Friday, September 16, 2011

Turkey Coop Details

I’ve tried to take pictures to show how the turkey coop was built. My design was loosely based on an Internet friend’s coop that she’s using on her farm in Virginia. The size is similar (8x12), but the roof… well… I went easy and put in the tarp over PVC roof where her’s has a traditional wood roof. Here is the process… pretty much from start to finish.  Also, where I can remember I've noted materials and costs.

The floor:
The coop is “moveable”. I built it on 4x4 skids. If needed, I could attached a couple heavy duty eyebolts to them and pull them with a tractor or truck to a new location. It’s the same principle used for “portable” cross country fences that I’ve built. Don’t forget to shave the ends off so when you drag you’re not dragging the blunt 90 degree end of a 4x4 through the rough terrain… but rather the sloped end thus doing less damage to the ground (although you’ll still have skid marks through the grass).

The parts of the 4x4s that I used a chainsaw to cut off to "slope" the ends should I need to move the coop after it's built.

Next I added three ½ inch treated sheets of plywood to the skids for the actual floor.
The treated plywood floor laying out across the 4x4 skids.  I HIGHLY recommend to build it from the ground up in the spot where you want the coop to be located.  You CAN move it, but why when you can start from there.

Even though they’re treated, I painted them with exterior latex paint.  Being the floor of a coop for 13 turkeys, they’re going to have to withstand quite a bit of icky use.  Adding the paint was just an added bit of insurance.  Hopefully they’ll last a few years before needing to be replaced.

The plywood floor, now painted with exterior latex to help preserve it even more (and thus need replacing less often) ready to be screwed down into the 4x4 skids.
The Walls:
I constructed the walls in the barn out of 2x4 studs and then screwed them into place on the put together floor. 4 – 2x4x12s for the top and bottom rails on the sides. 2 – 2x4x8s for the top and bottom on the back. I made the walls 4’ tall on the sides so it was easy to use wall studs – just cut a 2x4x8 in half. It would also be useful as I would be able to buy a 4x8 sheet of plywood for the walls and not have to do any cutting. I also used several 2x4x8s to construct the frame around the door (a $17 screen door from Lowe’s) and a matching support on the back of the coop. Three 2x4x12s were then used as roof supports, with the middle one being put on an additional 2x4 so it was higher (thus rain wouldn’t collect between the 3 boards on the roof). The original plan was to only use one roof board, but the only PVC length I could get was 10’ and unless I wanted to cut a single 6’ length out of the 10’ pipes vs being able to have two 5’ lengths additional boards were needed and it was slightly less expensive.

The coop with walls and door attached.

I don’t remember the exact number of 2x4x8s that were used... about 10 I think. You can get those for less than $2 if you’re willing to dig through ones that aren’t quite straight.

The actual walls are cheap 4x8 OSB. They aren’t taking as much use as the floor and painted, they should withstand the weather just fine. The project needed 5 and I think they ran about $8 each.
The curved ¾” PVC was added and tacked down to the walls and the roof supports.  I used 4 of them but they’re less than $2 each.  In addition they are initially supported with brackets.  They’re inexpensive, but I can’t remember if they were even $1 each.  After being put into place with the brackets, they were then screwed in place.

One of the PVC roof pieces in its brace.  PVC pieces would also be screwed down into the wall for added support.  Additional roof beams would also be added -- another one on the far side for the PVC pieces to attach to and a center beam elevated slightly on another section of 2x4 so the overall roof sloped instead of having a flat top (which would inevidibly gather rain).
The whole thing… inside and out… was then painted with exterior latex paint.  Lesson – cheap OSB drinks paint like a drunk at an open bar!  All total, I have 3 gallons of paint in this project.  I ended up using cheap exterior paint from Tractor Supply at $13 per gallon towards the end (after using up the good paint that I had on hand for the floor).
The coop painted, with wire ends, ready for the roof to be attached.  Yes I know the door frame isn't entirely painted.  I ran out of paint and would get to this later.

Before putting the roof on, I finished the ends by attaching chicken wire. I used a 3’ wide roll purchased at Lowe’s. I think it was about $15. On the front, the wire was stacked horizontally. Across the back, since it’s an 8’ wide uninterrupted section, it’s stacked vertically. I used a staple gun to attach the wire to the wood – along the bottom to the wall as well as up the sides of the door and to the back matching support. To attach the wire to the curved roof PVC pieces, I simply wrapped the wire around the PVC and secured with Zip Ties. I also used the zip ties to attach the wire to itself where the pieces overlapped one another.

The Roof:
The roof is simple – a 12x16 medium duty tarp I purchased at TSC for $35. After pulling it into place, it is secured with nylon cord strung through the eyelets in the tarp and small eyebolts (fairly tiny ones) that I screwed into the bottom of the walls. Pull tight and the tarp has stayed in place already through a couple nasty storms.

The "finished" coop (sans additional paint).  Ready for turkeys!


I added shavings to the floor (although in the future I may try the horse stall pine pellets).
The coop interior after adding shavings to the floor.  I painted the inside too... again for the purpose of extending the life of the materials used.  You can see the black dots in the wire on the far wall -- those are the zip ties holding the 2 overlapping pieces of chicken wire that cover the ends to each other.

I also added their feed container (hung by cords from the roof), their water container (bungie tied to an upside down wire freezer rack to keep it up off the floor) and a small roost that I constructed of a leftover 2x4 and a couple scrap landscape timber pieces.

The interior with all the accoutrements added!

Next step was adding the birds!!

8 week old turkeys enjoying their first meal in the new coop.

They seemed to like it!

Turkeys in the coop with the door shut.

I did have to end up putting a piece of plywood over the bottom of the screen door as they pushed their way out and broke the screen. I also use just a bungie cord and a piece of string to latch the door open most days now.

I kept them in there for a few days before letting them out in the yard.  Not only did that allow them to get accustomed to being out (the sun can get in the E/W facing ends of the coop), but it gave me a few days to actually finish their yard!

The Yard:
Last step was to construct their yard so they could get out on the grass. I used five 5’6” T-posts (one at each corner and an additional one for the “door”). I also originally used a few leftover 4’ step in posts as the sides were roughly 36’-39’ in length. In hindsight, these posts just weren’t tall enough and the 4’ chicken wire (a roll of 150’ was used in one continuous piece) drooped.

Turkeys in their yard.  They're actually investigating the lawn mower that I'm running just outside their fenceline.  They've been in this space for about a month at the time of this picture.

Eventually I used 2x2x4 lumber tied to 4’ U-posts that I had leftover.  Notice the far fenceline in the above picture – the 4’ lumber is in place here, but not the u-post to hold it up.  The fence is tied to each of the posts 2 to 3 times with zip ties.  The door was created using the end of the chicken wire roll stapled to a 4’ leftover piece of plywood… and then latched shut with bungie cords!

Close up of my fancy door.  The end of the 150' roll of chicken wire, stapled to a scrap 4' piece of plywood and bungied together.

In the End:
It wasn’t an extremely cheap venture… I figure any “profit” I make off of this year’s turkeys is tied up in this coop and yard for them to live in.  But it’s worth it.  Just this morning on my way to the car, I saw them running around flapping their wings.  For them to be able to do that vs being in a crowded coop never eating grass or bugs or feeling the sunshine is more than worth it to me.  They don’t have very long lives since they’re being raised for food, but they should be able to be turkeys for what they do have, right?
11 week old turkeys inside their yard with Reilly the newf looking in at them.  Reilly has visited inside the yard a couple times and the turkeys really dont' care much about him.

I wiggled the yard dimensions so i could enclose the small pine tree inside their yard.  This is the turkey's enjyoing what shade they can get under the pine tree on a hot afternoon.

The turkeys mostly wander in and out now at their leisure.  I've secured the door open with a piece of rope and a bungie.  I've also moved their water container outside the coop.  The floor slanted JUST enough that it was dripping and making the since water-logged.  If I lock them in the coop for some reason, I just move the water back inside on a temporary basis, but they seem to enjoy being able to come and go as they please.  I've only had 2 turkeys fly over the fence.  The first time I came home to find 'Lefty' (my resident pirate turkey -- see pic below) outside the fence.  One call to him/her and the silly bird came running right to me.  The other time was yesterday... the lawn mower startled the birds and as they ran across the yard, several flapped their wings and one actually flew/jumped the fence.  Not quite the easy catch as Lefty but certainly not difficult and the escapee was back inside the yard in a matter of a minute.

Lefty, the pirate turkey (because he's always squiting and looks like he's saying "ARGH!") seems to enjoy his new coop and yard.

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