Monday, June 27, 2011

Chook dome passes gale force wind test

While putting the roof on the chicken tractor and pegging it down with only light duty tent pegs, I began to question the design. "Is this thing going to be able to cope with strong winds?" I asked myself. Well I must have thought it too loud as the universe heard me and decided to help out by answering my question. The following day this was the weather report:

A significant cold front is expected to sweep northeastwards across central and eastern SA tonight. Strong to gale force northwesterly winds are occuring ahead of the front. Wind speeds are averaging 50-65 km/h with gusts in excess of 90 km/h. Locally destructive wind gusts in excess of 120 km/h are also possible, with squally showers and thunderstorms.

That night the rain bucketed down and the wind shook the windows. Out of concern for the chickens, I didn't want them part of the test, Melanie and I put on our wet weather gear and braved the storm to move the girls into their solid wood dwelling. To great amusement (shame on me) we found all four crammed into the single chicken nesting box. They seemed pleased to be moving back to their previous dwelling.

While out there amongst the gale I was amazed to witness the sturdiness of the chook dome. Apart from a bit of flapping of loose fabric the structure was solid as rock. And the next day expecting to see its roof in a neighbours tree, I was again joyfully impressed.

To continue on from Building a tractor that gose cluck cluck... I made the roof out of an old broken umbrella. As you can see it fits perfectly and provides 8 anchor points. I did first go and buy a rectangular tarp. However it didn't fit nicely and looked ugly. Each corner has been tied and pegged to the ground. It is import to not fasten the roof to the dome structure. If the wind does take the roof, then that's all it's going to take.

Using bamboo sourced from our local creek and some twine, I built a perch for the chicken to roost on.

For the door I made a cut across the top of one of the panels near the seam and attached a PVC pole. The pole is fastened at the bottom with a wire hinge, and the top is latched with a loop of wire. You can see another example of this kind of door here.

The last touch was to provide the girls with a place to nest. A took this pile of scrap wood and turned it into this:

They all rushed to check it out. Gerty however was the first to use it.

And look, the chook tractors first egg.


  1. I hope the egg means that Gerty is feeling better, Jason! I too have been struck by how sturdy the chook dome design is, although that doesn't stop me trying to bring the chooks into the house whenever we've had a big storm. Pete has always said no. :) And the girls have always been fine!

  2. Great idea using an old umberella as a cover on the dome.

  3. Well done!! I must admit I remember the night you speak of and I too raced out to check that the shed we moved stayed put. It did.
    Is Gerty better?
    I love the use of the umbrella, I too am using one, see
    the photo with the tractor tyre (my temporary compost bin) is covered with an old shade umbrella, works really well the compost keep warmer and the chooks love getting in to warm up on the cold days. Hopefully we can have a few more days like today, sunshine has been wonderful! take care, Yollie

  4. Celia sorry it doesn't. This post is actually a week old, pumped by the Gerty post. But despite her still having the lump it has not gone hard and she is still acting relatively normal.

    I read an book review at Amazon. The reviewer said the chook dome design is not worth the paper it was printed on. He claimed it is flimsy and useless in wind. I bet he built it wrong.

    The chickens seem to really like it. In their other home, due to its height, they don't get to perch. But now they get to perch up nice and high.

    Yollie It's nice to have another Adelaidian comment on my site. We can closely relate. I like the use of your umbrella, lovely bright colours. And yes, the weather is wonderful at the moment.

  5. I wish I was crafty like you, being able to build stuff, my husband is useless at helping in the garden, will let me do whatever I want as long as he doesn't have to help.

  6. Jason, I read (might have been in Linda's book) that chooks like to roost in trees naturally, so I guess flying up to the top of the dome isn't too big a stretch for them. Having that, our ISA browns aren't great flyers. We made a slight modification to roost - we cut a bit hole in the middle of it, and hung a plank "swing" off it. Now the girls hop to the swing and then to the roost. They seem to love it too - they play on it all day long - up down up down - and sometimes they get on the roost and get right up close and give us the stare down when we open the dome door to feed them. :)

    I'm not sure how the dome would survive in really windy conditions, but for suburbia, it seems to be just fine!

    Re Gerty's lump - our ISA browns get a bit lumpy sometimes too - mostly Bertie who is a wonky chicken at the best of times. She always seems to be fine though? Our friend Steve the vet always says not to worry about the chooks unless their behaviours change - they'll very quickly let you know if they're unwell.

    Sheesh, long comment, sorry.. :)

  7. Dirtandflowers both my father and his father were crafty. But I think being crafty is more about the courage to give it ago than actual skill. Much credit must also be given to my gardening group for their help building the dome. If you are lacking assistance in your garden I highly recommend getting a garden group. Contact me if you want tips on that.

    Celia long comments are only bad if they are uninteresting or off topic. Chickens on a swing now that I would love to see. I have a lower perch also to help them get up. They like to perch on it during the day. I guess they have a better view from that one.

    That is great news to hear your chickens survive hopefully a similar issue. She is not acting overly sick so I am feeling positive.

  8. Jason, just to let you know that I took a video clip of our girls on their swing for you - I uploaded it onto my blog a couple of days ago! :)

  9. Jason, if your photos are correct, do you not have your chicken hut inside your dome? If not, why not? While natural, perching in the open air can attrack ill health. Most breeds of chickens originally came from the tropics, throughout the Asia countries, and still exist there and other places (islands) naturally. I would put your house inside your dome. Maybe I am wrong about your photos???

  10. Green Dean correct. The reason is that the dome is a chicken tractor that needs to be moved very quickly and easily every two weeks. The dome is very light, while the hut is rather heavy. The weight of it will also compact the soil as will the tramping that would need to be dome when moving it. This exact design is used by a number of people I know. The photos may not make it clear but the roosting perches are up high fully under the cover. So the birds are fully sheltered from rain and wind.

  11. I've been reading your blog for a few days now and I love it! Your chook dome looks very interesting! I built a chicken tractor with no experience whatsoever last year and it became this incredibly sturdy and terribly heavy affair which could only be moved by two people with lots of effort. Plus at that time we were living on stoney land with slope. Your dome looks like what I should have built instead! I'm living in chilly Germany so the chicken I'm planning on getting next year will have to have proper winter quarters, but for three seasons they should be fine in a dome like that! Now, I was wondering if the dome is big enough for them to run around though? Our chooks last year really loved to run and the tractor didn't give them much room. Also, they would turn over a piece of land within days! Admittedly, I had ten (small!) chickens, but still I couldn't imagine them being on the same spot for two weeks. How does it work with yours? Ours stripped all vegetation within day and - seeing how long it would work - after three days in the same spot, they would just sit along the fence in their little homemade desert looking at all the green on the other side.

    1. I think the dome is about 2 meter in diameter, and with 4 chickens they manage to clear it mostly in the first week. The larger thicker plants like capsicum, eggplant, broccoli, etc takes them sometime to get through - up to 4 weeks. You do want them to eat any fallen seed and bugs hiding in the soil as well. The longer they are in there also improves the soil - that being said too long and the soil becomes sour. Whether they are happy in a small dome is hard to say. They seem happy, especially when it moves.

    2. Good to hear, I think I'll try a dome next year!


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