Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hoop House

It seems that all my "farm time" of late has been spent on housing.  The chicks are full grown pullets. The baby kits are rabbits. All of them are overcrowded, at least by my standards.  Hoop houses caught my eye late last year.  They seemed like a way to not only extend my growing season but keep my sweet chickens from decimating my garden. Of all the designs I found I noticed a few issues I wanted to avoid:

1 - Weight.  I wanted a house I could move by hand and by myself.

2 - Height.  I'm 5'9" and would prefer to avoid back problems while feeding or cleaning up after the animals.

3 - Door Style.  It's hard to put a square door in a arched opening.  Most of the house I saw either had awkward openings or added a tremendous amount of weight with plywood ends and full sized doors.

Based on a chicken tractor found here, I adjusted my design and ended up with what I feel may be a near perfect hobby farm structure that can be used as a chicken tractor, rabbit hutch or raised bed.   I used a single cattle panel and runners so that I could control the weight and easily move the structure.  The cattle panel was arched so that the inside height was over 6' shortening the base to 6' x 6'.  Both ends were hinged to create arched fold-down doors and full access.

The hoop house uses a 4' x 16' cattle panel anchored with barbwire staples to two 8' treated 2x6 runners.

Two 6' treated 2x4's and notched angled braces complete a sturdy base.

PVC pipe attached with pipe straps to hinged 1x4's become the base for arched doors. Chicken wire connected with "J" clips and staples covers the cattle panel and PVC arch to keep critters in or out as needed.

Eye bolts and a sturdy rope make the whole structure mobile.

With a tarp over the back half, a upcycled wooden curtain rod as a perch and a pet carrier as protection against summer thunderstorms, the hoop house was intended as a chicken tractor for the Freds.  Then I saw this:

So the Fred's are in with my older hens, never having set foot in the newly constructed hoop house.

The next pressing issue was more square footage for rabbits.  Remove the perch and the hoop house would make a perfect summertime hangout for the rabbits.  The pet carrier would still keep the rabbits protected and they would love the constant access to fresh grass.  But, thanks to some leftover lumber from our basement renovation and extra hardware cloth, the buns have a brand new raised hutch that will withstand our winter temperatures and minimize rabbits holes.  

My original interest in hoop houses became the current use of my new structures.  Six foot square raised beds hold just enough vegetables for a late summer garden.   My hens are extremely frustrated that they can't take dust baths by my sweet peppers this year or pick the cherry tomatoes straight off the vines.  A second hoop house will hold fall veggies. I'm excited about being able to cover the houses with plastic and harvest well into the winter months.

Now I am officially obsessed with hoop houses and their seemingly unending versatility. Let me know what you think of my design and any ideas on door improvements.  The fold down arched door is easy to construct but you have to walk on it and the not-so-sturdy chicken wire to access the beds.

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