Hoop coops in extreme climates?


Apr 11, 2022
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hi! I posted about inheriting a coop at the house I bought a few months ago and ultimately have decided to scrap it* and start fresh with a totally new setup. I'm in Minnesota, so I'm thinking carefully about my designs, and I'm not intending to actually acquire chickens until the coop is done, so I have some time. (Current plan is to acquire chicks early next spring, although maybe fall chicks would work if I could get them big enough and warm enough to look after themselves through a Minnesota winter--I'm debating timing there.) I'd rather do things right a little slowly than do them fast and have to fix it later. I'm thinking 4 birds for now, aiming to build big enough for 8 in case of chicken math. Plan is to do deep litter and build big enough for a fully enclosed setup.

I'm currently looking at building a hoop coop using cattle panels because it frankly seems like the easiest possible option for success: cheapest materials, minimal woodworking, relatively lightweight (my spouse has some aspirational thoughts about dragging it from place to place in warmer months and using deep litter in the winter). I'm sketching out plans for an 8' by 16' hoop coop based on the usual suspects now, built on skids ala the Ms. Biddy build and covered with hardware cloth.

However, I'm worried about effective ventilation in the winters while also minimizing drafts in a hoop coop design. I'd like the top of the coop to be roofed, and I'm not sure I can effectively insulate something that big. A lot of the covered hoop coops I've seen use a tarp for roofing, and it seems to be common to just tarp all the way over one half of the structure for the coop and leave the other open for the run. I'd like to cover the top portion at least of the whole thing, especially dealing with snowfall.

Would it work to have, say, corrugated panels bent over the top and around the sides with a 1ft "window" about 2/3s up the height of the structure? All the diagrams I can find for airflow are designed for more conventional roofs, but I really would like to make sure I'm not freezing these poor birds OR moistening them to death before I pick any up. Would that be strong enough with the snow load?

*by which I mean, I'm posting it on the local freecycling groups, because even if that thing isn't ideal I suspect it's miles better than a prefab and I'm sure someone else would like to have it to play with
I'd hop in here, because I'm a fan of the engineering even though I don't use them (too small for my flock). Unfortunately, I have no winter, so I have no experience.

I have seen pictures of hoop coops deep in snow, and I have seen pictures of hoop coops with metal roofing attached. In theory, its sound. In practice, I'd guess attaching those panels and keeping them parallel with the long line of the coop is likely challenging. Will defer to those who have actually done it.
Colorado here...we made a hoop tractor that had a tarp for the roof. It was way too hard to drag to move (no wheels). Our terrain is bumpy, due to the native grass that grows in clumpy little mounds, though. We finally parked the tractor in the run and it's used as a shade shelter. Besides moving it, I think the biggest challenge will be the snow. Tarps will not survive our snow load for long. Also, during snow season, snow on the ground will cause an additional challenge in moving it.
Yeah, I'm not even going to pretend I'm going to move the coop in the winter! Wherever it is by first snowfall is where it's staying until snowmelt, thank you very much. (This is going to be my second real winter after fifteen years in Georgia and Texas, so I'm very aware of my own limitations re snow. I should probably plan some contingencies with the door to make opening it easier in a couple feet of snow while I'm at it, too...)

The logistical aspects of a "windowed" covering vs a solid one did occur to me. I had figured I could always cut holes in a tarp tied over hardware cloth to achieve the effect, but obviously that's going to be potentially less sturdy than the metal option.
One bit of advice on the door. Go to a place like this, and take a peek at your peak snowfall dates and your primary wind directions. When you park the hoop coop for the winter, be sure to position the door opposite the most common winds. No guarantees, of course, but maybe it helps a little in keeping a snow bank from being driven up against your only source of entry into the coop.

Of course, if your only heavy snowfall is normally lake effect, then position the coop so the door is opposite the lake, regardless of most common wind direction, and avoid the worst of it, even if it means lesser amounts in front of the door more frequently.
Easy to make a hoop structure survive snow load. Here's a couple pictures of how I built mine.
There's a tarp covering the back half. It's been on there for going on 4 yrs now, and still holding up well.


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I can only add a couple tidbits on being mobile based on my experience so far. A tractor of any considerable size will be a real challenge to sit flat unless you have a very level yard. You may need another predator barrier depending on what critters are in your area.

If you'd like to be able to move it, I highly recommend adding wheels closer to the center of your weight load. I have a tiny coop that we added wheels to the middle and it's a breeze to move. The prefab with wheels at the far end not so much. I borrowed this idea from a coop design called a "chickshaw" by Justin Rhodes. I did not feel like the rest of the design suited my needs.

Also, unless you have a drill press I suggest a wheel assembly with axle included. I've seen some priced reasonably at Harbor Freight Tools. Hubs tried his best to drill through a 4x4 straight but our wheels really get wonky with the weight load on both coops. I expect this will eventually destroy the wood, and the heavier the faster.

Good luck with your build!

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