This one started when a friend of mine was scrapping a rusty old box trailer. However, since we also needed a new shed to house our next batch of meat chickens, a project was born!
Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos before I began, but the trailer I started with looked pretty similar to this, only in much worse condition:
Whilst the plywood floor and walls were completely rotten, I was surprised to find that beneath fairly serious layer of rust, the structure was actually still pretty good. So, armed with an angle grinder and wire brush attachment, I stripped everything back to solid metal, treated with ‘krust’ and welded on some uprights and roof supports. (There would have been other ways of doing this of course, but I was looking for an excuse to use the stick welder I got for Christmas!). After welding and painting the frame, I cut plywood sheets to go inside the frame, treated them with woodstain and simply bolted them to the metalwork.
The end result is fairly self-explanatory, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve:
- The floor is lined with lino, picked up cheap as an offcut from a carpet showroom. I’m hoping that this will make cleaning out nice and easy (NB, I still need to take a plane to the perches to round off the corners a bit).
- The perches hinge up out of the way for cleaning or when not required (the rope goes through the side panel, so you just pull it up and cleat it off).
- I also put a hinged trap-door in the far corner. The idea of this is that the dirty bedding can just be swept straight out and onto the ground. From there it’s pretty easy just to shovel it into a wheelbarrow, or more likely just spread it about with a rake before moving the house and its inhabitants to a new area. (We use Hemcore horse bedding for chooks, which composts pretty rapidly)
- There is a really wide pop-hole made out of a spare “eternit” roofing slate we had lying around. This is important because firstly Hubbards are big birds and secondly they are really stupid. It’s also quite likely we’ll use this house for a small number of turkeys next year.
- The ramp at the back hinges up out of the way so the house can be moved. The same rope that’s used for opening the pop hole also secures the ramp in the up position.
- There are large grilles on each end for ventilation. This is very important for keeping poultry healthy.
- There is a small hatch cut into one of the walls just below roof level. This is for feeding an electric extension cable through, for powering brooder lamps etc.
- The window is just a perspex sheet robbed from an old caravan which was being scrapped (more wombling! :-))
- All the edges where the wood meets the metal are sealed with “sticks like sh*t”, which is absolutely marvellous stuff. This will hopefully stop rainwater from getting into the edges of the ply and causing them to rot.
So there you have it. I have to say it was not the cheapest of projects, since despite getting the trailer for free, I had to buy the plywood, angle iron, paint, new inner tubes for the wheels, roofing felt etc, at a total cost of about £250. Given that a supermarket chicken currently costs about £5, this tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the economics of raising your own meat at home. However, I’m hopeful that it will last a good few years, and will be a useful addition to our smallholding.