Friday, January 16, 2009

Geodesic Chicken House

I've been pondering different building methods for the eventual permanent poultry house. Joel Salatin uses hoop houses, which come in kits and are relatively inexpensive for the amount of space you get. They're still a bit pricey for the amount of chickens and space we have, though. You can build hoop houses out of pvc (which is how I built the roof to the brooder house), but I don't think I can make that strong enough for snow loads and occasional high winds.

So I started thinking about geodesic domes. In Arizona, the woman that we bought our goats from lived in a dome house, and several of her animal shelters were built the same way. I know that these types of structures are very strong and resist being overturned, and don't require a lot of materials. Googling for "geodesic chicken house" brought up this blog, which showed something very similar to what I was imagining. My poultry wouldn't be confined to such a house; it would simply be a place for them to roost and get out of the weather.

One annoyance I see with domes is that there isn't any way to increase floor space without increasing height. Once it's more than about six feet tall, any further height increases are just wasted space. I suppose you can get some extra use by building a storage loft, or you could build multiple smaller domes. Actually, I guess that several domes built next to each other and then connected with a ridge post would be pretty similar to a hoop house.

Because the domes are constructed out of triangles, they can be built with lightweight materials and still be very strong. Many of the domes I've run across on the web have been built with EMT electrical conduit. This is what I used for the roof supports on the current chicken house. I could build a 17-foot diameter dome with 35 lengths of 3/4" EMT, which would cost around $168. 1/2" EMT would cost about half as much, but I don't know if it would be strong enough. Obviously, there are additional costs, such as nuts, bolts, washers, chicken wire, and plastic or tarps for the top. For that cost you get about 225 sq ft of floor space, which is only enough for 45 chickens if that is their only space, but if they have access to an outside yard then it is enough for 150 chickens. That's not bad, for about $250 worth of materials. I could probably house all the poultry that will fit on our land in two or three such domes, although I would only be building one to start. That should be plenty of space for a few years of growth.

I haven't definitely decided to build one of these, but it's something that bears further research.


Mary Cate said...

Hmm, that's the first I've heard of geodesic chicken houses.

We've never been very happy with our poultry setup. We are currently planning on making several small mobile hoop houses for various poultry.

A dome like this might make a good goat shelter....

Mel, Foxtail Farm said...

I was rather surprised to find someone had actually built one, myself :).

I used to use a mobile house surrounded by electric netting, but as I've added more chickens it turned into a huge chore to move it every couple of days. So now I'm working with a permanent chicken pen that opens out onto the main pasture for day ranging. I think it was Salatin who claimed that in such a setup, the area just outside the pen gets denuded and the further areas don't get touched, but I didn't find that to be the case last year. As soon as I opened the gate, the poultry would scatter all over the field, as far as the main fence would allow them to go.

Mary Cate said...

The poultry range every corner of our little 6 acres. I worry about them taxing the grass too much in the winter months, and am thinking of some way of wintering them in the garden quasi-mobile to fertilize, stir, and kill weeds. Maybe next winter.