Woods Colony House - Portable

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Howard E, May 11, 2016.

  1. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    First, many thanks to Jack E for posting pictures of his Woods Colony House, which is partially what convinced me this style of house was the way to go. In my opinion, one of the more interesting threads on this whole forum.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/445004/woods-style-house-in-the-winter

    Also, many thanks to Robert P for taking it upon himself to publish and make available Wood's book on fresh air poultry houses.

    http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Air-Poultry-Houses-Open-Front-Healthier/dp/097217706X

    Anyway, once I was convinced this was the way to go, a decision had to be made on how big. Woods 10' x 16' was too big for my use and his 6' x 10' was about right, but for what seemed like the same materials, I could up that to 8' x 12', which is what I did. I also decided early on this building would be portable........more like can be moved......vs. portable in the "tractor" sense. I do plan to move it around......perhaps once a year or so, if not more often. Initially, this will be used to grow about 15 pullets, some of which are my daughters and will be heading off to her place once they feather out and don't need the heat lamps to survive. That will leave me with about 8 or 9 birds, which are the most I intend to keep. More like 6 or so most of the time, with some allowance for losses.

    Anyway, this is not complete.......lots of trim work and other finish work left to do..........a screen door and monitor windows and window screens to build, but is ready for occupancy, which is a good thing, as I have those 15 - 2 week old birds that are rapidly outgrowing their brooder box and need a proper house to occupy. Weather permitting, move in day is tomorrow.

    First.....a few pictures........

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    Again, I still have to build the monitor windows, so for now, I simply screwed the dropped scraps off the poly roofing over the monitor window openings that is over the scratch shed. Since it is getting warmer all the time, my initial thought was to simply tack some hardware cloth over the opening to keep varmints out, but that was before I rode out a cloud burst in it and saw how much rain was coming in through the open monitor windows. That was not going to work.

    I would also say red is not my favorite color, but it does match the horse barn out back (came with the property).

    The last photo shows some of the details that make this portable (built on 4" x 6" treated timbers for skids), and also how I went about installing the wire apron around the perimeter to keep digging predators out. That I had a really tough time finding a way to run an extension cord into the building to use for a heat lamp makes me think a predator will also have a tough time making it in. If he does, I won't be happy about it, but I would be impressed by his skill in defeating me.

    For those who may be inspired by these houses.....or related somehow to someone who is and who will be tasked with trying to build one, I also plan to elaborate on the design criteria that went into building the thing. And a disclaimer.......while I own a variety of hammers, saws and tape measures, I"m not a framing or finish carpenter. Some will come up with better (and far less expensive) ways of building one of these than I did. I already have suggestions for planned changes. But that will come later, once I have some experience with growing and housing birds in the thing. I am also curious by nature, so a lot of things that went in to this were not necessary, but put in to test some things.

    But so far, so good. Lets see how well it works!
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
    hlhutchinson, Hokum Coco and Leela NH like this.
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    On to some of the design features and why I went with the Woods house.

    The wheels for us raising our own birds were set into motion last summer when we moved from our place in town (25 years) to a new place on 10 acres in the country. I had helped my daughter with her birds and we have friends with birds, so we knew what we were getting into. I also happen to be an old farm kid.....not yet retired, but who acts like it way too much of the time. My career has been in the ag industry and I've spent an awful lot of time over the years in various livestock buildings, and that includes commercial laying houses. Those would be a dreadful place to be if you are a chicken.

    But still, if we were going to raise our own birds we would need a coop for a small flock. Exploring options of what was available to purchase quickly revealed that A: they were expensive and worse....B: the people building them were clueless if you want to be blunt about it......or had not done their homework if you want to be more kind. Most seem to be designed and built to appeal to the emotions of buyers, not to the care, health and safety of the birds they are to house, so most all of them create as many problems for the birds they house as they solve. It also seemed miraculous that you could pack as many birds in them as they claimed.........which of course you can't.

    So I decided to build my own, and in doing so, it also dawned on me that there remain in my area of work and travel a host of very old chicken houses that I could look at / inspect to get ideas on how it ought to be done. These dating back to an era when people raised chickens for a living. I also started a search for plans for these houses. This lead me to the Woods house, among others. I have one "book" dating back about 100 years that must have plans for 40 to 50 of these smaller backyard poultry houses, the Woods house being one of only many. Most are mono slope shed style houses with the tall side facing south. They differ mostly in how the oriented the front with doors, windows and vents. The rest is pretty consistent as far as roost, nest boxes, etc, It turns out almost every state Ag Dept and even the US Dept of Ag had it's own version of, and plans for, backyard poultry houses. Very few, if any, of them resemble what folks are building today. Interesting, however, that almost all of them included the same design parameters we use today. Things like SF per bird......roost height......next box design and sizes, etc. What birds need has been known for a long time. So no reason to re-invent the wheel.

    The appeal of the Woods house to me was in large part due to the wind. The place we moved to sits on the highest point on a ridge, which is the highest ridge for miles around. The wind blows and blows and blows. Last winter when I was doing research on these, we had numerous occasions when we had 50 mph straight line winds for hours on end. In winter months, days with an honest 20 to 30 mph wind are common. So dealing with the wind was a huge factor. My original plan was to build this house in place, but on the day I started, the wind was blowing hard enough I couldn't extend a tape measure more than a few feet without it blowing off to one side. So I moved the operation inside the center aisle of the horse barn. It was tight, and slowed me down, but it was doable. The downside to that was when framing it up, I could hear the wind howling.......the barn was humming.......so I'd add another stick of lumber......more nails or screws, and even hurricane clips for the framing. It's built heavier than it should be, but hopefully it will stand up to the wind.

    So you want a house that is well ventilated, but free of drafts, the drafts mainly being an issue in the cold months of winter, when wind chill becomes an issue. It is also a serious issue if the house is damp. Cold, damp and drafty being a bad combination if you want to keep birds alive and healthy. On the surface, that seems to create a paradox that would be hard to resolve. The Woods house does this by orienting the narrow end of the house to the wind, leaving an air pocket or dead air space at the back, yet is wide open to the south for ventilation. In the summer, you can open it up to let the heat out......in winter, close it up to cut down on drafts, but still let it vent. I actually test this in the horse barn shown in the background of one of the photos. There is an open ended shed on the west side. At the entrance to this shed, the wind might have been blowing hard enough to make it tough to keep your hat on.......but move inside.......and it only took a few feet, and the wind died out to nothing. At the back......it was nearly dead calm.

    The wind is the main reason why I eliminated a coop with attached open air run. It would be great in the summer, but nearly unusable in the winter, unless I wanted to pack hay bales around the open sides to block the wind, which I really didn't want to do.

    I also needed one that was predator tight. We have every predator known to harm chickens out here. Possums, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, probably bobcats and potentially mountain lions and bears, plus hawks and owls. If the birds need to, this house is large enough, and secure enough for them to live in. Even so, they are not going to free range. Even when outside, they will be confined to pastured areas and protected by an electric fence of some type. Always.

    Back when, the knock on the Woods house was it was more difficult and expensive to build than a simple monoslope shed style house. It is that, but again, the design deals with the wind and the monitor windows let in light to the back in the winter. It was a design I was comfortable with and could do. So the Woods house it was.
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    OK, for some of you who now might be considering building one of these, here are some of the design parameters I found.

    In the Woods book, the standard Woods house was 10' wide x 16' deep and was said to be suitable to house 40 birds. The part under the monitor windows being generally 10' x 10' and the front part (what is termed the "scratch shed") in front of the screened in windows to the south) would be 10' wide x 6' deep. So consider this to be a 10' x 10' house, with 10' x 6' screened run on the end, with no wall separating them. Another design parameter is the top of the monitor roof......the highest part of the building.....is in general.....as high as it is wide. The peak on the 10' x 16' building being 10'. The back being about 5'. In the Woods book, I found at least 5 different sets of dimensions Woods provided for these houses, but generally those are the design numbers he gravitated to.

    Interesting that there is another constant that was used, the depth being 1.6 x the width.

    So a 16' x 10' house........16 / 10 = 1.6

    His 10' x 6' backyard house......10 / 6 = 1.667

    That ratio also holds up when you look at the depth of the scratch shed vs. the depth overall.

    I find this interesting as there is a mathematical constant found in nature and often used in architecture called the "golden ratio". That ratio is 1.618

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

    Woods isn't around to ask, but it would be interesting to know if his 1.6 ratio was by accident or if he intended to conform to the golden ratio. It does work well.

    At 12' / 8' my ratio would be 1.5, but since I was using 8' sheets of plywood for the roof, I dropped the overall width to 93" vs 96", so I'm more like 1.55. If it is as tricky as that, I'm in trouble!

    A few more numbers I concluded from his book and what I used. Slope of the main shed roof was built using 5/12 slope on the rafters (5 inches per foot of depth), and 3/12 on the front scratch shed. The back roof is as steep as you can safely stand on without sliding off. Anything put up there (hammer, boards, etc) would slide off. I made the pitch that much to open the monitor windows as much as I could get them, and hopefully when I'm done, I should have 12 inches of vertical glass to let the light in. A builder could probably lower the peak by using a 4/12 slope, but that would mean the loss of 8 inches of rise to the monitor face for this build. You could get that back by lowering the front or raising the back.

    Yes, it can be a complicated design to work with.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    So have you moved it with those aprons attached......or maybe you don't plan on moving it regularly?
    Curious if you've moved it at all and how that went.
     
  5. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I moved the house from the center alley doorway of that horse barn in the background to where it sits now.......a travel distance of around 200 feet or so. The only glitch was on the concrete floor of the barn. Friction had it jumping a bit. Once it hit the grass, it skimmed right along.......didn't even cut the sod and a day later, you could not even tell it had been moved......no cut sod anywhere. BTW, I stole this portability design from a hog house my dad built and we used for several years. It too was a portable shed, used to farrow three sows. Just hook on a drag it around.

    The cross bars across the front and across the back are not 4" x 6", rather are 4" x 4", so there is a 2 inch gap under them to keep them from digging and becoming a dozer blade on uneven ground. The wire protects and secures it from the outside and inside it will be covered with litter, which over time, will pack in underneath. When it's time to move it, the pile of deep litter will be left behind where it is.

    The wire aprons are nailed to the sides with heavy fence steeples.......but will tilt up to move. Just lift them up through the grass, tilt them up, clip them up, then hook on to the skids and go. Wire aprons are held down with long tent stakes I found at Walmart. Essentially long nails, with plastic hold down clips on the ends.

    The wire aprons are 1" x 2" 14 gauge wire. I had hoped to use livestock panels cut lengthwise to fit, but in addition to those being 2" x 4" spacing, which is wider than I wanted (I've seen skunks slip through cracks not much bigger than 2" x 4".....) they were $75 each and I would needed three of them. The wire was expensive, but not as much as that and not nearly as hard to bend as the panels would have been. Those might have required a heat torch of some kind to make that sharp 90 degree bend.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    So apron staples are 'loose' enough to act as a hinge of sorts?
    .....and there's no floor in coop?
    How often do you plan on moving it?
     
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Probably no more than once or twice a year. Where it is now is adjacent to a water hydrant, with electric. It is also adjacent to an area I am developing as raised bed garden, so will be putting the birds to work, working the ground and turning compost. Where it is now is also surrounded by a 4' chain link fence, inside a yard area / run of about 100' x 150' or so. Hoping they will stay inside that until they and I can sort out the predator threat, even inside that fence. I've seen skunks, possums and feral cats go through it / under it, like it wasn't even there.

    An AC Electric fencer (a really hot one) is going on a covered bracket mounted my the water hydrant.
     
  8. Jeff8482

    Jeff8482 Out Of The Brooder

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    Nice! Good job.
     
  9. Intheswamp

    Intheswamp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nice looking coop, Howard. I've yet to build one but I've looked at them for years. If the chickens can live in his coops in deep snow they oughta do fine in the south here. The row of monitor windows opened up should help a lot getting rid of heat in the summer.

    Got any build pictures?
     
  10. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Build pictures? A few, but not many. It was mostly built inside the barn driveway, with not much room to operate, or operate a camera.

    On the windows, hard to see, but these were copied after what we used on the hog house......and what Woods showed in some his drawings. Apparently, it was a common way of doing it. They simply slide sideways on the edge of a board. To open, you slide them forward behind the siding......to close you slide them back. I gave up on looking for old window frames when I found some vinyl frames of the right size at Lowes. About $20 each. The glass panes might get swapped out for plexiglass at some point. But the frames won't need to be painted.
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