"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chicken Arks

A beloved reader of this blog wanted more info on the chicken arks.  I also know of a dear lady friend who wants chickens, but her hubby is against the idea, ostensibly due to predators.  So herein, I will give some more detail about the arks and why they are working so well for us.  I will also give some basic instruction on the construction of said these movable coops.

Being very limited on capital resources, the goal was to make these arks in the cheapest possible manner while still meeting the requirements of A) not losing any chickens the the various predators, B) providing the highest nutritional standards of fresh vegetation and "other" natural foods besides the cracked corn and laying pellets, C) being able to move the chickens around the yard which both provides the fresh greenery and fertilizes future planting ground.

Most of the wood that went into the construction of these arks was salvage wood that I merely asked for and received from somebody down the road who had it laying out near a barn.  There are lots of such places in the area, and we have many more ideas for the use of such wood, but that's a subject for another post.  The point is: you can get a lot of stuff for free if you are just willing to ask.  The lumber was old pressure treated decking, well-weathered.  This is important, because you would never want to use fresh PT wood as something that the critters would be in constant contact with, due to the chemicals involved.  I think it is safe to say that this wood has since had most of the bad stuff leached out of it.  Of course, it is only the wood that is used for framing of the arks.  We had to buy some 1/4 inch oriented strand board (OSB) for the bottom and sides.  A  4' x 8' sheet costs about $8 (your price may vary).  I got the basic plan by googling "raising chickens" and came across http://www.raising-chickens.org/chicken-tractor.html which has a series of somewhat detailed photos to show you the basic design.  The size of their ark was too small for my tastes.  I wanted a design that would hold six chickens comfortably and provide at least a day's worth of grazing space.

I started with the idea that I wanted the base to be 4 feet by 8 feet for each ark holding six chickens a piece. That provides 5.33 square feet per chicken.  Now, if you are thinking  that seems like a tiny amount of space per chicken, just keep in mind that the chickens that lay your store bought eggs just sit in a cubical just big enough to lay their eggs and are just fed and watered by some machinery.  Our chickens get fresh air, sunshine, stray bugs, our personal attention and petting.  We pay attention to how much fresh vegetation they get.  And my next post will probably gross most of you out when it comes to feeding chickens.

We bought a hundred foot roll of the 48" rectangular wire fencing material.  I still have enough left to do a couple of more arks or to create cages of some other sort. The reason for using this instead of chicken wire is because it seems more open, but it is much stronger against predators than chicken wire. We have too many cats around here right now for snakes to be an issue.

There is enough space in the "loft" for a dozen chickens to roost, but there are only six, so they have plenty of room.  There is an opening in the middle of the floor with a ramp attached with hinges underneath. There is a rope and a pulley that I use to draw the ramp up to the floor when I need to move the ark. I attached a standard rope cleat on the end to secure the rope.  The pulley is hard to see in the photo.Ark One is about 40 percent heavier than Ark II because I was experimenting with design and what I learned from the first model, I applied to the second. To move the arks I made a single axle to place under one end of an ark when I want to move it.  It's very simple. Just a 2 x 4 with a couple of utility wheels fastened on with "shoulder" type lag screws; 3/8" diameter by 3" long, with flat washers. You should know that Twyla doesn't have the strength to move either of these arks.  I think most healthy men and some women could, but you need enough strength to pick up one end and use your foot to position the axle and then pick up and move the ark with the fixed handles at the other end.  If you are going to build one of these contraptions, you need to size it accordingly.

Once again, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  Thanks for stopping by the farm.

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