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Modified Catawba Converticoop ("chicken ark")

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by meganblythe, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. meganblythe

    meganblythe Out Of The Brooder

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    My husband and I just finished building a Catawba Converticoop and I thought I'd post some info on it because I've seen folks on this forum asking about it. There were some benefits and drawback to this design, and we did modify it. First, here is a picture of the finished product from both sides - the wheels and PVC watering system are additions my husband came up with. Total cost was about $500...but that did include a little "experimentation money".


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    1) My husband is very handy and does a lot woodworking and machine work, so when I told him I was buying "plans" for a coop he was looking for something very technical and he was disappointed and frustrated with the lack of specificity in these plans. What is funny, is that I'm am not handy in wood or machine shop, and I found the plans completely clear and understandable! There are good illustrations and they are written simply, I think my husband just wanted something more technical and specific.

    2) The Catawba Converticoop is advertised as a mobile coop. If you build it according to the instructions it will NOT be easily movable - it is far too heavy. In my mind, a mobile coop is something one person can move by themselves. This coop requires two people, and strong ones at that, because it must be lifted completely off the ground (no dragging or shifting even one end at a time if you value your grass). We're in our early 30s and are in good shape, and it was a pain for us to move this coop - especially because we are not often both available when the chickens need to be moved (we do it daily). I think most of the weight is in the roof panels, which are lovely and strong, but very heavy. If we were building this again we would not use the recommended boards for the roof panels (I believe they are 1x6s), we'd find something lighter and in a single sheet. Fortunately I realized that the roof panel, which is removable to allow you to clean the upstairs (in the picture on the above right, see the metal handles on the slats), actually slides to the right and left fairly easily so it doesn't need to be removed completely to access the upstairs.

    3) For the feeder we hung a trough made of PVC pipe in one of the ends (see below on right). The end walls of the coop are removable, so we just unlatch the end, dump the food in the trough and close it up (below on left is a view from outside the coop, looking in through the removable end wall). Because the trough runs the width of the coop we had to put the black plastic up to keep rain from getting into the feed (see original photos above). One of the sheets of black plastic is longer than the other, so it covers about half the wall of the coop - I did this to provide a little more shelter from wind and rain because our chickens haven't caught on to the idea of sleeping upstair when it is raining or cold. Now that we're sure it works, I'm going to replace the black plastic with something sturdier and more permanent.


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    4) For the watering system, we knew we wanted to convert to nipple drinkers because bell waterers get so incredible dirty so quickly (at least with our chickens). So my husband mounted a three inch PVC pipe on the top of the coop, at a slight angle to ensure the water would flow down even where our yard isn't totally flat - this is basically the water reservoir, it probably holds a couple of gallons (in the picture below on the left you cannot see the open end where we fill it with the hose, but if you look at the first pictures of the whole coop, you can see the raised end that is open but has a cap on it to keep leaves and bugs out). The three inch pipe feeds a flexible hose that runs down into the coop and connects to a much smaller piece of PVC with threaded receptacles that the nipple drinkers screw into (below, right). It's very simple, highly functional, and our 14 week old chickens who had previously used only a bell waterer figured out how the nipple drinkers worked within a few hours (I did tap the nipples and flick water at them until they got curious and started pecking at the nipples, then swiftly realized water came out).


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    5) Next, the wheel assembly. We tried a few different things and finally are happy with this design. It's basically a pipe for a handle/lever, with a 90 degree bend which holds the wheel off the ground in the resting position, but then lifts the coop off the ground when the wheel is engaged. I think the pictures below will show the operation better than I can describe it.

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    a) Wheel in resting position, with coop on the ground (the wooden block attached to the coop frame keeps the metal handle from just flopping to the ground, getting wet and dirty

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    b) Here the wheel is now resting on the ground and coop is ready to be lifted.

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    c) Here the coop has been lifted off the ground using the leverage of the pipe handle being pushed from a vertical position down to horizontal (much easier to push the handle DOWN to lift the coop, than an earlier design where the handle had to be lifted from a horizontal position to raise the coop). The axis of rotation is a very sturdy bolt going through the pipe near to the 90 degree angle (in the picture above you can just see the bolt above the top of the tire). When I say sturdy, I mean STURDY - the first bolts we used were 5/8" galvanized, and they bent under the weight of the coop...when I said it was heavy, I meant it! I believe the new bolts are 3/4" galvanized. At the far end of the pipe handle (to the right) you can see a rope loop that we slide over the end of the handle to keep it from rotating down further while we move the coop.

    6) The original design for the coop ramp had rungs on the ramp, to give extra traction, but the rungs were way too think and the chickens had a hard time walking on them. We tried and tried to convince the chickens to go upstairs but they wouldn't. So we made the ramp longer, so it wasn't so steep, and shaved the rungs down to about half the original thickness, and within minutes one of the chickens ventured upstairs. Now the others are following her example. They were starting to lay eggs on the ground, but now we are finding more and more upstairs in the nest box. (We did put some tasty treats like meal worms and a seed cake up there to reward the brave and adventurous!)


    Now that we are happy with the coop, the watering system, the feeding system, the wheels, and the ramp...we are coming to realize that our grass is no match for five large chickens who love to eat grass and scratch until they have plenty of dust and dirt to bath in. Right now all we have growing is some delicate winter rye grass and we originally thought maybe summer grass would be strong enough to survive if we moved them every day, but we're really starting to doubt that. Within hours of being moved to a fresh spot they have turned the ground under the pen into a yard of dirt - and it's not that they are hungry, they have plenty of food in the feeder! They just like to scratch and peck and carve out little nests of dirt to lay in. So I think we're going to park the coop and put up a larger run that they will be able to access through one of the ends of the current coop. They will still use the current coop for feed, water, nesting and shelter, but we'd rather sacrifice just a portion of our yard to their scratching than all of it. Maybe we'll give the mobile coop a try next summer, or maybe we'll just sell it on Craigslist!
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  2. conny63malies

    conny63malies Overrun With Chickens

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    Very nice. Your husband did a outstanding job. They only thing i would have done different is , that i would have used hardware cloth.
     
  3. AmericanKraut

    AmericanKraut Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very creative! Good to know about the weight. I just stumbled on this post. I know it's from awhile ago but maybe you'll see this. Can you tell me if there is ample room up in the roosting space for standard size chickens? It looks a little tight for them in height. Thank you!
     
  4. Jo Anne

    Jo Anne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    we made this also for much less @ 200 + see my picture profile, it is a bit heavy to move alone. it functioned well i housed 4 birds easily
     
  5. AmericanKraut

    AmericanKraut Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 2, 2014
    Minnesota
    Thank you, Jo Anne! And you don't have bantams, they're standards and the roosting area is roomy enough? What type of wood did you use? We plan to free-range mostly and I like the idea of this design and portability for our yard.
     
  6. Jo Anne

    Jo Anne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    American Krautwe used treated lumber for the outside panels where the coop rest I had regular Rhode Island Reds and there was enough room for them to roost as it's 8 feet long
     
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