Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to Build a Hoop House

Well after taking almost the entire month of April off from blogging, I have for you, a tutorial on how to build a hoop house. I don't have a materials list, because that would be helpful and I just don't do things that way, apparently.

I can tell you we used 4 cattle panels ($23.99/ea @ TSC), approximately 8 2x4x8s and my mother in law, because it's good to have an old battle ax never know when you might need it. :-)

First off, if you're interested in BUILDING a hoop house you need to read this thread over at Backyard Chickens. Yes, all 20 pages of it.
It is what gave me the inspiration to build my hoop houses. It is also what inspried me to write this tutorial because some of the photos people take, and the plans they used just didn't illistrate (for me anyway) EXACTLY what needed to be done. Trying to figure out attaching wood to wire might be difficult for some.

My mother in law, my husband and myself all wish we had just done this from the beginning when we first got the chickens, and let me tell you, it's a great idea for those on a budget. With some careful landscaping it doesn't have to look all Sanford and Sons (I recommend Clematis), and you'd be surprised how it looks even without flowering plants growing all over it.

A few weeks ago we rebuilt the chicken run as a hoop house and it's done spectacularly well. Being half covered has kept the ground from becoming a soggy mess and with the addition of sand and shavings, there's virtually no chicken smell after it rains. Which, considering how it's been for the past 3 weeks, is really saying something.

This past Saturday we repeated the building effort and have a great 8X16 duck house for the ducks...and Chai Latte, my bunny(long story).

When we decided on the size of the duck house and went to buy the lumber at the local Lowes, it became apparent that not only was it cheaper to just buy 2x4x8s it was also more convenient for transporting home. This meant that instead of buying 6 or so 2x4x8s and 2 really long boards, we just bought 8 2x4x8s. (Technically, we only bought 6 because we had 2 left over from the chicken run)

Once the lumber was home we set it out on the driveway and nailed support pieces across the boards to create 2 2x4x16' side pieces.

These were then attached at the top and bottom to 2 of the 8 foot long boards.

Corner supports were then made, without any concern for their length, just that they be cut at a 45 degree angle so they rest well in the corners of the base of the hoop house.

We didn't attach them just then, first we moved the base up to where we though we wanted the house to stand. Then we re arranged it several times. Finally we found a nice bit of mostly flat land on which to set the hoop house.

From here we set the cattle panels inside the base, we bent them over, across the width of the house and attached them on the inside with U nails.

Then we screwed in the corner braces through the cattle panels as an extra precaution to keep them in place.

Once that was completed we used a 2x4, standing at the back of the hoop house, on the inside, screwed into the base as a back support. The top of the 2x4 was brought through one of the cattle panel squares and the cattle panel was pulled down to catch on a screw to hold it there while the panel was secured to the beam with another u nail.

At this point the whole darn thing is taking shape and it's a great idea to have someone start covering the back end in chicken wire.

At the back and on the bottom I secure the chicken wire with staples from a staple gun. At I throw the chicken wire over the cattle panels I secure it to the panels with zip ties.

I did try and wait for as many of the panels of chicken wire to be in place over the structure and secured at the bottom as I could so I wasn't over using zip ties where the panels over lapped.

The the bottom of the structure a 12" apron was left that will be covered with dirt and rocks in the near future.

I reused chicken wire that I reclaimed from the old chicken run. This stuff is expensive, especially when you're covering the WHOLE DARN THING in it.

My old chicken wire required a little bit more effort on my part to remove staples from the wood pieces and stretch out crumpled areas, but I was able to cover the whole back end and about 1/4 of the side.

While I fiddled with the back part, my mother in law and husband worked on the door frame and door. I can't explain what was done, so I took lots of pictures.

Similar to the back support, 2 beams were attached to the inside of the base and brought through the cattle panel. A piece of wood was then attached across the top on the outside of the hoop house to secure the cattle panels in place.

See, one screw on top of the panel and one underneath it, on the OUTSIDE of the hoop house.

With the door in place. As you can see the door sits up on the base of the hoop house and under that cross beam we used to secure the cattle panels. It also hits the wood "frame". We secure our door with a latch and linch pin.

So with all that done, and the rest of the hoop house covered This is what it looks like ALMOST complete.

You can see some of my zip-ties.

The most time consuming part of this project is cutting and attaching the wire. Everything else takes about 2-3 hours worth of work, but attaching the wire is what will take you the rest of the day.

Once all is said and done you then throw over a couple good sized tarps to keep the rain and wind out and supply your duckies with a little place to live.
Unfortunately my tarps were slightly too small so in the next couple weeks we'll need to upgrade, but for right now they're work great for spring rains. Summer thunderstorms will probably be another matter. You might also say the my ducks house is entirely too small for 11 ducks, and you'd be right, but for the moment all 11 snuggle in quite nicely while we still get some chilly nighttime weather. In the coming weeks I'll be on the lookout for more cabinets (built in egg access doors) to join together for a much larger duck house.

Before I finish I want to stop and say, I don't use electric around the base of my poultry housing. I have been very lucky in the 2.5 years I have had poultry and I have had to worry more about the animals getting OUT than what was going IN. I chalk this up to my crazy dog barking at EVERYTHING and being kind enough to pee around the chicken coop/chicken tractors/duck house every so often. I also do not provide an electric fence because I have nowhere to plug it in to. If I had electric in my backyard I'd have a pond for the ducks, a swimming pool for me, a lit brooder in the chicken coop and timer lights in the coop so I wouldn't have to buy eggs in December. Alas, I don't even have outlets on my patio. If you feel that you want the extra protection for your animals I highly recommend extending the apron on the ground out by a few more inches and covering the bottom half of your hoop house in hardware cloth. This will further protect your animals and discouraging menacing creatures.

I hope this post helped anyone who might be interested in building a hoop house! Now get out there and build one!