Make a hoop house!
Last summer I visited my pal and Farm Master, Bourbon Red, to learn more about how to build a hoop house. You can read the official instructions and get a complete materials list here.
This project was 10x12', used 3 16' panels for the hoop part, a couple of horse fence sections for the end, a tarp for the cover, and a door made of materials on hand. The cost of goods was about $200 and was really pretty easy. You'll need a mitre saw to make a couple of 45* cuts and I'd suggest using deck screws to put the whole thing together (I never nail because I usually rip everything apart at some point). Get a sack of zip ties, some of those heavy duty fence staples, a helper, and you are in business.
If you're short like me the hoop houses are big and roomy enough to walk around in without bonking your head. And you can really fance them up with perches...
and nest boxes.
Five gallon buckets make great nest boxes.
You can use this method to make a hoop house of any size. These big ones can be pulled with a tractor as long as you go slow so you don't run over your birds.
A couple of things I learned about the construction are:
* Use zip ties to secure the hoop panels side by side for additional support.
* Using standard size lumber, the hoop roof will be slightly longer than the base...which is great - you have a slight overhang -- thats the end for your door.
* To make the hoop, secure one end of the panel loosely on the top of one of the rails with those big fence staples, then gently walk toward the base with the other end of the panel (the panel will arch up to make the hoop roof), and have someone hold it in place on that second side rail while you whack in the staples. Then go back and secure the staples on the first side.
Closed end. Turkeys happily popping all around.
Door end, see the over hang?
For smaller birds you probably want to run chicken wire on the inside of the hoop to keep them in... or to keep predators out. We are pretty cautious so we'd probably lock our birds inside a permanent structure (coop in a house) at night. But I know folks who don't. If you are concerned you could run hot wires/electric mesh around the yard as extra protection.
There are tons of uses for hoop houses - for creepy meat chickens, for instance. And being able to move it around allows them to graze on fresh grass without worrying about their safety. You could also use structures like this for small stock or for storing hay or straw. Or remove the tarp and use plastic and you have a green house.
This is definitely going to be one of our projects this summer. Who's hoopin' with me?