The ATF Chicken Dome - Creating an easily movable run enclosure for our chickens

Discussion in 'DIY / Self Sufficiency' started by jlmeredith, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. jlmeredith

    jlmeredith Out Of The Brooder

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    The ATF The Chicken Dome

    We needed a moveable coop solution for our girls (and boy) and did not think a traditional chicken tractor was big enough for 12 chickens and we have a large yard, so we invested in a 16' geodesic dome from Zip Tie Domes ($420). I highly recommend the kits that John and his family offer! Super people! The dome took about 2 hours with two people to assemble and is super strong, light and flexible. I can move it by myself using a length of rope attached to two points and then pull it with my lawn tractor. We covered it in plastic fencing that we had around the property and a few tarps to provide shade. We will soon cover the whole dome with a parachute to create a wind block for winter use.

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    You can see in this photo where the dome was previously. We left it there for 3 weeks, which was FAR to long. One week max is the new plan. They still have created some holes in the yard even at one week, but nothing that a little dirt will not fill. Fortunately, the grass has started growing back in the old spot.

    Tunnels

    In order to get the chickens from the coop to the Chicken Dome, we had to come up with a tunnel system. Below are instructions on how we did it.

    I started my Chicken Tunnels using 1/2" hardware cloth but found it to be overly flexible and much more expensive (but it works as you see in the photos). I switched to the same material as others, 2"x4" galvanized fencing in 4' width. I made my tunnels with a 14" base, and they are about 16-18" tall. The rooster has to duck down a little to get through but he seems to do fine.

    Here are some quick instructions for how I built mine. Be very very careful and wear gloves when building your tunnels. Once this wire is cut, it is very very sharp and will cut you. I recommend using a pair of lineman's pliers to cut and a pair of needle nose pliers to handle the bending.


    1. Cut the fence in 60" lengths. Be sure to cut on one end close to the joint on the wire and on the other end leave a long piece of wire to use for wrapping.

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      4' x 60" section

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      One end has wire length left from the previous close cut on the joint. You will use this extra wire to secure the hoop portion to the bottom.

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      Cut the wire close on one end of the section when cutting off of the roll.
    2. Once you have cut a section off, from the end that was cut close to the joint, count in 14" or seven squares, carefully bend to a 90 degree angle at the 14" mark to make the bottom of the tunnel.

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    3. Once you have the bottom formed, use the long wires that you left when cutting the fencing to wrap around the part that is now the bottom. I probably should have trimmed the wires before trying to wrap them but it only takes a few extra min to just wrap a little more around. Be sure to bend the wires so that they will not poke the chickens or you when you are moving them. The key is to make the joint on the ground where it is least likely to poke someone.

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    4. Once you have secured the hoop to the bottom, set the tunnel section bottom side down and roll the top back and forth to form a uniform hoop. I then connected the sections using zip ties. I placed one at the top, one or two a few inches from the top and then several along the bottom to thwart our bandit chickens from slipping out. I also secured the zip ties just enough for it to not come apart. This will give the joints between each section some flexibility for routing around our yard.

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      Here you can see the area where we left the dome for three weeks in error.


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      Here I created a vestibule from the pop door and have two directional options for running tunnels out from the coop.

    For those who are wonder, ATF stands for The Accidental Turkey Farm, the name that was given to our homestead here in Nashville by friends and it has stuck. If you have questions or would like to get more information, feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to help! Hope this is helpful for others. I will post some video later showing us moving the coop from one location to another.
     
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Hi,

    Thats a great set up you have. I like the idea.
    Well done!
    CT
     
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  3. N F C

    N F C Home in WY Premium Member

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    Very cool! I especially like the tunnel you made to get the chickens from the coop to the dome. You did a great job documenting how you did all this and the pictures are helpful too.

    Thanks for sharing!
     
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  4. kotoula

    kotoula New Egg

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    Hello I love your chicken tunnels. Do you know what guage of wire you used for the tunnels please?

    Thanks!
    kotoula
     
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  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    [​IMG]

    If you go back to the OP, you'll see that he only has 6 posts. So, he was a flash in the pan! Lovely idea, though. I bought a roll of similar wire and intend to make some tunnels to allow my birds to have limited access to the garden this season. Thanks for resurrecting this old post. If you go to your local TSC, I'm sure that you can find similar wire that will be plenty heavy enough. You'll just have to take a look, and play around with it, and see! I was going to make wooden frames to support my tunnels, but I like this idea b/c it's cheap, and easily moved. Also like the loose zip ties for flexibility. I'd not have thought of that.
     
  6. jlmeredith

    jlmeredith Out Of The Brooder

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    Apologies for not posting sooner on your question. I used a roll of this material from Home Depot - http://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-4-ft-x-100-ft-Steel-Welded-Wire-308312EB/205960859 - Everbilt
    4 ft. x 100 ft. Steel Welded Wire.

    Description says it is 14G which seems about right.

    One note about zip ties. You have to use heavy duty ties for them to last and you will want one at every square hole in the wire. I have found that about the width of 2-3 fingers is the right distance that still allows you to move the tunnel around with some flexibility, but not allow the chickens and other animals to come in or out. We have recently had issues with skunks making their way into the tunnel and then into the coop to feast on eggs in the early morning when the auto door opener comes up. We have adjusted by not opening it until later in the morning.

    Also, be careful not to let grass grow up into the tunnel, it is a pain in the butt to move them if they have been allowed to sit too long.

    Let me know if you have other questions.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.
  7. jlmeredith

    jlmeredith Out Of The Brooder

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    I should also note that in some of the photos you will notice a finer mesh wire that I first tried called hardware cloth. I would not recommend using this for this type of tunnel as the grass really gets tangled in the mesh and makes the tunnel hard to move.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    My apologies. You're not a frequent poster, that's for sure!!! Excellent design, and I will be trying your model when the arctic blast finally releases it's grasp.

    What do you use for an auto door? Is it on a timer, or is it triggered by daylight/darkness???? Would you recommend your model to a friend? Any maintenance issues? How long have you had it?

    Thanks.
     
  9. jlmeredith

    jlmeredith Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 4, 2015
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    I am not unfortunately. My time available for following forums is limited and honestly, I have not had many situations where I could not find my answer my just searching, lol.

    Regarding cold weather access. One thing that I had considered doing was making tarps that would go over the tunnels - this could have dual purpose - shade in the summer and wind block in the winter. The tunnels provide a ton of space for the chickens to roam in addition to their dome. I think I calculated with their current 90 foot long run they have almost as much grazing space as two of the domes.

    Regarding the pop door - I installed one of these - https://www.amazon.com/Add-Motor-Chicken-Automatic-D20/dp/B007IZJWNQ - Add-A-Motor Chicken Coop Automatic Motor (D20) I then used a power outlet ( https://www.amazon.com/GE-Lighting-Control-Receptacle-Wireless/dp/B0013V1SRY/ ) that ties into my home automation system (Z-Wave - https://www.amazon.com/Verde-Vera3-Flexible-Powerful-Controller/dp/B0074WIVJ4 ). I can then program the outlet to come on or go off based on a sunrise / sunset schedule. I can adjust this schedule forward or back by a set number of hours to delay the opening. I have had this setup working without issues for about a year now.

    The biggest issue I would say is picking the right materials for the door itself. Metal is definitely the way to go. Wood will eventually warp and the door will not open and close properly. Plastic will eventually crack due to UV exposure on the exterior.

    Hope this is helpful.
     
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  10. jlmeredith

    jlmeredith Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 4, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Here is an interesting DIY version that I bookmarked when I was investigating what to build. While I wanted to build this, time was not available so I went with the quickest option. This looks like fun to build - http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Automatic-Chicken-Coop-Door/

    I would recommend though using a sheet of aluminum for the door rather than wood.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.

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