My flock runs together during the day and sleeps in a main coop at night, which works out surprisingly well. However, as spring drew closer, I started to worry about safety as birds start thinking about brooding and raising their young. A friend had a terrible experience last year when her turkey built a nest in her hedgerow and was taken by a coyote. Not wanting the same thing to happen to mine, I devised a plan to keep her safe: a hoop house.
I already had some hog panels and was assured by many people that they are far too stiff to bend into a hoop. I decided to try it anyway. I found them actually quite easy to bend over, with the help of ratchet tie-downs. Even considering the initial cost of the panels, I was able to build the entire thing for under $100. It is 10x12, so 120 sq. ft of "floor space", yet tall enough that I, at 5'4" can stand up inside without bumping my head.
I laid out the 3 panels and lined them up on my 12' board (this is when I discovered that my panels are actually 52", rather than exactly 4' tall. For the second hoop coop, I plan to buy 14' boards and cut them off when all 3 panels are laid side by side, rather than having the overlap there is on this one).
Secure the panels to the boards. I used fence staples but then started to have reservations about their true ability to hold the weight under stress, so I also used metal strapping in the corners and at all overlap points.
Using 14 gauge wire, I tied the panels together every few feet. Not much to photograph there.
This was the only step I for which I needed DH's help. A girlfriend of mine actually did this on her own but I was too afraid of it getting away from me so I asked for help. With the ratchet tie-down fastened on one side, DH lifted up the 12' board with the 3 panels attached, while I pulled on the tie down, to pull it into a hoop shape. Once I had my end on the ground, I tied off the tie-down to the opposite board, to hold the hoop shape, to allow me to leisurely affix the end boards of the rectangular frame. Initially the end boards were secured with 3 screws apiece. I later bolstered the strength of the corners by taking another piece of metal strapping, bending it into an "L" shape, and screwing one side of each "L" to each side of the corner.
Create framework for the non-opening end. DH, who is an engineer, assured me an A-Frame design was the strongest, so, using 2x4's, I carefully cut them at an angle to meet at the top. I then secured the bottoms to the inside of the frame. The tops feed through openings in the panel.
Cut two lengths of 3' tall 2x4 welded wire and staple it to the bottom frame and the A-Frame supports, to create the end wall. I secured it to the panels with more wire. While zip ties are easier and faster, they wear out in the sun. I am hoping that by using wire, I won't have to "re-do" this every couple of years.
Create the framework for the front. The previous owners of our property left a lot of scrap lumber lying around when they left. I decided to pillage some of that since I did not need full 8' lengths and it was a good use of some otherwise hard to use lengths of lumber. One had a charred end due to being in a burn pile at some point. Oh well - gives it character. The two vertical pieces are attached to the bottom of the frame on the outside. The horizontal runs through an opening on either side of the panels, and is then screwed to the verticals.
Use 2x4 welded wire to cover the front openings except where the gate will be.
Create the gate. I was nervous to do this as I've never made a door/gate before but it was surprisingly easy. I used 2x2 lumber and cut it to fit. The height of the door opening allowed me to create the entire gate from only two lengths of 2x2. The pieces I cut off the verticals were wide enough to do the horizontals, and the small pieces I had to cut off the horizontals became the triangulation. I had the hinges left over from a previous project and attached the gate so that it opens fully and rests against the outside front wall. I then used a latch to make sure it is able to be locked closed.
Attach a tarp. I bought one of the more expensive tarps that has the reflective silver on one side, because we get very hot temperatures here and I figured it would help keep it cool. I tied it down with tarp straps. At 99c apiece they were far more expensive than zip ties but will allow me to take it on and off more easily. The tarp is 10x12 and the 12' length runs down the 12' length of the coop. I wanted to leave enough on each side for them to see out and get air flow.
So there you have it - how to build a hoop house in 10 easy steps, even if you are a petite woman with limited building skills
Oh - on the inside I added a dog house for them to nest in and roost on, and set a feeder and waterer on the ground - the waterer in a corner so it can't be knocked over, and the feeder in the middle where it is protected from rain blowing in from any direction. It would also be easy to hang a feeder from the panels, and to make the waterer fillable from the outside, if necessary. The turkeys have spent a week in it already and the hen started to lay a few days ago. The hen in particular wasn't happy with the confinement, being used to far greater freedom but - she is safe and that is what matters to me right now.