Category Archives: Projects

Geodesic Chicken Coop

Our current chicken coop is an old shed that has fallen to disrepair over the years. It was old when we moved in, and we fixed it up enough to house the chickens, but it really wasn’t the best solution.

One of our goals for this year was to get the chickens into new housing. For quite a while we looked at coop houses made out of livestock panels, and those had several features that we liked.

  • They can be moved. That’s important, even though we generally let the chickens roam most of the time, it would be nice not to have the coop always in one place. A light-weight coop that can be moved is a plus.
  • Inexpensive. The panel coops are relatively inexpensive to build, which is always nice feature, and one of the biggest issues with homesteading as the initial setup costs.
  • Roomy. We wanted a coop that could house more chickens, and something that we could stand up in.
  • Sanitary. We also wanted it to be easier to clean. Being able to move the coop helps with that, but wood also rots over time. THe panel coops typically use wood, but not much and it can be replaced.

The problem we ran into with the livestock panel approach was actually the livestock panels themselves. At 16 feet long and 50 inches wide, they don’t really fit in the VW beetle. Even my dad’s pickup truck, with an extended bed, isn’t big enough to haul livestock panels that will stick out at least 6 feet or more from the back of the truck. I had asked at the feed store how people transported panels, and they said with a long trailer, which makes perfect sense. We don’t have access right now to a truck and a long trailer. And it’d be a little overkill for a couple panels for one small coop anyway.

Geodesic Designs

When the hoop house idea didn’t pan out, I started thinking about other sorts of materials. What about a hoop house made out of some sort of PVC pipe? I’d seen greenhouses done that way. Although most of the green houses weren’t designed to be portable in the sense that you could drag it to a new location. It might be portable since you can take them down on and rebuild them somewhere else, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for. Then I started thinking about geodesic structures, which have always fascinated me, but how would I do the hubs on the geodesic structure?

It raised the obvious question: had anyone else already solved all of those problems and built a geodesic chicken coop? A quick search online turned up the folks at Zip Tie Domes. Created by the Hurt family, Zip Tie Domes produces a variety of domes for livestock housing, including chickens, and designed to be used as greenhouses.

This looked like the exact sort of thing I had been thinking about. Lightweight, easy to move, and still somewhat within the price range that I had in mind for the project. After talking it over we decided to go ahead and order their small 10 foot dome chicken coop kit.

Assembly part one

The dome kit (poultry edition), came in two large boxes weighing 51 pounds and 41 pounds. Inside were the materials to construct the dome itself. That’s all the PVC struts, the patented hubs, handles, door struts, and of course, zip ties. They also provided a copy of the manuals that are also available on the website.

After unpacking boxes and removing the wire that bound all the struts together in a role, I started to work on building the dome. The process of building the dome is pretty simple. It really doesn’t require much in the way of building skill. Anyone who can follow simple directions shouldn’t have any problem. The basic construction method used is to insert the PVC struts into the hub and attach it to the center ring with zip ties. That gets repeated over and over again.

Laying Out Struts
Laying Out Struts

 

First Tier Raised and Inspected
First Tier Raised and Inspected

 

Second Tier Rising
Second Tier Rising

 

Second Tier Raised
Second Tier Raised

 

Completed Dome
Completed Dome

Next steps

It took maybe about two hours to put the dome together. About the time that they had estimated on their website. With a larger dome I would’ve needed a ladder to reach the upper levels, but in the 10 foot dome the top is easily within reach. High enough to stand up at the center. The dome kit comes with two struts to form a diamond-shaped door on one side (by removing one strut from the top of the first tier). With the dome complete the next step will be finishing it off.

After building the dome it will get covered with chicken wire, a large tarp, and I will add the door. The kit also comes with a number of PVC handles to attach to the framework, to make it easier to move the coop. It also needs to be anchored against wind which could potentially blow the coop over. The folks at Zip Tie Domes use bungee cords and cinder blocks that anchor the dome. I picked up a swingset anchor kit, which has four screw into the ground anchors that attach to a chain which is bolted to a metal band that can be fastened around the struts. The ground anchors may provide a more secure mounting, but might not be as easy to move as the concrete blocks. Depending on how much we move it, we may find that the anchors don’t exactly work as we want. We’ll see. Along with the new digs and I picked up a couple I high-sided litter boxes to use as nest boxes, and a new water bucket with nipples to provide clean water. It’ll be suspended from the dome structure, as will their food and roosts.

I’ll post again when we get the next phase of the project done and get the chickens moved into their new home.

Cleaning Up

The septic has been covered again with screened topsoil this time so it won’t be full of rocks the next time it has to be dug up. The rocky soil removed will get used elsewhere to fill in holes and level off areas where it won’t matter. Today we also took a truck-load of trash from the pile off to the dump. Until my folks moved nearby we hadn’t had access to a truck to help get rid of all of the trash we’ve gathered here on the property. There’s still more to be removed, but we’ve made a start at cleaning it up at least.

We’re also working on figuring new coop plans for the chickens.

Septic Maintenance

This is a chore I’ve put off for quite a while but finally broke down today and started digging up the septic. Unbelievably it’s already been five years since we moved onto our property. The as-built drawings from the county show a rough circle with the word “Septic?” in the general area where the septic is located. Past inspections filed with the county revealed information about the tank and the type of system, but didn’t give clear details about the exact location.

Judging based on where the pipes leave the house, and where there was a depression that I thought was where it had to be, I started digging. Around 20″ down I hit the tank. From that point I widened the hole. It was tough digging. The dirt is full of rocks but I really couldn’t believe it when I found very large rocks placed right on top of the manhole cover.

Crazy rocks!
Crazy rocks!

Given that you’d have to dig up the tank to pump it or inspect it, making the job harder by dropping big rocks into the hole hardly made sense. The ground was rocky enough already with plenty of good sized rocks!

I removed the rocks and kept working, eventually uncovering the first cover. Then I consulted with my Dad about probably locations of the other covers. With his advice and help the work went faster and we uncovered the whole tank.

Tank revealed
Tank revealed

After a lot of work, the tank was uncovered! I’ve scheduled the pumping and so that’ll be another task done once they get out and pump it. The rocks are going to be used for decorative edging different places on the property — but won’t be going back in the hole! It’ll get filled with dirt that is easier to dig, without the rocks. I’ll probably just fill it and plant new grass on the top. I’ve measured the whole tank, the distance from the house and all of that, so next time it’ll be a lot easier to locate and deal with the whole thing.

Raising Rabbits, and Other Things

Back when we moved onto our property, we decided to raise rabbits for meat. We bought a couple does and a buck at the feed store down the road and started setting up cages for each of them. And that’s as far as we got. Cages built, but we just had the cages propped up on boards not very high from the ground. We did raise up and butcher several litters but now X. hasn’t wanted to have the young rabbits butchered so we haven’t been breeding them.

They needed better housing with easier access and this morning I decided to see what I could pull together with what we had available.

The result is simple and rough. It used wood we had around the place, some of it supporting the cages before this. One part was the post used to hold the for sale sign when our property was sold. The roof is made from recycled metal sheets that used to be a pool that we took apart and a tarp lashed down to the frame. It raises them up to an easier height. No more bending over to reach inside.

New Doe Homes
New Doe Homes

Here’s another picture from further back. The buck is on rocks and boards raised off the ground, but not very high because I didn’t have enough spare lumber around to do a similar platform for his cage.

All Three Rabbits
All Three Rabbits

The plant right behind them is an apple tree that fell over in a storm but has survived despite being split in half. I plan to remove it, but that’s another thing that hasn’t happened yet.

In addition to getting their cages cleaned and relocated they also had their nails trimmed. Barb, Margie and Nicky are now settled into their new location.

Posting

We haven’t been posting much on the site in part because it’s easy to get discouraged with how little we’ve accomplished compared to what we’d like to do. Lately I’ve been working on trails around the property, and clearing the area where I need to dig up the septic tank to get it pumped. That’s the next big project.

List of Projects

Projects abound here at Woolly Dragon Farm. The writing business takes up much of my time but I try to find time to get in work on the place too. And I want to post more regularly to this blog. If I could only pack in a few more hours into each day it’d be easier, but I haven’t found a way to compress the local time stream yet.

At the moment there are several projects occupying my mind.

  • Organization — it’s a constant problem, but I’d like to get things more organized in the house. A two-year-old toddler makes that a difficult task, but I’d like to work on it and clean out some of the clutter. Some of it we brought with us when we moved and it is still sitting around. If it’s still in a box I can’t imagine that it’s anything that we need, but it takes time to get through it all.
  • Concrete demolition — when we moved in one of the first things we saw that we wanted to change was the concrete slab alongside the house. I’d prefer to have that be an extension of the front yard instead. I’ve actually started on the cutting of the slab along the house but that takes time too. Dusty hard work. After cutting I’ll have a go at it with the sledgehammer and see if I can break it up. The rubble might be used in drainage ditches, or beneath new animal housing for drainage. Or we could use it to create raised beds or flagstones, we’ll just see.
  • Animal Housing — speaking of animal housing that’s another task. We’ve got an old shed that half is the chicken coop but I’d like to replace that with a better coop for the birds. And then I’ll look at building housing for some Nigerian goats one of these days.
  • Office Shed — I’d like to build a little office shed building up on the hill, maybe earth-sheltered, but that’s more long term.
  • Garden — I want to do a lot more work on our garden too. Last year was not our best year for plants, I’m hopeful that this next year we’ll do a better job. Plus more ornamental beds.
  • Fencing — Along the side with the slab, I’d like to put a taller wood fence and then do a picket sort of fence around the front yard.
  • Flooring — We’ve actually started on our flooring replacement, taking up the old carpet in the living room. Now we’ve got to get the concrete cleaned, patched, coated and then we’ll do a colored stain.

That’s only a few of the projects that I’d like to tackle. Time and money, those are the biggest constraints. We work on things as we can.

Summer Wrap-Up

Leaves are changing. I’m seeing Fall colors appearing on trees and the nights are getting cooler. This morning a light rain is falling. August has been a dry month with only 0.13 in of rain this month. Average rainfall is just over an inch so things are pretty dry.

We’ve been on our homestead for over a year now! Hard to believe.

Chickens
Hi!
Our chickens are doing well. They’re giving us four eggs per day now, so about half of the chickens are laying. They get to spend most of the day roaming around the property. When we go out they come running over.

The garden ended up being a mixed bag. The lettuce did well, as did the carrots. The potatoes look like they grew well, but we haven’t dug them up yet so we’ll see. I harvested garlic and the bulbs were on the small side. Slugs ate the tomatoes before they could grow at all. The ground needs a lot of work. I’m going to work on building actual garden beds for the future. We still have carrots to harvest, lettuce going to seed and some broccoli that has produced a few small heads. Our strawberries gave us a few strawberries but I want to get more plants growing.

There’s always a lot of work to be done. The property got a bit out of hand this year. Lately I’ve been working on clearing pathways across the property and still have more of that to do. The other day I was clearing up around one of our hazelnut trees and disturbed a nest of yellow jackets! Three stings, the worst being on my right hand. My whole hand swelled up, turned red, itched and hurt. It’s getting better now.

We also need to get some firewood and prepare for winter. Time and money are always the biggest constraints. Still, we’re having fun. Last night we went up on the hill and sat up there while the sun set. Alexander played in the dirt. Nice time.

Chickens!

We bought chickens on the 7th and set them up in a temporary box.

Chicks
What?

But chickens grow fast. The cardboard box (originally from our lawn mower) would not be sufficient for eight growing chicks. We had to get something else built. I’d already fixed up the old shed/chicken coop, including a fenced off run, but they won’t be able to be out there for a while yet. So yesterday I drew a quick sketch of what I was thinking for the box.

Plans

The box would be built in two sections to make it easier to move. Each would be 2.5′ x 3′ x 2′ with a hinged lid. That’d give the chickens 15 sqft of space, almost 2 sqft per chick. Enough room for them to grow. With my ‘plan’ in hand I went off to Lowe’s to buy the materials needed. I bought inexpensive 1″x2″ for the frame and some 1″x6″ boards to go around the base. Plus chicken wire, a new handsaw to make it easier to cut the boards, hinges, screws and extra staples.

When I got the materials home (after lunch) I started working on the project. First step, cut all the wood into the appropriate lengths.

Cutting Boards
Laying Out Box
First Half
Both Assembled
Wire Added

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough staples to get all of the chicken wire done. I got it one one side and today we’ve got to get more bedding, food, another feeder and waterer, so I’ll get more when we go out. But I didn’t want the chickens to have to stay longer in the small box so I set up the one side of their new box and used a piece of cardboard to block the open side.

New Diggs
Xander Looking
Poppy Watching
Patty Perching

We also added a dowel for a perch. Later the other side should be set up, but they’re already enjoying the extra room. They’ll grow fast, before we know it they’ll be moving outside!

Digging It

Given the nice weather lately I’ve been out digging up the compacted ground where the pool used to be to prepare it for planting. There’s a lot of rocks. Tons of rocks. Most are smallish but I’m pulling out the bigger rocks and will use them as a border. Ultimately I’ll probably divide this circular bed into quarters for planting. I’m thinking of doing more circular beds. I think that’d be interesting. I could do more beds of different sizes from a small area that might be a couple zucchini. That’d be fun.

Dirt!

I worked from the outside around the bed inward. Alexander was out playing in the grass until he decided that the dirt looked like more fun.

Exploring

I finished two of the outside rings, leaving the center still to dig. The ground is packed down pretty hard from the pool. Beside the stones I’ve pulled out I also took out concrete paving stones that had been put around underneath the pool footings and had been buried over time. I’m going to reuse those for a walkway.

Digging

There’s more to do today!

Timber!!!

The trees outside our gate were growing up into the power lines so we wanted to remove them. When Ryan’s parents visited for Xander’s 1st birthday they brought along their chain saw and that Saturday Ryan and his dad removed the trees.

Trees by the gate
Here you can see the cluster of trees growing into the power lines.
Trees
Ricky cutting down the trees.

While Ricky cut down the trees with the chainsaw, Ryan chopped up all the branches.

Ryan
Our loppers got a workout!

We got a pile of firewood, a bunch of kindling, an easier to open gate, but most importantly our trees won’t be responsible for any power outages. We couldn’t have done it without Ryan’s Dad’s help. Thank you Ricky!

Winter Planning

It’s winter time and that means I’m dreaming about Spring. I’m thinking about all of the various projects I want to do. It’s finally sinking in that we have our own house and property! After so many years living in an apartment there’s the possibility of doing all sorts of interesting things. Lack of money limits us to some extent, but over time we can do a lot of different things. That’s what the project posts are about, getting a list of things to do and figuring out what we need to get them done.

But I’d also like to get on a regular posting schedule. There’s lots to be done. It’s time to dream!