My flock runs together during the day and sleeps in a main coop at night, which works out surprisingly well. However, as spring drew closer, I started to worry about safety as birds start thinking about brooding and raising their young. A friend had a terrible experience last year when her turkey built a nest in her hedgerow and was taken by a coyote. Not wanting the same thing to happen to mine, I devised a plan to keep them safe while brooding: a hoop house.
I already had some livestock panels purchased at a farm auction for about $6 apiece and using scrap lumber, I was able to build the entire thing for under $50, not including the tarp which was another $30 or so. It is 10×12, so 120 sq. ft of “floor space”, yet tall enough that I, at 5’4″, can stand up inside without bumping my head. The livestock panels don’t have to be perfect. The birds won’t care and in most cases, if they are bent or twisted, they can be straightened out with a little effort.
I laid out the 3 panels and lined them up on my 12′ board (this is when I discovered that my panels are actually 52″, rather than exactly 4′ tall. For the second hoop coop, I plan to buy 14′ boards and cut them off when all 3 panels are laid side by side, rather than having the overlap there is on this one).
Secure the panels to the boards. I used fence staples but then started to have reservations about their true ability to hold the weight under stress, so I also used metal strapping in the corners and at all overlap points.
Using 14-gauge wire, I tied the panels together every few feet. Not much to photograph there.
This was the only step for which I needed HWA’s help. With the ratchet tie-down fastened on one side, HWA lifted up the 12′ board with the 3 panels attached, while I pulled on the tie down, to pull it into a hoop shape. Once I had my end on the ground, I tied off the tie-down to the opposite board, to hold the hoop shape. This allowed me to leisurely affix the end boards of the rectangular frame. Initially the end boards were secured with 3 screws apiece. I later bolstered the strength of the corners by taking another piece of metal strapping, bending it into an “L” shape, and screwing one side of each “L” to each side of the corner.
Create framework for the non-opening end. HWA, who is an engineer, assured me an A-Frame design is the strongest, so, using 2×4’s, we carefully cut them at an angle to meet at the top. We then secured the bottoms to the inside of the frame. The tops feed through openings in the panel.
Cut two lengths of 3′ tall 2×4 welded wire and staple it to the bottom frame and the A-Frame supports, to create the end wall. I secured it to the panels with more wire. While zip ties are easier and faster, they wear out in the sun. I am hoping that by using wire, I won’t have to “re-do” this every couple of years.
Create the framework for the front. The previous owners of our property left a lot of scrap lumber lying around when they left. I decided to pillage some of that since I did not need full 8′ lengths and it was a good use of some otherwise hard to use lengths of lumber. One had a charred end due to being in a burn pile at some point. We call that “character”. The two vertical pieces are attached to the bottom of the frame on the outside. The horizontal runs through an opening on either side of the panels, and is then screwed to the verticals.
Use 2×4 welded wire to cover the front openings except where the gate will be.
Create the gate. I used 2×2 lumber and cut it to fit. The height of the door opening allowed me to create the entire gate from only two lengths of 2×2. The pieces I cut off the verticals were wide enough to do the horizontals, and the small pieces I had to cut off the horizontals became the triangulation. I had the hinges left over from a previous project and attached the gate so that it opens fully and rests against the outside front wall. I then used a latch to make sure it is able to be locked closed.
Attach a tarp. I bought one of the more expensive tarps that has the reflective silver on one side, because we get very hot temperatures here and I figured it would help keep it cool. The tarp is 10×12 and the 12′ length runs down the 12′ length of the coop. I wanted to leave enough on each side for them to see out and get air flow.
So there you have it – how to build a hoop house in 10 easy steps, even if you are a petite woman with limited building skills.
Oh – on the inside I added a dog house for them to nest in and roost on, and set a feeder and waterer on the ground – the waterer in a corner so it can’t be knocked over, and the feeder in the middle where it is protected from rain blowing in from any direction. It would also be easy to hang a feeder from the panels, and to make the waterer fillable from the outside, if necessary. The last thing I did was to add chicken wire on the inside of the panels all the way around, to keep newly hatched chicks, poults and ducklings from escaping the safety of their “nursery”.