is now staged and some of the floor materials. 2 tons down. Special thanks to Young Son for helping me load the trailer, wish you'd been there to help me unload.

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Hey, the bed is done! Chickens stayed close by and verified that the string wasn't alive or edible.
For details on this project, contact Ryder358.


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So this happened today...

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Hemi provides scale on the chicken coop. The center X and every tick through the circle is a footing, 9 total. Circle is 13' across because it's my lucky number.

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There was paint left over so I figured, "Why not?"

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Halfapint » Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:33 pm

Looking great Tater!! Question why on Earth would you use the wheelbarrow to fill those planters? You have a front end loader use it! :lol:

Taj McCoop looks like it'll it will be one hell of a coop! Can't wait to see what it looks like when finished!

Lastly my cat LOVED the chickens, she would chase them until the pack leader charged her.... That was about the funniest damn thing I've ever seen! :clap:
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Ryder358 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:41 pm

Halfapint wrote:Looking great Tater!! Question why on Earth would you use the wheelbarrow to fill those planters? You have a front end loader use it! :lol:
You can drive the tractor in between the beds but there's not enough room to turn it and dump the load.

He should be able to fill the bottom bed entirely with the tractor.
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:46 pm

Halfapint wrote:Question why on Earth would you use the wheelbarrow to fill those planters? You have a front end loader use it! :lol:
I actually did both. Using the wheelbarrow at the start because of space issues and then taking off the backhoe (as a counterweight) and using the FEL (Front End Loader) so I could get into the area I had to be in.

No one is allowed to drive Bessie with the FEL on and the backhoe off except me and there damn well better be a good reason for me doing it that way. It can be done, but it's too risky for me to trust anyone else on that machine in that configuration.

Second bed is 100% FEL with backhoe attached because I don't have a deathwish.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Anianna » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:24 pm

I missed it if you said it, but do you plan on fencing in the garden? The chickens will eat your garden if you don't keep them out. Ask me how I know. :|
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:27 pm

Anianna wrote:I missed it if you said it, but do you plan on fencing in the garden? The chickens will eat your garden if you don't keep them out. Ask me how I know. :|
Yes but that is a separate project than the coop per the conservatorship so...

The plan is to fence in 4 chicken runs so I can paddock shift and also fence in the garden so I can let them run through it preplanting and post harvesting while keeping the bunnies out. The paddocks will be gated so I can let them free range as well.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Norwegian » Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:55 am

If you get some leftover concrete you could make a counterweight for the tractor, would make it safer to use without that big digger on the back...

This thread is part of my daily internet routine, you are doing a lot of what i want to when i get some land one day.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:31 pm

I'm glad people enjoy the thread and it's inspiring/idea generating/showing people what not to do.

As far as running the FEL without the backhoe, I've got options. Any counterweight would attach to a 3 point hitch which I have but you can't have the backhoe and hitch installed at the same time so there's a bit of work involved there plus the weight is behind the tractor which takes up space - the only reason I can see removing the backhoe in the first place. Now if I made my own counterweight I could low profile that and tailor it to suit me, minimizing the space it takes up. You still run into the 3 point hitch issue but you aren't getting away from that unless I go with liquid ballast in the back tires, putting the weight down low and over the rear axle while taking up no space at all - but weight location (front to back) and cost can be an issue. Throw in that the tractor is also a lawn mower and now you've got to minimize the weight involved so it has to be something that can be swapped in and out of easily so that might not be the best solution.

Right now I'm in need of a rear blade for the 3 point hitch as a counter weight for the snow blower, to scrape snow out from where the blower can't go, and a finishing touch for actual snow removal from the drive so it doesn't turn into an ice sheet. Liquid tire ballast may figure into this but then I'm looking at getting a spare wheel and tire set for the rears because of the whole lawnmower thing and swapping out tires twice a year is acceptable to me - the FEL and backhoe make for an interesting looking self-contained tractor lift.

So that's been given a lot of thought, some of it as part of the research for the tractor purchase. I'm still working on it. Until then, though, see boldfaced, large rule put out there a couple posts back for the world to see.


Construction update: I've got 3 more trailer loads of materials to pick up from 45 miles away and I want it done by the 28th so that everything is on hand before the pour begins. Weight, not space, is the issue thus far with getting stuff here and I don't see that changing. 2 of the boards purchased were the wrong length but I'm not sure if that's my mistake or the lumberyard's and it's 2 freakin' boards so I'm eating that mistake, no biggie. I'm going to be looking at a used radial arm saw and table saw later on today. They aren't tools I need for this project but they may make things easier and that's enough of an excuse for me to set aside some money for the radial arm saw - table saw is bonus here.

Rain is in the 7-day forecast every day except Monday the 25th. Groundbreaking is set for Monday the 25th. Coincidence? Also, it looks like I'm going to be tarping the big holes in the ground to keep some of the water out until the pour starts on the 30th.


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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Murphman » Fri Aug 22, 2014 7:41 am

Can I ask why you used 2 parts sand in the raised beds? Is that for drainage? Considering the size of the beds, I understand not going with the typical vermiculite/perlite, compost, peat mixture due to cost, but I think you might have created too much drainage, and not enough moisture holding power, with that amount of sand.

Are you adding any other soil amendments? I started using Azomite http://www.azomite.com/
in my raised beds two planting seasons ago, and my family swears the veggies, especially tomatoes, are sweeter. Actually considering getting a refractometer to measure the brix compared to store bought to find out, but $100 for giggles about how my produce is sweeter than crap in the store is not what I do typically. :crazy:
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Ryder358 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:30 pm

It's actually half sand half compost/soil/composting manuer. These beds are a small partnered project Tater and I are doing together. We plan on growing comfrey for several products one being Root cuttings and we wanted the soil to be easy to dig without damaging the plant. Another benefit is if the mixture does drain to quickly this could encourage more vigorous root growth down into the natural soil and give us bigger roots faster
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by wee drop o' bush » Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:18 am

Wow Taters. Great pics and impressive work :v:


"Bessie" the tractor?
I love that name, my Nana (grandmother) was called Bessie, so is my niece :rofl:
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:33 pm

Murphman wrote:Can I ask why you used 2 parts sand in the raised beds? Is that for drainage? Considering the size of the beds, I understand not going with the typical vermiculite/perlite, compost, peat mixture due to cost, but I think you might have created too much drainage, and not enough moisture holding power, with that amount of sand.

Are you adding any other soil amendments? I started using Azomite http://www.azomite.com/
in my raised beds two planting seasons ago, and my family swears the veggies, especially tomatoes, are sweeter. Actually considering getting a refractometer to measure the brix compared to store bought to find out, but $100 for giggles about how my produce is sweeter than crap in the store is not what I do typically. :crazy:
Ryder358 wrote:It's actually half sand half compost/soil/composting manuer. These beds are a small partnered project Tater and I are doing together. We plan on growing comfrey for several products one being Root cuttings and we wanted the soil to be easy to dig without damaging the plant. Another benefit is if the mixture does drain to quickly this could encourage more vigorous root growth down into the natural soil and give us bigger roots faster
We'll also be throwing straw on top of it as mulch and are working on a rainwater catchment irrigation system using IBC totes. Watering will be happening every 3 days depending on the 3-day rain total. If it don't work we can always take some out and put some new in to create a better growing medium that will still do the easy removal/replanting thing.

Soil augmentation is completely up to Ryder. I'm the shovel monkey.


And now, pics.

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I now own tools that are older than I am, but I love me a Radial Arm Saw.

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3rd load of construction materials tucked away.

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Groundbreaking news!

Monday, 25 Aug, Blueberry Hill - We rented a skid loader with a 16" auger to dig the foundations Monday. ~$135 US. Worth. Every. Penny.


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When the auger got stuck it was Bessie to the rescue. Out of 9 holes, she got called up twice and I was able to sort out a third hole without her help.

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Bessie's first rescue - just an itty bitty rock stopped things.

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Same rock and not the biggest one I ran into.

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We did more than just dig 9 holes in the dirt. We also picked up load #4. It was a long Monday.

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More on this hole later.

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We are done now, yes? Good. I'll be in the tub of ice water with a beer. If you want anything else it can wait until I'm done hurting, probably 2016.

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Dirt we removed. For scale, that is the trailer's tailgate next to the pile and it's 6' wide. Probably half of that was hand shoveled at one point or another.

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Foundation pour is scheduled Saturday and rain is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday)-Saturday so we decided to tarp the holes to minimize rain invasion.

We are not responsible for injury or loss of life of any ZS'ers that wander over here and decide to walk on the tarps, attractive nuisance law or no. I will just point to this disclaimer.

And then I will laugh at you.

Loudly.



Anyone that's done a project with me knows the one thing I will inevitably say at some point is, "I would have done this differently," and this project is no exception. I would have made damn sure I was relaxed and taken as long as needed to do the job properly with the auger there instead of returning it before the 9th hole was finished.

Why was it returned before we were finished with the holes? I'm on a deadline (of my own making, true, but real) and we hit debris from a buried building. I knew of the building but was told it was buried with a bunch of rocks in a pit 20-30' deep. They might want to check their measuring gear because I hit it in 3 holes after 2-3'. Maybe they measured it in metric or something.

So the pic above? Auger gave up on this hole due to bricks, cement, and a wire. Bessie gave up because she wanted a big hole and I wanted a little one. So the last 2 or so feet of this were dug by hand with the loan of a clamshell postholer from a neighbor. And yes, it was me in there doing the digging. That wire in the hole is from the building that was buried there and I knew it was dead. If you hit something while digging and you aren't sure what it is, stop and figure it out. If you can't test to make sure it's safe don't look to me to tell you how to test it, hire a pro because mistakes of buried stuff can and do kill people every year. Seriously, don't fuck with this shit or it will try and kill you. This also proves that just because the "Call before you dig" people came out doesn't mean that everything got marked so remember that too.

So after I got out the bolt cutters and took care of the wire I did some climbing in and out of a pit dug by Bessie and some spade and postholer work with several 5 gallon (US) buckets of the heaviest clay known to man tossed out and we got what we needed with way more soil removed than we wanted but that bottom part of the hole is the right size and in the right place so good enough.

Now those of you in construction will see in a couple photos a huge mistake I made. Yup. we removed the dirt from the work site after all the holes were dug instead of while we worked. Since it was a ring of holes with another hole in the middle, cleanup was fun so there's another thing I would have done differently.

Still, I've gotten good enough with the front end loader to scrape up the dirt without taking out the sod, so that's something. And for those who've never run a FEL and are looking at a tractor it takes a bit of practice (and I've got the gouges on the lawn to prove that) but Bessie is sitting at 80 hours and about half of that is mower time so it's something you can learn in not too long of a time.

Still to be done, 1 more load of construction materials and 2 tons, give or take, of gravel to be picked up, rebar needs to be tied together and hung in the holes with great care on alignment and measurements, gravel needs to be added to the holes and compacted down to bring them all to a depth of 5', and a cement mixer needs renting. I've got until Friday on all of that.

Saturday, we pour. Weather permitting.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Halfapint » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:33 pm

Geez all that work for a chicken coop! I think when you are done you'll be able to charge admission as one of the wonders of the world!
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by DarkAxel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:20 pm

I know you have a conservatorship to deal with, but if you plan on digging many more holes like that you may want to invest in a post-hole auger that would fit the 3-point hitch on your tractor. I bought one used for 150 bucks and it has been worth every penny.

Other than that, I'll just say I'm enjoying your thread here, Tater, and I can't wait to see the Taj MaCoop when it's finished.
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Zimmy » Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:11 am

Who buries a building under rocks 30' deep? :shock:
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:23 am

Zimmy wrote:Who buries a building under rocks 30' deep? :shock:
Bedrock is a lot deeper than that in this part of Iowa and I'm going to guess they used a backhoe/FEL much bigger than what I've got. Rock and rubble from the building got buried in a deep pit but I'm guessing not all of it made it terribly deep so while my backhoe could handle it the auger I used to keep the holes no bigger than necessary didn't have a good time at all.

When farmer's out here bury rock they really bury it so frost heave doesn't bring it back year-after-year.
DarkAxel wrote:I know you have a conservatorship to deal with, but if you plan on digging many more holes like that you may want to invest in a post-hole auger that would fit the 3-point hitch on your tractor. I bought one used for 150 bucks and it has been worth every penny.
Thanks. I'll be looking into this next time I'm looking at renting one, or as I like to call it, Spring. Fencing needs to go up so there it is.
Halfapint wrote:Geez all that work for a chicken coop! I think when you are done you'll be able to charge admission as one of the wonders of the world!
I'm thinking about it but there's no way I'm charging more than a bawk a head.


I'm really happy people are enjoying the thread.

Construction has been delayed due to weather - lots of rain and I'm not pouring concrete into a hole with standing water in it so will wait for rain to clear and then watch. As soon as they are ready to go and I've got consecutive sunny days we'll resume. In the meantime we're going to move like we're pouring on Saturday so we can get everything else that can be done knocked out.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by procyon » Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:52 pm

I'm loving this thread. :D
Tater Raider wrote: Image

the last 2 or so feet of this were dug by hand with the loan of a clamshell postholer from a neighbor
Ok, in my book you are officially 'The Man'.
I've dug to many holes with the old jobbers and they are serious work. Especially if you have to go down any distance to get the dirt broke up and out.
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Anianna » Fri Aug 29, 2014 3:08 pm

Tater, I thought of you and the extreme chicken mansion you seem to be getting ready to build when I read Chicken Coop 101: Thirteen Lessons Learned over at Life at Cobble Hill.
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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Tater Raider » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:47 pm

Anianna wrote:Tater, I thought of you and the extreme chicken mansion you seem to be getting ready to build when I read Chicken Coop 101: Thirteen Lessons Learned over at Life at Cobble Hill.
It's not like I'm putting central air in the thing... :oops:

Checked the link and it helped with a question I've had on how to design the chicken doors so that alone was awesome. It also helped with:
  • Nesting Box placement.
    A potential roosting issue with my design, now fixed.
    Storage considerations.
The pics of the mobile coops were awesome too.

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Re: Blueberry Hill - Building a Garden Shed Sized Chicken Co

Post by Anianna » Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:46 am

You may consider some way of closing or blocking off the nesting boxes at night for a while, too, to teach the chickens to roost on roosts at night instead of in the boxes. They do a lot of pooping when they are roosting and if they choose to sleep in the nesting boxes, then the boxes get messy.

We have an ADOR automatic door on our chicken coop and it is hands down the best poultry related purchase we have made. It has sensors to open itself in the morning and close itself at night and we never worry about forgetting to close the coop any more. It operates on one of those big batteries used by camp lanterns or you can get the solar option. Best chicken door ever.
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