Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chicken Coop Design: FEMA Camp 1.0

The “FEMA Camp” series of chicken coops I am going to discuss are designed primarily for the Cornish Rock Cross chicken breed, A.K.A. McMutant.  Always keep in mind competing considerations vying for control over the design: time, cost, space, etc.  The FEMA Camp series was designed to be cheap, constructed mostly out of spare materials.

FEMA Camp 1.0 is 8′ x 10′, with the actual coop being 4′ x 8′.  The prison yard walls, so to speak, are covered with chicken wire.  The wire is not really designed to keep critters out, but the McMutants in.  The wire kept cats and dogs out, but there is no way it would keep raccoons out.  The idea was that we would keep the McMutants concentrated and they could be watched throughout the day.

The coop itself is much more secure, being nearly completely enclosed by OSB, with small vents covered by hardware cloth.  The floor of the coop is covered with hardware cloth, which should be difficult for critters to get through.  There are no guarantees of security, though.

The roof of the coop and some of the yard are covered with OSB with rubber roofing on top.  The roof was secured to the coop and the yard frame.  There were no hinges on the coop side of the roof which made it difficult to access the coop.  We sloped the roof the way we did so we could have easier access to the coop and yard doors.  There is an exterior yard door which we designed because we thought it would be easy to grab the chickens we wanted to butcher as they left the coop in the morning, as well as an easy way to open the coop door.  As it turned out, there was a flaw in the design.  Sloping the roof the way we did allowed water to drip onto the McMutants whenever it rained.  As it happened, there was a big storm shortly after we put the first batch in the coop and they were drenched.  That problem can easily be solved by adding gutters or simply changing the slope.  The direction of the slope is not too big of a deal though, as two iterations later we still have not changed it.  If we were to build a new coop we probably would change the roof, but remember that changing one thing changes other things.  At some point we will install hinges on the roof so we easily access the coop.  By changing the roof, you would only be able to access half of the coop at one time unless you made other changes.

Fat as McMutants are, they can still be quick and slightly difficult to catch at times.  Remember, they are still young at eight weeks, the prime of their lives.  Bears and Sumo Wrestlers look like they would be slow, but it is all a matter of distance.  Thankfully, we designed a large screen door over the yard of the FEMA Camp to allow easy access.  We used the door a lot.  We discovered it was far easier to lure the McMutants to their doom than try to grab them as they left the coop.  By using the screen door we had far more control over which birds we wanted to despatch first.  This matters because you may want to give runts a little more time (a couple days or so) to gain more weight.  McMutants should weigh between 8 lbs. (female) and 12 lbs. (male).  We had a lot of decent sized McMutants with this coop design.

The coop door did not work well at all, and there are two reasons for this.  The first is that when we placed the McMutants in their new home, they were not used to it.  Ideally you will keep your critters in their new home for a week or two before letting them outside so that they know where their home is.  We did not do that with his batch, and so when they went outside they had to be herded back.  It was very difficult to herd them into the coop because the door was not very wide, and opened to the left.  Herding was a two man job.  One man held the coop door open as filthy McMutant bodies pressed against it, as another man stood in the filthy yard and shoved the McMutants towards the door with a board.  Herding took thirty minutes the first night, and dropped down to around ten minutes on subsequent nights.  From the perspective time, this coop is a failure.  You should not be spending this much time herding filth bags.   The McMutants finally learned where their home was a day or two before they were butchered.  Some McMutants still stayed outside, because chickens like to go to sleep at sunset, and the roof provided shade and a seemingly secure area for them to sleep.

This coop was designed to be a chicken tractor; that is, it would be moved fairly frequently.  Unfortunately, because we had to scrimp, save, and scavenge, the coop was not really sturdy.  We used few 2″ x 4’s, and ended up cutting those in half.  The structure was rickety, but we were able to move it around.

We concentrated twenty McMutants in FEMA Camp 1.0, and I would not recommend concentrating more than that.  We experienced no serious resistance.  The McMutants became increasingly wary as the week of doom progressed, and some of them hid inside the coop, which meant we had to unscrew the roof to get them.  Most of the McMutants were above their minimum weight targets, and the mortality rate was very low.  Unfortunately, I lost the notebook with all the specific data.

1 comment:

Ryu said...

Wow! You keep good records. That is a great idea. It sounds just like a real USG fema camp - cheap, easy to make, make of available materials.