Saturday, September 14, 2013
Hoop Coop Workshop at Painted Hand Farm
This is never a pretty sight to wake up and find in the morning. Yes, that's what a 4 AM raccoon raid on a hen house looks like. I heard it happen, that's how I know when it occurred. All hell broke loose in the barn yard--hens squawking, roosters raising the alarm, guineas screeching, calves bawling, goats screaming and the dog barking, but not before the culprit drug off the body where the head was consumed and all of the organs were removed via the hole in where the neck used to be....a most gruesome way to go.
And it's not just wild animals that can wreak havoc on poultry. Just a few days ago a fellow farmer bemoaned the loss of close to a hundred chicks and turkey poults to a domestic cat which brought back memories of my beloved merciless mouser, Megs, as she was somehow able to reach through the poultry wire and take out a dozen poults before I could fortify the brooder.
And let's not forget those pesky predators of the skies---hawks. Here at Painted Hand Farm I've chosen to employ roosters and Livestock Guardian Dogs as well as the Hoop Coop.
So just what is a Hoop Coop?
It is a versatile portable structure constructed of inexpensive materials that are easily purchased from your local hardware and farm supply stores including wire feedlot panels, 2"x4"s, chicken wire/hardware cloth/welded wire, rope, hose, tarp, hinges and hasp along with screws, fencing staples and wire. Depending on the materials chosen, the cost ranges from $100-200 in materials and takes a day to construct.
What all can a Hoop Coop house?
Over the last twelve years, my Hoop Coop has been used for:
- Even children!
- A full day of hands-on Hoop Coop building from start to finish.
- A full set of plans and directions for building a Hoop Coop, including a materials checklist, optional modification suggestions and references for additional information about pastured poultry.
- Hands on experience with pastured poultry. We will be putting broilers out on pasture with the completed project.
- Losing a single laying hen means the loss of 15 dozen eggs a year. Given that free-range eggs at farmers markets average $4 a dozen, that's $60 per hen.
- The average cost of raising a broiler to five pounds using organic feed is $6. Add on the cost of the bird and your time....how many birds can you afford to lose?
- Heritage turkey poults cost $7-12 each. Do you really want your pet cat eating your Thanksgiving dinner?
- Commercially available pastured-poultry coops that are not as versatile as a Hoop Coop cost significantly more (FarmTek ClearSpan $439, Walmart PlumStruck $499, Amazon Green Coops $844)
- Durable--I've been using the same Hoop Coop for 12 years with minimal maintenance
- Storm-proof--won't blow over even in the fiercest of storms.
- Easy to move--no wheels or dolly needed
- Can stand inside--makes for catching occupants easier
- Works as a great quarantine pen that can be moved to an uncontaminated area and quickly sanitized.
"I believe that true sustainability comes from the ability to build portable equipment that will serve the farmer in raising a variety of products as opposed to specialized and costly infrastructure." ~Sandra Kay Miller