Chicken Hoop House


Chicken Hoop House Buried in Protective Snow Bank
Many years old and well broken in at this point.
Pink foam covering egg doors so accessible.
Greenhouse attached at far end (south).

Sarah wrote:
We are studying your plans for the chicken coop hoop and wondered where you get your TekFoil from. We’re able to drive up to Barre or wherever. I’d rather buy local than try to mail order the stuff.
Thanks!
Sarah

Hi Sarah,

We’ve gotten foil-bubble-bubble-foil from Allen Lumber in Barre, VT. Most building supply stores should have it. It comes in 50’x4′ rolls and was about $100 last time I priced it. At that time they were a very good price compared to other sources, with shipping, on the web unless you’re ordering huge amounts. They also deliver to us for free, a nice bonus. I believe they call it AstroFoil or something similar. There are many brands. All essentially the same thing. If one didn’t have a local source I would look to FarmTek online.

Below is a copy of the original article I wrote elsewhere about our chicken hoop house but have never gotten around to posting here on my blog. That will give some construction details that will be of use. I’ve also added some notes for improvements after all these years of using it.

Chicken Hoop House Construction

HoopHouseFront
The 2x base, rebar ribs, wire frame and an old sheet modeling as a cover.

The wire hoop chicken coop. It consists of a 12’x4′ 2×4 base with corner triangles of plywood for bracing. The front 2×4 is extra long so that two people can pick up the front on either side outside and drag it. Alternatively since it is so light one person can move it by standing inside in the doorway and lifting and dragging. I had planned to put some old skies on the bottom but it slides fine without them. We drilled holes in the 2×4’s and inserted rebar and bent it into hoops to be forms for the wire. Then starting at one end we put on 3′ wide wire mesh. I used 1″x1″ mesh but in retrospect would have used 2″x2″ mesh which would have been cheaper and still have done the job nicely. Don’t use nylon ties to attach the wire. I did at first and then realized that the sun would destroy them so I switched to 17 guage fence wire.

After getting the hoops of wire on we did the nest box shelves and back wall and lastly the front wall. All the wire that met the wooden base frame was stapled on using fencing stables. The last step was to make the doors. The hinges and latches were simply made by bending the wire in loops and hooks. All wires around the openings were bent back to make the openings safe to pass through.

It took us about five or six hours to do it but would go much faster for a second one since we spent a lot of that time figuring out how to do things. The chickens were very curious and started moving in before we finished. We then fed them in the hoop house and locked them in at night a few times to encourage them to bond with it.

HoopHouseInside
Inside view – still no real covering, just the old sheet for shade.

The inside of the hoop house showing the nesting shelves in the back, the roost bars going crosswise and long wise and a bunch of silly chick who thought I was going to feed them so they posed for the picture. Note that the cloth on top is hung so that the south side gets more protection. Right now we only have about half covered for rain protection. In the winter the whole thing will be covered and then with hay so the snow builds up on top making it into a chicken igloo. The long roost bars that run from front to back are on a slant so that small chicks will be able to hop up onto them and walk up.

HoopHouseBack
Back view showing egg shelves

Back side of the hoop house showing the three egg shelves and egg doors. The top egg door is open. The drape is lifted up here.

HoopHouseEggDoor
Back view of egg shelf access door

Detail of one of the three egg doors on the back wall that let us reach in to gather eggs from outside. Each door was successively smaller such that the material from one got used as the door for the next. The wires were bent loosely to form hinges on the top and spring latches on the bottom.

LittleHoopHouse
Earlier smaller try – same basic design.

This is our old small hoop house which served one batch of chickens for years, acted as a brooder and is now used mostly by the ducks. It is built like the big wire hoop house but no rebar or door and only one nesting shelf in the back. It is small enough and light enough that a child can move it yet heavy enough that it has never blown around in our strong winds. Part of why it doesn’t get wind blown may be because it is low to the ground, the roof is curved and it has a wide base with most of the mass in the base.

HoopHouseEggDoor
The new hoop house after covering with FBBF

When winter came we added Foil-Bubble-Bubble-Foil (FBBF) tied to the exterior with black zip ties. to cover the hoop house as described in the Winter Chicken Hoop House article.

Update Ideas

If I were rebuilding the hoop house I think I might go with cattle or hog panels for the hoop structure. The local sources I have for that are Farmway, Tractor Supply and Agway. Cattle panels at $50 each for 16’x4′ are considerably more expensive since what I used, the wire and rebar, were what I had on hand. The extra height would be nice. I think the weight would come out about the same and they would be even stronger although that has not been an issue. We flip our chicken coop over on its back once or twice a year to let the sun and air clean it when we’re going to move it so you do want a strong structure. This flip and air is an easy way to get rid of junk. Debris dries and falls out and may be why we’ve never had a problem with mites.

The spruce 2×4 base is still lasting well after all these years of contact with the soil. I had wondered originally if I should use cedar, something we have, but in retrospect the spruce is fine as well as a lot cheaper unless you have your own cedar or other longer lasting woods.

For joining the foil sheets there is a better grade aluminum(?) tape sort of like duct tape. Try that. I have used packing tape and duct tape. Both deteriorated and required replacing annually. The foil tape may last a lot longer.

The chickens like to walk on the roof and peck holes. Putting a sheet of typar or other house wrap on top of the foil would help make it last longer. Although, we still have the original foil-bubble-bubble-foil sheets on there and they’re doing fine despite the holes.

Wind is the big problem. This is why I like a heavy base. Do not put it in a high wind spot or if you do, make something to block or the wind can rip the foil. We had one piece rip off and had to tape it back on.

We did put wheels on ours but did not find them useful as our terrain is so rough. It is simpler to pick it up and move it by hand with one person on each end. It is heavy. If you have smoother land then wheels would be grand.

In the winter put the hoop house up on hay bales and just keep adding hay all winter. Don’t clean it out. Let the hay accumulate inside creating a warm floor compost pile. In the spring let it compost. Then plant there later. Don’t work harder than necessary turning or cleaning.

SunRoom

Come winter I would suggest definitely adding a sunroom – The chickens love it.

WinterHoopHouse

Have fun and enjoy those eggs to come! Our hens are picking up production as the days get longer. Today they were out walking on the snow, something they’ve been avoiding. They’re loving all this sunshine and warm weather.

Outdoors: 44°F/18°F Sunny
Farm House: 32°F/32°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/62°F No fire

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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26 Responses to Chicken Hoop House

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love this post. and so many of your other howto posts. This is so typical of you. It is a great solution and I love your flip and dry method for the coop. easy peasy.

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks Walter! Your updates and tips are so very helpful. We’ll write up our experience and let you know how the coop turns out.

    (Also, Tractor Supply has 16-foot cattle panels for $23.99 and $26.99, though I can’t figure out the width from just their website. Worth investigating at those prices though.)

  3. Rosalyn says:

    My husband and I just finished building our first hoop house. We used PVC and chicken wire. Not heavy duty, but not heavy either (which is important since I’ll be the one moving it.) We will use it to pasture-raise our meat birds, and will build at least one more. This coming winter, we will attach the two together and make the ‘sunroom’. Our Barred Rocks have a condo that they sleep in, it has lots of windows and is attached to the horse shed. It keeps them warm and dry, but I know they will love the sunroom come winter – they start to run out of places to dust themselves.

    Speaking of dusting… I use d.e. as a dusting powder. What do you use???

  4. Anonymous says:

    Walter, Great post and timing for me, as i’m looking to build something like this very soon. How many chickens are in the 12X4 during the winter?
    george

  5. Rosalyn, I’ve heard of people successfully using PVC. In our winter climate it shatters during intense cold so I avoid it outdoors. Even polyethylene is prone to breakage.

    I have used Diatomaceous earth (DE) at times although not frequently as one might since we haven’t had mite problems. It can be very effective. Interestingly, it was recently approved as an Organic (big ‘O’) pesticide.

  6. That was a very informative post Walter, thanks. I appreciate how you use everyday items to build with or make use of what you have on hand.

    I have some experience making structures from cattle/livestock panels. In our area Tractor Supply is the most reasonably priced for that item. These panels are very handy items, it allows you to easily rearrange your pens inside the barn without nails/hammers/saws etc. They work well for our goats, not sure if they’d be secure enough for hogs. We made a “buck hut” from a wooden base and arched cattle panels. It would have worked very well except some of the younger goats figured out how to climb onto it and they squashed it. So, in the future I’d brace the inside somehow and not let my goats near it! LOL! It would make a nice hen house though.

  7. Jessie says:

    Hello Walter, I am so inspired by your blog! I’m just starting out with a tiny tiny raised bed veggie garden behind my apartment building. Looking ahead to the fall I would like to extend my growing season by coving the bad with an old shower curtain. I wonder if making a rebar hoop frame would be a good idea, and if so, how do you bend rebar? I imagine you need a special tool? My other thought is to use some scrap lumber so make an A-frame to drape the plastic over. Thank you for all the wonderful tips and stories! Jessie N.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey Walter, Great post, great timeing for me as i’m planning on building a coop soon. How many chickens do you keep in the 12X4 over the winter?…..george

  9. Jessie,

    just drill holes where the rebar is going to go in the frame, stick one end in, grab the other end and bend it to the second hole. Rebar is quite flexible and if bent slowly and carefully it tends to a natural, beautiful arc.

    I get this question often so I really need to take a photo of the process of bending it…

    Here is an article about bending rebar for tight bends but that really isn’t what you want. You want the full graceful curve to make the hoop.

    Here is another article where we bent it for our house roof trusses, again, a different curve.

    I have a photo from my archives using a heavy equipment tire to bend rings of rebar for another project. Again though, those would be the wrong curve for this project. But that gives you ideas. I’ll have to take photos of bending hoops some time.

  10. George, there are about 70 to 100 chickens roosting in there at night. During the day they’re out and about. We virtually never close the door. Before I had thought to add the sunroom I would close the door if it got in the deep negative temps (째F) but now with the sunroom on it I haven’t closed the door in years so they’re free to go in and out.

  11. Jessie says:

    Thanks for your quick and informative response!! I enjoyed reading the old posts you pointed out, and I just spent an embarrassing amount of time reading other old posts from your blog. Thanks again! Jessie

  12. Karen says:

    I have built two hoop coops using two cattle panels each, from the instructions at Robert Plamondon’s farm pages: http://www.plamondon.com/hoop-coop.html

    Thank goodness I got the panels a few years ago when they were only $16, now they are more than double that cost.

    During the summer I use them as chicken tractors, I can’t let the chickens run free, too many coyotes in the area.
    In the winter I cover with tarp, put them up on straw bales as you do, and butt them to the shed which was their former coop, giving them 200% more room than the coop. We have gotten huge amounts of snow the past two winters (northern Idaho) and the hoops will bow way down under the load, but spring right back up when I drag the snow off.

    They are heavy but I can drag them slowly with a rope by myself, or with the tractor.

  13. Trish Lyell says:

    hi. I'm just finding this site and enjoying it. We are about to launch ourselves into the world of chickens for the first time. I notice you said to build on bales of hay and keep adding….I keep reading that hay holds moisture and chickens won't do well but, rather, need straw which insulates better too.
    Do you disagree with that?
    Trish

  14. I've rarely used straw since in our area hay is dominant and straw is rare. Our hens do fine with the hay. If you are having moisture problems, increase the ventilation. We leave the door to the coop open all winter except in the very worst weather (-25째F windy) and even then there is some ventilation.

    An additional factor is the chickens eat the leafy hay but don't eat the straw so using hay has food value that straw would not have. Another reason we use hay with our pigs.

  15. Jo Delavan says:

    Hi Walter, great stuff! we’re planning to make one. What diameter and length rebar did you use? Thanks.

  16. We used 10′ lengths of 1/2″ (I think) but it was what we had on hand – that thickness is not a magic number. I would do it with cattle panel next time.

  17. Jo Delavan says:

    Have never used cattle panel…what is it? Is there a recommended size? i did a search but what I found didn’t look like it would bend…

    • It is also called Hog Panel, Feedlot Panel, Sheep Panel, etc. Basically heavy wires welded in a mesh. See here for an example. Typically the sheets are 16′ long by 3′ to 5′ high. Cost varies with the panel size and number of wires. I would go with 2″ wire spacing and 16’x5′ panels if you can find that. This will produce a little taller hoop house which will be nice for walking inside. They bend very easily but are stiff and hold up to our snow as an arch.

  18. madu says:

    Good Luck

    From- Lanka C tM Farm

  19. Jo says:

    Hi, Walter,

    We made our hoop coop from your design. Love it! We didn’t get the cattle panels since we already had a roll of 2″ x 4″ pasture fencing, but we did increase the rebar to 15′ and the base to 6′ wide. Nice to be able to walk upright, I don’t do “bent over” very well. :)

    We are in the Arizona desert about 1/2 way between Phoenix and Tucson and sometimes have very strong winds. The hoop coop is set up with the curved sides facing the prevailing winds, E/W and partially blocked from the wind on one side by our small goat house. So far no problems. I had 1″ chicken wire around the base, but after discovering a couple of black racers in with my young chicks, I added 1/2″ wire mesh around the bottom up to about 2′. That seems to have solved that problem. The snakes didn’t get any of my chicks, and wouldn’t have been able to leave if they had, the bulge would have prevented them from getting back through the chicken wire.

    We covered the back half with a tarp for sun/rain protection but raised the tarp to leave the back open for ventilation in summer, will drop it down for winter. We don’t get snow of course, but we do get some pretty cold weather and freezing rains occasionally. Thinking about putting a wooden box in there for winter time, just big enough for everybody to get into for warmth.

    We’re planning to build a second hoop coop about 6′ from the existing one and trying to come up with a (simple/easy) way to enclose the space between on a temporary basis so we don’t lose the ability to move them and flip them for cleaning but have an extra coop where I can occasionally isolate some chickens for breeding purposes or 24-hour fast before “harvesting.” Will need to cover the top, but probably not completely. I’m thinking about a free-standing form covered with shade cloth–I can use it elsewhere, too.Tthey will need the shade in summer, and I’m hoping that would be enough to discourage winged predators, lots of hawks here. Have not had any issues with my main coop which is not covered, but I keep only adult Australorps in there and I think they’re a bit too big for our small hawks. I would worry about young chickens, though.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Good job. You won’t need a wooden box for warmth. Our hens go through our -45°F weather with just the hoop house. We have typar and the foil-bubble-bubble-foil on the exterior and by deep winter it is usually buried in snow which provides protection. You might pack a little hay around the outside of the base to stop the winds from coming in under.

  20. FS says:

    Great article. I used to have some chickens near Scottsdale but unfortunately coyotes compromised the coop. :-/

  21. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the design! I’m currently building one now using cattle panels. All is going well, however, I’m trying to figure out how you constructed the egg shelves. Are they constructed out of the welded wire? If so, is it the same welded wire shown on the outside of your tractor? Any other suggestions or improvements you would have made to your egg shelves? Thanks for all the ideas in your blog!

    • Yes, they’re just the same welded wire mesh. You’ll note the front ridge which gives rigidity for spanning the width of the space. A flat sheet would sag. The ridge gives a beam with greater structural strength in addition to retaining eggs and giving a rounded perch for the poultry. Ducks tend to lay on the lowest shelf since they don’t hop up.

  22. Smallhandsfarm says:

    Thinking about using cattle panel vs. 2″ mesh fencing for a coop of this design, I was thinking that fencing would be superior for keeping out predators like fishers or foxes that might be able to enter through cattle panels but could not enter through a tighter fence. Any thoughts on the best design choice factoring in predator protection?

    • I’ve seen the stock panel in sizes as low as 4″x2″ wire spacing. That would keep out most predators. Ermine could get through that. The stock panel has structural strength.

      Stretching 1″x1″ chicken wire over the stock panel would then give a very small hole size but mice could still get through and a small ermine might be able to get through. Our ferrets can get through very small holes and wild ermine I’ve seen are about a quarter the size of our ferrets. Snakes can be an issue too in some areas.

      Adding an electric wire around the perimeter base would be the next level of protection.

      The ultimate is having livestock guardian dogs to negotiate. Chickens are the hardest animal for livestock dogs to guard because they push the dogs’s predator reflexes so hard but some dogs can do it naturally and some will learn with training. We rely on our dogs to negotiate a predator free zone for our farm and to kill & eat the vermin.

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