This afternoon I finished the project I’d wanted to finish last week – the geodesic chicken coop from Zip Tie Domes is finished!
After working on the dome the last time, I still needed to finish covering it. That meant getting the dome covered in chicken wire, adding a tarp, perches, hanging the food and water, and including the nest boxes.
It takes a while to add the chicken wire. The folks at Zip Tie Domes estimated something like three hours and recommended having help. That would have made it easier.
We opted to use a 2″ wire for the upper parts and 1″ for the lower. I worked on it a couple times and had the lower level done and part of the upper level covered. Today I spent a couple more hours covering the rest and using zip-ties to fasten everything in place.
Next up was adding the perches, food, water, and nest boxes.
I have a few other details still to add. Anchors, to make sure it doesn’t blow over, and handles so that it’s easier to move. The tarp I bought was larger and covers more of the dome so it’ll have to be unhooked along the bottom to reveal handles once they’re added.
After a few days to get used to the new coop we’ll start letting the chickens roam again. The coop will move around the property a few feet at a time. Maybe weekly, we’ll see. The main thing is just not leaving it in one place for too long.
The old shack/coop will eventually come down and be removed, but that’s a project for another time!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next week we should be closing escrow on our new property. This is a huge move for us to finally get out of an apartment and into a place of our own where we can raise animals, garden and do all of the things we’ve been dreaming about for years. We’ve been getting all sorts of books in anticipation of everything we want to do. Clearly we can’t do it all at once so we’ll have to prioritize what comes first.
Right now we need to get through the buying process. If everything continues to go well we could be looking at having the keys in our hand within a week. As we get closer certain tasks are rising to the top of the list. We want to give the carpets and everything a good cleaning before we put in a bunch of furniture. I’m sure we’ll go through the place after that and identify those things we want to address first. Some outlets need to be fixed, I already know. There are other things like painting colors we want. Or even big projects like relocating the washer/dryer and remodeling the kitchen. Installing Solatubes in the hallway and maybe a couple other locations. Fixing the fireplace. Redoing the flooring. Solar hot water. Solar power. There’s lots of ideas limited only by funding and time. And that’s just the house.
Moving outside the house there are also tons of possibilities. Gardens! That’s a given. After being restricted to a small container garden on a shady porch this is going to be fantastic. Lots of ideas there. Fruit trees are already on the property but we’ll be working on making those better. Bee hives. Animals, including chickens, rabbits and goats. Again, only time and money limit what we might do.