Dec 6, 2008

Making a Chicken Dome - Day 1

Exciting news. We will inherit a pair of chickens in January. Now they need a house. The handymum found in her most excellent book The Permaculture Home Garden instructions in how to build a chicken dome, which is a lightweight chicken 'tractor' that can be moved around the section. It's a compromise between free-range (which isn't practical because of our vege garden and the neighbourhood dogs) and a permanent coop.

Armed with this knowledge our brave heroes ventured forth (pictures and details below the cut).

Linda Woodrow gives instructions in her book for a dome 12 metres in circumference - this is large enough for about a dozen chooks and far too large for our section. So we had to adapt things a little.

Our chicken coop is a hemisphere with a ground circumference of 6m. This will give enough room for 2 to 3 chickens (the recommendation is 1sq meter per chicken) This is what you will need:
5x 6m class 12 PVC pipe, 20mm wide
pvc glue
(you also need a drill, pencil, tape measure, hacksaw and maybe even cellotape)
plus some other stuff you might need but we haven't used yet:
baling twine
bamboo or pine slats
small dark box as a laying box
woven plastic tarp
4 tent pegs
water container

Step 1: Making the base

Take one of the 6M pipes.
Put some pvc glue in the female end of the pipe (the instructions are on the glue) and make the pipe into a circle.

Step 2: Attach three more pipes as the frame of the coop

Take three of the 6m lengths and cut them until they are 4.2m each. If you use the full 6m length for the frame your coop could look more like a bullet - like the picture on the right....

Make a mark with your pencil on the base circle every 1m, so there are 6 marks in total. Drill a small hole through each mark going from the outside of the circle to the inside. This is what you will attach the frame to.

With the 4.2m lengths drill a small hole about 15mm from each end, making sure that both drilled holes are in the same orientation (so the pipe doesn't have to twist).
Then bend a 4.2m length over the base circle so that the ends touch two holes on opposite sides of the circle, with the middle of the length arching into the air. Use tie-wire to connect the arch to the circle, with the end of each arch inside the circle. Repeat for the other two arches.

Tie-wire / Cellotape the three arches together at the apex to form a primitive frame:

Step 3: Add a support circle
I wasn't sure whether the PVC pipe would be flexible enough to bend into this smaller circle so I opted for the much softer and more flexible Polybutylene pipe.

We used the sophisticated method of marking 1.25m high on the frames with a pencil, and holding it up on the inside of the frame to determine what length we want it. After marking that we chopped off the excess, made it into a circle with the connecter, and marked out six equal portions on it (which turned out to be 730mm).

Then out with the drill again to put six marked holes in the support circle and six in the marks on the frame. I again drilled through the support circle from outside to inside, which this time around was a little inconvenient since the Tie-wire didn't line up neatly when going from one pipe to the next.

Handymum showed off her needle threading prowess by doing four connections in the time it took me to do two.


Day 2 was a week later
:) Crossbracing the dome.
Day 3 is here. Making the door.
Day 4 is covering the frame with chicken wire.
Day 5 - Chicken Dome Completion!


Anonymous said...

does the council have rules about keeping fowl? I've been meaning to check our local council...


home handymum said...

Different Councils have different rules. Best to look up the local regulations.

I think last time I looked in Palmy they wanted you to have a permanently built structure with a concrete floor (!) for chickens. But that may only apply for a large number. Or perhaps they are the regulations for if you want a permanent structure, rather than a portable one. (or perhaps they apply only if your neighbours complain...) I can't really remember though, so it's worth checking.

In Dunedin, the rules are that chickens and other livestock are okay so long as they don't create a 'nuisance' (i.e. if they're too noisy, too smelly, or attract vermin). I suspect that the Council officially Don't Care unless/until someone complains.

Dunedin are more relaxed about all sorts of things - I remember in palmy hearing of people who had to raise their letterboxes because they were 'too low', and remove bushes because the letterbox was partially obscured. Here, you can't even see our box from the street - and it's on the WRONG street (we're on a corner section and the box is not on the street that is our address). When I asked the postie he seemed surprised that I might think it was a problem and said it was very sensible - hiding your letterbox decreases letterbox vandalism, apparently!

Rhonda Jean said...

Thanks for taking part. This shows a good way of accommodating a small number of chooks. It's great!

Chookie said...

Snap! Hope yours lasts as long as mine has. I must say I didn't use the Blue Glue -- it's quite toxic, and as I only needed two joins I just used holes and wire again. We also only need a single roost for our girls, and I never bothered with tent-pegs for the tarp (I angle it for wind instead)

home handymum said...

Just today as I've been reading through
Rhonda's Kitchen Table
I've started thinking that a single stick would be the simplest perch - especially given we're only going to have two girls

Schelle said...

What a fun alternative to a regular shaped chook house!

PMcC said...

This blog has been super helpful to me, thank you. I'm about to build a chook dome (having just read The Permaculture Home Garden and been inspired to squeeze a vegie mandala into our tiny patch of urban lawn), and a 2 metre diameter base is all I have room for.
Could you let me know whether you would change anything, now that it's been in use for a while? What about the materials - would you recommend using all the same guage pipes etc that you used?
I am hoping the chooks will roost in it okay for me, at least until I can build something more substantial (warmer?) for them. Maybe I should wait for spring to get the chooks so it's a bit warmer - although last spring in Melbourne was freezing, and I just can't wait til summer! (Well I could I guess.)
Any extra tips with the advantage of hindsight would be greatly appreciated.

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