Fixes For the Horse Hay Quandary

Sourcing good quality hay is a hay quandary that has many horse owners pulling their hair out. Once a good hay source is located it is held as a closely guarded secret to be shared only among a limited necessary few, in order that the supply may be protected for their present or future needs.

field

As a seasoned organic horse hay producer, my personal experiences run the gamut from dealing with huge hay purchasers that don’t produce hay themselves, but act as middlemen to supply the market, to small backyard horse keepers who simply want a few hundred bales to last a NE winter. They all have one thing in common, worries about supply of good quality hay.

The recent dry weather across many regions of the U.S.A. and Canada has added significant weight to the concern. Even in our wet mountain microclimate in the Catskill Mountains of New York, this summer has been the first time in 24 years of hay production that 2nd cut looks non-existent due to scorched fields.

What is a horse owner to do? Here are a few tips to help manage the hay supply.

Management of Scorched Hay Fields

Many horse owners are used to bringing in their own hay or having their properties custom farmed and taking in payment some of the cut. When the fields are dry, the correct management of the hay fields is critical to protect next year’s yield.

Resist the urge to mow or cut hayfields that are showing weakness in plant growth and lack of yield unless the crop is alfalfa and is evidently dying off to such a degree that it will not recover. On grass hayfields even a minimal amount of leaf cover or stubble can still help protect the soil and root structure and nutrients of the grasses and legumes. After it has hopefully rained, the hay growth may improve slightly but likely still not enough to facilitate taking a worthwhile amount of crop for the cost of machine time in labor and fuel.

If weeds are gaining control in the hayfields due to drought, taking a high cut mow before the weeds go to seed can help mitigate their ability to take hold.

hayfield in sunset

Instead take actions now to plan and protect the hay fields from winter damage from heaving, by leaving some crop on the field. Have the soil tested in Fall for nutrient levels and fertilize as needed. Lime, phosphorus, and other fertilizers applied now can help the plantings and seedlings weather the forthcoming winter season variances and encourage a better yield next year.

Take steps to secure an alternate hay supply for the season. Consider the following alternatives to regular dry hay bales.

Hay Extenders, Stretchers and Forage Replacers

Wondrously there is no definition or commonality to the above terms for hay/forage products on the market. This can lead to much confusion and errors in how such products are used. It is essential that consumers – well OK not the horse but the horse owner, read the label.

Be aware that some products are not made from chewing satisfaction long hay stems at all, they are made entirely of complete feed with a heavy bias toward including beet pulp. Some products may include actual hay to replace 50% of a horse’s hay diet and require grain be additionally fed, some 75% etc.

horse eating

Image Source:  https://www.spillers-feeds.com

Consult with your vet before making major changes to your horse’s diet by making a switch to such products and as always, make any changes slowly.

Stretching the Hay Supply and The Dollar

Clearly less hay availability means higher prices will need to be paid for any hay sourced. This extra cost can be mitigated by the use of an equine hay feeder when hay is fed outside. Savings can be as high as 30%.

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How you store the hay and the quality of hay you buy can also help minimize wastage of good hay.

If you own an older horse or an equine that requires alfalfa hay but needs it chopped into chewable size pieces, you can save money by buying a woodchipper/shredder machine from your local hardware or big box store and chopping it yourself. By buying alfalfa in a bale versus a bag already chopped, you will save money. Simple drop the flakes of hay into the machine and out it comes finely chopped.

Many horse owners opt to have their hay supply delivered and stacked. This necessarily saves work but also incurs an additional cost.

loading hay bails in barn

Picking up your own hay direct from the producer can save you money on transport and labor and knock out the middleman making money or dealing hay. It also enables you to buy a more consistent hay product, and you will know firsthand the provenance of your hay. As many horse owners also own horse trailers, the transport of hay in the horse trailer is a good option. The closed trailer is actually a better transport option than an open trailer, where loads need to be tied down which takes extra time and effort and subjects the load to spray from wet roads or rain.

If you do not possess a horse trailer, renting a box van or contracting a moving company can also work to solve the transport issue. And you won’t need that gym membership! Moving hay keeps you fit.

Lesser quality hay may be purchased and then possibly improved by removing mold and dust using a hay steamer. Take care not to leave the unit plugged in without the necessary supply of water or an electrical fire may result. Soaking hay is an arduous process to do by hand and results in messy stall beds with wet shavings unless some form of containment is used at feeding time. Investment in a hay steamer can resolve this issue.

Take Home Message

Given the climate considerations and number of U.S. farms going out of business it is unlikely that the hay supply issue will ease as time progresses. Limiting the number of horses you own is a drastic way to reduce the use of hay and the hay budget each year. But it is something many horse owners will likely face unless they make compromises either in hay quality, amount fed, or have a healthy large budget and can afford to pay the increasing costs.

horse eating hay

Boarding barns are already in crisis as to what to do, and some are posting on their social platforms that they will not be feeding hay in the fields to horses on daily turnout throughout the winter months.

Consider planting drought resistant hay grasses if you have the property, the budget for equipment and skill set to use it and could make your own good quality hay. It may help improve yield in future dry years.

Other methods that are being utilized to deal with the water shortage issue is construction of reservoir systems for water storage.

We’re all in this together. As a hay producer I can tell you that myself and my farming colleagues are doing what we can to best manage our resources and keep the grass growing.

All In a Dog’s Day

The old grey whiskered Labrador, Conrad, viewed his new house mate, one year old terrier Jasper with mild interest from the corner of his eye as he rested his old bones and lay flat out on the living room carpet. Their owner had just left the abode and he heard her car rattle to life outside and begin to roll down the gravel driveway.

labrador laying

After some difficulty Jasper had clawed his way up onto the new couch, across the microsuede cushion and stood with his front feet on the back of the soft furnishing. He feverishly barked at the vehicle as it disappeared and leapt from one side of the couch to the other to gain a better view.

This routine was repeated every morning. And Conrad, weary from the incessant noise, slowly pulled his arthritic self to his feet and padded into the kitchen to have a drink of water. Unfortunately, Jasper had been there before him and most of the water was splashed over the vinyl floor. The stainless-steel water bowl was tipped on its side. The feed bowls where the two dogs had argued over breakfast earlier had rolled into the living room and little bits of remaining kibbles were scattered on the floor. Conrad sauntered over to eat them.

Jasper turned around to see his older roommate’s plan and jumped off the couch to help in the clean-up, and narrowly missed the lamp on the glass side table. For several minutes the dogs argued over the meagre food supply on the carpet. Jasper hanging off the other dog’s neck and attempting to bite his buddy with his baby gnashers. Conrad impatiently snapped at the younger dog in frustration. It was time to put the young rascal in his place. Jasper yelped as he felt the quick sting of teeth bite down on his floppy ear.

Suitably chastised Jasper ran off to hide under the couch. He had grown a few inches taller and was fatter than a few weeks before, and the underneath of the new couch was not as spacious in its cave-like quality as the previous one. Undeterred he pushed himself beneath it, where he quickly became stuck. Conrad meantime had disappeared up the stairs for some peace and quiet. His young companion still had difficulty navigating the staircase so it was the one way he could avoid the endless taunting from playful Jasper.

dog at bottom of steps

After several minutes struggle, Jasper managed to turn himself sideways under the couch. Thanks to his antics some black fabric hung from the ceiling of his cave, so he chewed it to see what it was about. As he did so it started to rip further, and with great satisfaction he pulled on it more aggressively. He found himself free from his pinned position as the fabric teared even further and exposed the belly of the beast above him. Delighted he backed out of his cave with the fabric still in his mouth. After much pulling and biting, he managed to detach a large piece of material which he promptly sat down to chew.

Half an hour later Jasper was not feeling so good. He had ingested bits of the fabric and gagged as he tried to regurgitate that which did not sit well in his tummy.

After some effort as he paced around the living room, he managed to evacuate the content of his stomach that included both bits of fabric and the morning breakfast he had bolted down earlier. He felt much better. He trotted across the room to the kitchen without regard for avoiding the mini piles of detritus he had strewn across the carpet. Consequently, the kitchen floor was soon decorated with his paw prints floor painting.

Bored with no Conrad to rag on, Jasper nosed about the kitchen cabinets and under the table. An errant bit of onion, a garlic clove wrapper that had fallen on the floor by the garbage bin attracted his attention. Further investigation revealed a few other tasty bits behind the bin as he pushed it around the floor with his nose. As he reached behind it and pushed forward, the bin toppled over and lo and behold, a bevy of interesting contents spilled forth as its lid flipped open.

trash flipped from can

A few more hours of play with the contents elapsed before Jasper realized the mistake of his adventures. His digestive system in uproar, he felt the need to pee. So, like the good dog he was he headed to the pee pad his owner had left by the back door to discharge the contents of his full bladder.

Satisfied with his success peeing on the lovely smelling pee pad, he adventured around the kitchen to see what else he could find. He was distracted by a knock at the door. Jasper ran to the door barking his loudest, a bit afraid of the noise without his buddy Conrad’s presence.

Conrad was asleep upstairs on his owner’s bed. He heard the disturbance downstairs and lifted his head to listen. But the knocking stopped so he yawned and went back to some shut eye.

Life was very tiring these days for Conrad. He knew it would be hours before his owner returned and he would be able to get out and do his business. It was becoming harder and harder for him to hold it in for such long hours, and fistulas had developed making his bathroom duties even harder to accomplish.

As with many Labradors, his kidneys were not handling the aging process well, and he had frequent urges to pee that had to go unaddressed. His owner had limited his access to water at one point, to try and save the unfortunate accidents that occasionally happened despite his best efforts to hold it.

Meantime downstairs Jasper, frustrated by not being able to see the visitor through the door, had leapt up on the couch again to look out the window. The man climbed into his large brown truck and drove off. Jasper continued to bark. He hoped the visitor would return.

dog looking out window

As the young dog looked through the window, he spied a lady walking a large German Shepherd on the narrow path in front of the house. This set of raucous noise from Jasper, and the big dog startled and looked toward the house as it heard it. Then it too began barking and dragged its owner over the front lawn, the long leash extending quickly. Soon its handler was forced to let go of the leash as she was in danger of falling over, and the large plastic reel bounced along behind the bounding German Shepherd as it came right up to the front window. It plowed across the garden full of flowers, the leash ripped through the peony plants that dropped their fragile petals as the dog carved his route to visit Jasper.

For a split-second Jasper thought the big dog was coming in the room and leapt around in a crazy manner. He jumped down from the couch in a panic and knocked over the large lamp on the side table and ran back and forth from living room to kitchen.

The big dog’s owner retrieved their beast and after some admonishment from the human to the canine, the two retreated back over the lawn.

labrador laying on blankets

Conrad lifted his head again to listen to this new level of barking noise. He slowly raised his old limbs to stand and then cautiously jumped down off the bed and headed down to the hallway. It had been hard to get on the bed, but it was the only space he could find to lie down that gave relief from the pain of his arthritis.

Jasper meantime fraught with panic, had pooped in several places around the house downstairs. Conrad carefully picked his way around the mess as he discovered the latest calamity that Jasper had caused.

A few hours later Jasper had calmed down from all the excitement although still felt stressed. Luckily, he had discovered a box of children’s toys and he had found chewing on them made him feel decidedly better.

dog with toys

He especially liked the ones that made a squeak or noise, and was determined as all terriers are, to fix that noise once and for all. Killer instinct had kicked in and Jasper had successfully bitten into a large ball that had deflated and after more work given up its contents of a large plastic object.

Conrad looked around the room with mild interest. He sniffed at a few objects most of which he was familiar with, but his interest was piqued by a long-haired doll he hadn’t seen before. As soon as Jasper saw Conrad pick up the doll to carry it carefully in his mouth to a corner where he could investigate it further, he attacked the older dog’s new toy and hung off the doll’s hair as Conrad attempted to lift it higher and out of reach. Soon both dogs were rolling around on the dirty floor pulling the doll between them in a tug of war. Conrad won. Jasper skulked off eventually in defeat. Both dogs’ coats not as clean as they began.

The owner returned home an hour later than usual due to demands of the day at work that had gone awry. Conrad dashed through the door to relieve himself delighted that his owner had finally appeared. Jasper quickly followed him. He scuttled past his owner and did not regard her commands (that soon became cries) for him to go to her. Instead, he scampered off across the front lawn remembering the large dog and keen to see where it had disappeared.

It was another half an hour before the owner managed to catch Jasper. She noted the wound on his ear and the damage to the flower garden. She wondered what had happened to cause her kind old Lab to bite the smaller dog and was also upset that her beautiful blooming array of peonies so carefully tended by her were in disarray.

Once back at the house she saw the state of her home. Utter dismay lit her face, followed by a look of anger, followed by a look of disbelief. She had left the dogs alone many times before and while little accidents had happened nothing as major as the mess she encountered had ever occurred.

messy room

The owner sought advice of a dog trainer on how she should manage two dogs and handle the canine behavior issues and looked online for suggestions. Crating the dogs was a common suggestion but she just couldn’t bring herself to confine her old dog to a small box for long periods where he could not move about at all, and she felt crating just the young dog would be unfair.

Another suggestion was she should purchase a two-dog kennel where the canines could comfortably be housed with an inside/outside option, their own space and a securely fenced covered run.

dog kennel with outside run

To her amazement purchasing the kennel was simple. After a brief chat with a prefab kennel building company staffer to answer questions that followed her finding just what she wanted on their website, a to-the-penny quote was in her hand and delivery was set for the following week. On their advice she had purchased a kennel with features she knew both her dogs would love.

For the older dog the ability to come and go inside and out would relieve his anxiety and physical stress at having to hold his pee and poop for long periods when she wasn’t home. The ill-advised method of withholding free access to water for Conrad would be avoided.

As each box could be built to different sizes, she had selected a kennel that offered just that, based on advice from the company staffer as to what size would be best for each dog to be the most comfortable. Too small and it would be restrictive and too large, and the animal would not feel secure.

There would no longer be arguments about food or water supplies and there would be no spillage of either, as each box had stainless steel bowls secured to the interior kennel box door that were simple to remove for washing and filling. She could also now ensure the older dog had his special diet food and that the younger one could be fed the puppy chow he needed.

Conrad would no longer be harassed all day by the antics of the young Jasper, and there would be plenty of companionship without fights and arguments.

inside dog kennel

The two-dog kennel was tall enough that she could easily stand inside and had a small wire mesh door that she could keep closed when the main door was open to prevent any canine escapes. There was even a lobby space for the dog food and perhaps a small sink later if she wanted to add it.

The floors were not too smooth to cause a problem for Conrad getting up and down or slipping but were smooth enough for easy care. The drains were neatly set at the back of the boxes and protected with stainless steel, so that clean-up was easy, and the dogs were not lying over drains.

For Conrad, there was enough room to add a raised dog bed in his box where he could comfortably rest his weary joints without the pressure points caused by hard floors with the added bonus Jasper would not be able to access it to destroy it.

For Jasper, he would similarly have the freedom he needed from interference from the other dog but would be able to go in and out as he liked to the secure covered pen outside that was decked with durable Trex boards. The owner planned to place the kennel in the back garden away from the road and passers-by, where the dogs would be free from interaction with visitors that might set them off barking.

A few weeks later, the kennel all safely in place and ready for immediate use with a hassle-free delivery by a strange ‘mule’ like machine that easily navigated the route to the back garden, the two dogs contentedly lay on their respective decks facing the house. The owner was late home again, but it didn’t matter. Life was calm and happy now.

There had been a vet visit necessary for Jasper following his ingestion of questionable object and upset tummy for several days from the incidents that fateful day, but thankfully the foreign object discovered by X-ray has passed through the dog without the need for surgery as the vet had suggested it would.

The owner found cleaning the kennel easy to accomplish, and much easier than cleaning up the messes in the house. Everything was so well designed. And now she didn’t drive extra fast trying to get home or turn down offers to socialize with colleagues after work on occasions.

It was a win-win decision for everyone. And the owner knew she would enjoy utilizing the kennel for many years to come. It had already been useful to house the dogs when her sister and toddlers came to visit, and their over-excitement threatened to derail the holiday celebrations. In fact, it almost seemed as if the dogs preferred to forgo the crowded house on such occasions.

What is ‘all in your dog’s day?’

dogs by wood pile

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Common Mistakes To Avoid When Crunching Numbers For The New Horse Barn

The commonly heard idiom, ‘apples to apples,’ is used to make price comparison by savvy shoppers the world over. When purchasing a horse barn and crunching numbers hopefully your comparison-shopping self, figures this factor into the decision-making process.

apples in hands

The fact is that incorporating this idiom into real life practice is harder to do than you might expect. Especially when it comes to the complex details involved in a large capital purchase such as a horse barn. Value for money can be hard to ascertain. Let’s look at common mistakes made when munching and crunching through numbers and learn how to avoid them.

Granny Smith or Red Delicious?

To make an accurate comparison between two products the specifications or ‘species’ of the item needs to be considered not just the type of product. To push the idiom beyond its limits, think about it in real apple terms.

You probably wouldn’t pack a Granny Smith apple in your kid’s lunch box or bake a Thanksgiving apple pie using Red Delicious. Similarly, when comparing pricing on a horse barn, you shouldn’t measure the cost of a center aisle barn with that of a monitor barn with an overhang or a sturdy timber frame wood structure with a metal sided low quality building. While all products may satisfy the appetite for horse housing, some styles, design and materials will simply be more satiating of needs than others.

What You Put In The Basket

While it might be obvious that a shed row is likely to be less expensive than a center aisle barn, it might not be as obvious that major differences in overall costs also apply to other factors in the equation. Components that can scuttle the accuracy of the comparison and render it defunct.

woman considering barn type

What you put in your shopping basket must be the same, in fact, it needs to be identical. This is a challenging exercise to complete because companies deliberately mismatch their offerings to confuse the buyer.

In terms of purchasing a horse barn here are some key notes to consider when undertaking your budget decisions in a new barn purchase:

  • The size of the building will make a difference in site preparation costs but so will the type of building, its height and component parts such as overhangs, kick walls and lofts.
  • Every component of construction in the barn structure, from hardware to species and grade of lumber, and from roof and siding manufacturer to quality of the specific product used in each area, all make a difference in cost.
  • Multiple use buildings may initially offer apparent cost savings over adjunct or independent structures built for purpose, but for every wall or division in interior space and the additional access required, more costs will be involved in finishing the build if that is not included in both comparisons.
  • If the site requires major excavation or backfill to make it level then site costs may be less expensive for multiple smaller structures than one large one.
  • If one quote includes special upgrade packages, then don’t match it against one that doesn’t include the same as a standard feature to the same standard. Examples: if a quote includes roughed in electric, count the outlets, junction boxes etc. as well as their capacity; if a quote includes a weathervane, is it the same material, design, size, and fitting.
  • Window sizes, door sizes, their size and type of construction and manufacture all matter.
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  • Brand name materials are likely to cost more than knock-off or copycat products. While this does not necessarily make them a better option from a construction perspective for integrity or quality (as marketing and warranty costs for those brands may be included in their higher price point and the basic product may be the same) compare like to like. Specifications of the actual products used matter most. For example: don’t be fooled into comparing a higher gauge metal with a lower gauge one (the latter is better by the way), or one type of paint application process to another less durable method.
  • Don’t overlook the smaller details that can come back to haunt you later such as how well the stall door latches are made or what kind of paint or stain is used and how many coats.
  • Are the prices quotes or estimates? i.e., is the price likely to change after you’ve signed on the dotted line or during the project?
  • What is the craftsmanship quality and can you investigate it firsthand elsewhere or at their facility?
  • How available are the materials quoted and is there a price guarantee against an increase in costs?

These are some common areas of differences to be found in ‘apple to apple’ comparisons in the barn building arena.

In some instances, horse owners contemplate renovating an old barn that is established on the property or converting an existing structure for use as a horse barn versus buying new. Beware of unexpected costs and budget overrides in any building project. However, in the case of renovations it is not uncommon to find some nasty hidden surprises in the uncovering and rehabilitation of an older building. Costs for remedy can quickly become excessive.

reviewing building plans

Also consider carefully whether the ultimate result of a renovation will completely fulfil the requirements of the housing that is ultimately required and that it will meet desires in ease of daily use.

Apples and Oranges

It is all too commonplace for folks to become tired of trying to figure out all the details of a quotation. But if you rush to decide on a construction partner and purchase now you may regret that decision at your leisure and it may leave a sour taste in regard to the purchasing process and ownership experience of the resulting structure for years to come.

What may initially look like an apples-to-apples basket may in fact be an apples to oranges comparison. Ask lots of questions and get everything in writing to protect your interests. Ensure the quote is broken down in detail.

Due diligence will pay off in the end. Literally.

family with horse outside of barn

The Horsey Housework of Horse Manure Management

Horse people know that mucking about with horse manure is part of everyday life in the care of their charges. The work is laborious and time-consuming.

It is hard for the non-horse aficionado to contemplate the amount of energy and attention the task requires or to understand the horse owner’s enthusiasm with the result of their cleaning efforts or seemingly weird attention to the smelly piles of manure that accumulate in the stable.

The large Equus critter naturally poops and pees in large volumes. All this mess requires some serious horsey housework to keep the stalls and pastures clean and tidy. Especially when you consider how much the average of 30 pounds of poop per horse per day can add up. A horse manure management protocol is best done as part of the horse facility set up and design.

Non-horsey types may not mention their equestrian friend’s special ‘Eau d’Equus’ while the horse caregiver will barely notice their special aroma. Horse poop inadvertently collected on the sole of their shoes to be later deposited on kitchen floors or car mats warrant little attention.

Onlookers to equestrian lifestyle are not intrigued by horse manure the way savvy horse owners usually are – experienced horse folks are obsessed with how many piles of manure are found in the stall after a horse has been stabled for the night. The natural form, quantity, consistency, and color of the manure are great indicators of the health of the horse. Even the arrangement and placement of the piles of black gold around the stall are helpful indicators of the health of the animal.  These can detail the restlessness or mood of the horse and its mental health.

manure

Horse caregivers don’t mind scraping manure off windowsills, emptying water buckets full of floating manure balls, sponging poop stains off our horses’ coats or back ends, or washing down stall walls decorated with muck. If that is not enough the ardent horse lover will also be seen dragging endless skips laden with heavy manure. They will spend hours and hours each day on mucking out chores, sieving poop and pee from the stall bedding. Back breaking quantities of the stuff will be pushed in wheelbarrows up steep hills or rough ground to manure pits or to machines that will scatter the poop elsewhere later.

It must seem odd to the non-horse person that sometimes the diligent horse person will even collect fresh manure samples up and stuff them into small plastic containers and then mail them out to other people who apparently share their interest in the contents. Bizarre behavior indeed.

People have also witnessed horse aficionados wandering around in fields picking up even more of the manure. Collecting it up and wheeling it elsewhere.  Equestrians can become dizzy with excitement at the idea of owning a horse poop vacuum or a mechanical manure shaker device.

All this bonkers behavior comes perfectly naturally to the horse person, yet despite their cognizance of all things horse manure and myriad of interesting displays of attention to its presence, you do have to wonder, where does it all go?

A Hole In The Ground

Dog owners are probably familiar with the large plastic buckets that can be buried in the backyard and treated like chemical toilets for composting their pet’s poop provisions and keeping the lawn clear of poop mines.

Plastic bag poop pick up detail when walking the dog in urban areas is the norm. Though this has its drawback in some countries such as the United Kingdom, where these bags of delight are commonly tossed over hedgerows into fenced pastures and ingested by grazing horses often resulting in death from colic. Old mailboxes are commonly used in rural areas as the new rubbish bin for disposal of these bags of poop and picked up somewhat irregularly by town council services.

A plastic bag pick up is not particularly useful for horse poop and hanging a sack behind a horse’s rear end to collect the deposit when the animal is walking on the road is rarely seen except in larger cities.

A large hole in the ground is rarely the resource utilized by horse owners for their horse manure disposal either. Although when visiting the Spanish Riding School in Vienna when it was at the Hofburg Palace complex, this author did note such a method was used in their back courtyard.

 

Where There’s Muck

Where there is muck, it is said there is money. While of course this expression is not literal and suggest collecting horse manure for sale is a profitable enterprise, but selling horse manure for profit is possible. Bagging up manure is a tiresome process and some gardeners that may purchase it prefer it to be already composted.

horse poo sign

In my early career in England, I rode at the urban Dulwich Riding School, in South London. They had a useful arrangement with Dulwich Park to supply all their beautiful rose beds with horse manure and by return the large circular sand track that surrounded these huge gardens was made available for the riding school patrons to use to exercise the school horses. A jolly amicable arrangement and a win-win situation, especially for this country girl who was used to the endless miles of bridle trails and open fields in the very horsey county of Buckinghamshire.

On my travels elsewhere as a clinician in the U.S.A, I noted innovative barn owners had made a deal with a large supermarket chain that produced its own grocery produce to leave a 20-yard dumpster by the back door of their commercial boarding business’s center aisle barn. The manure was ‘harvested’ once a week and conveniently disappeared to a true recycling effort.

Don’t Pooh-Pooh Poop Plans

Amazingly, horse manure disposal is often overlooked in horse facility plans. When designing your horse yard, be it a big or small operation, collection, handling, and disposal of manure should be considered in the plans for the type and size of the facility.

Here are some questions to address:

  • What is the width, height and door access needed of an aisleway for tractors or mechanical means for manure transport?
  • What will the route of ingress and egress be in poor weather to both the interior of the structure and the manure storage area?
  • Where will manure be stored when snow obstructs the usual place of disposal such as a manure pit some distance away from the barn?
  • Will the horses be mainly stabled with turn out or have in/out freedom from stall to a fenced area outside? If the latter how will the outdoor area be accessed and cleaned of manure? If the former, how will paddocks be accessed and kept picked of manure?
  • Will pasture management include harrowing in hot weather to disperse manure (hot weather is best time to do it for worm/parasite control)?
  • Where will the equipment for manure transport and disposal be safely stored?
  • If composting the manure where will the pile be located for access for adding other ingredients.
  • If composting the manure, which method will be used?

But there are many more issues to mull over for manure management. While composting done correctly (there are many different methods of composting) can be an eco-friendly solution for this rich fertilizer, there are certain caveats to handling and storing the manure that should be considered.

 

The Manure Pit or Pile

As manure piles may attract ‘rats as big as cats’ as my grandmother used to say, mice, snakes and other wildlife, placement of the manure storage or composting area should be distant from the horse housing and any residential buildings on the property. It is also a haven for biting insects, flies, and other pesky bugs, so for obvious reasons removing manure away from where horses graze or areas they inhabit is also a sound idea.

manure pile

As if that isn’t enough issues with which to contend, a manure pile also presents a fire hazard, so its placement should not be close to buildings, lines of trees or other areas of combustible materials such as propane storage tanks or motorized equipment. There are also likely restrictions as to how close to a property boundary or water resource such as a stream or river, the manure pile may be sited. Check with your town for any special ordinances.

The run-off from manure piles can contaminate wells and other water resources. Grading the site of the manure pile away from these resources with a gentle slope with can help defray the problem, but for obvious reasons run-off from the manure pile with its inherent phosphorous and nitrogen components and its ever-present bacteria, parasites and viruses should be placed at least 100 feet from any water resource.

Thankfully horse manure is exempt from EPA solid waste regulations as it does not contain a sufficient quantity of chemicals to be considered hazardous to the environment or to humans. This does not mean that you should store manure without some care and attention even if your town ordinances don’t require its removal to a landfill.

If the stalls are to be mucked out with a manual indoor transport option such as a wheelbarrow or skip, then the material will need to be transported once outside the building by some mechanical means if the manure pit is sited some distance away. Tractors with either a bucket on a front loader or a pull behind trailer, ATV pulling a plastic or metal trailer, UTV’s with a dump bed will all complete the transportation task and handle the rough terrain that is likely the route to the manure pile site.

Bear in mind that during wet weather such well-used routes may become muddy tracks and hard to navigate. The addition of a roughly laid gravel or stonedust surface can aid in keeping the area free of muddy mayhem.

Note: If the manure is to be picked up by a tractor bucket for removal later either to a manure spreader to scatter it on the fields, or for disposal into a dumpster for pick up, then it is a good idea to lay a concrete pad surrounded by a concrete wall or similar substantial surrounding on 3 sides, so the area can be easily cleared of manure.

Disposal Services By Dumpster

Certain states e.g., Massachusetts, have a legal requirement that all horse manure be disposed of via dumpsters and not be held on the property as compost. This burden can be onerous for the horse property owner in both expense and access requirements for large equipment to pick up/drop off dumpster service.

It is prudent to research legal special requirements for your neighborhood before embarking on building or developing your horse property.

Spread and Scatter

The manure spreader can be a handy option to dispose of the material if you have the appropriate acreage where it can be recycled.

Manure spreaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small enough to be pulled by a UTV while others require the sincere PTO power of a large tractor. Ground driven versus machine driven options differ slightly in their risk to the operator or user of injury.

tractor with manure spreader in field

Whatever option is chosen be aware that as with any farm machinery, the equipment should never be run by anyone that is not seated and belted in the cab or in the seat of the tractor. Additionally loose clothing such as baggy T-shirts or pants, or uncuffed long-sleeved shirts should never be worn around equipment, as the fabrics can be drawn into chains and moving parts of the machine by accident, resulting in serious injury or even death to the individual.

It is also not a good idea to have a narrow board ramp up to the top of the spreader or park it at a lower level than the barn to facilitate tipping of wheelbarrows or containers into the machine, as injury from accidents such as people falling off the ramp or even into the unit may occur.

Note: If the manure is to be picked up by a tractor bucket for removal later (either to a manure spreader to scatter it on the fields, or for disposal into a dumpster for pick up), then it is a good idea to lay a heavy-duty concrete pad surrounded by a concrete wall or similar substantial surrounding on 3 sides, so the area can be easily cleared of manure.

Burn or Bury

Covered storage options such as burying manure can increase the speed at which manure breaks down. Recycling manure using an anaerobic digester is sometimes used in large farm operations to produce a biogas that can then be used to generate electricity. This is not a realistic option for the average scale horse facility.

Other covered storage methods should always be used with caution as during the decomposition of manure methane will be produced. Without due attention to ventilation in a contained storage space there is always a risk of suffocation from lack of oxygen caused by the displacement of oxygen used and the carbon dioxide produced during the decomposition process.

Final Remarks

Smart barn designs and horse manure management solutions are obviously essential for an efficient daily work routine around the horse barn.

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Choose to work with an experienced barn construction company so you can enjoy much free advice on everything from what size aisles are needed for what equipment, how the site preparation can be adjusted to include apron areas for good traction and access and how to solve the manure management issue.

There are many styles and designs available in horse barns and there is a myriad of options that will fit into small spaces as well as larger builds for commercial facilities. Selection of a barn builder that has a variety of styles of structures gives you great flexibility in what you can choose from not just in aesthetic appeal, but also to fit your budget and daily lifestyle needs.

Why Working Dogs Need a Dog Kennel

There is a reason that dogs are often cited as being “man’s best friend”. They protect us, keep us company, help us with our tasks, and show us endless love and support. With what they do for us, we must do everything we can to make their life better. One way to do this is by providing them with a dog kennel that fits their needs. Luckily, Horizon Structures’ prefab and modular dog kennels provide an exceptional space for working dogs, and all dogs alike, to enjoy life comfortably. Here are some reasons why dogs that work need a dog kennel.

dog kennel

Working Dog Overview

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a working dog is “a dog suitable by size, breeding, or training for useful work (such as draft or herding) especially as distinguished from one primarily for pet, show, or sporting use.” Working dogs tend to be very helpful to farmers, as they can herd sheep or pull small wagons and farming equipment. Furthermore, they are different from pet dogs because they are used for work, as well as companionship. Similarly to how dog kennels benefit show dogs, dog kennels are also necessary for working dogs.

working dogs

Protection

One of the biggest perks dog kennels provide to working dogs is that they offer substantial protection. Dog kennels provide a spacious environment for your dog, both indoors and outdoors. They prevent your dog from running away or letting any potentially dangerous animal in because they are closed off. As a dog owner, you want to do everything you can to make sure your dog is well protected, so a dog kennel will give you peace of mind. Not to mention dog kennels tend to be more cost effective than fences, so your wallet will have peace of mind too.

Although having a custom dog kennel is great for keeping your furry-friend safe, you might want to also look into getting pet insurance for your dog that works, especially if they perform labor intensive duties outside of the kennel. Pet insurance will allow your dog to get the best protection available, if they get sick or injured. Of course, it will also prevent your wallet from getting badly hurt in the process. Ask yourself, “is getting pet insurance worth it” so your pet and wallet can stay protected!

Privacy

Like supreme protection, our dog kennels offer your work dog some much needed privacy. After a long day’s work, there is nothing more a working dog wants than to have some privacy. A dog kennel allows working dogs to have their own spacious quarters, in which they can unwind. Afterall, the last thing your working dog wants is to be cooped up in a crate for the night. They can enjoy their alone time in the outdoors where they can enjoy the sunset, or in the comfort of their own closed room where they can unwind in some shade.

Training Space

Whether you have a working dog or any kind of dog, kennels provide a great space to correctly train your dog. If you wish to bring your working dog into your home, then your kennel is a great place to potty train them. Moreover, when you teach your dog new tricks or commands, it’s essential to do so in a calm, welcoming, and spacious atmosphere. This will help your dog concentrate, while having minimum distractions around them. Ideally, you want your dog to learn new commands in their kennel at first. Once they begin to master new commands, then take them to noisier and more distracting places to really test them.

Consistency

Work dogs are animals of habit. They thrive when they have schedules and routines that they follow. Providing your working dog with a kennel designed for their needs will allow them to always have a place to go and call their own. Ideally, you should plan a schedule for your work dog that includes work, fun time, and down time. Having a place to go every day for some down time will allow your dog to not get overworked and to have some consistency.

woman with dog

Increased Mental and Physical Stimulation

The importance of dog stimulation has grown in recent years. Thankfully, dog kennels can support mental and physical stimulation for your four-legged companion.

Your dog can gain increased mental stimulation by spending time outside in their kennel and observing nature. Your dog will get to take in new scents, noises, and animals in an intimate way. Spending time outdoors relaxing and experiencing new occurrences is one of the best ways to care for your dog’s mental health.

On the other hand, all dogs need physical stimulation in their life. A dog kennel will allow your four-legged friend to have enough room to play with their toys without damaging items in your home. If your kennel is large enough and you do not have a big yard, then your dog will be able to run around in their kennel to get some energy out. However, you should always make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise outside of their kennel too.

Exercise

If there is one thing all dogs love, it’s running around and playing. We all know how dogs get the occasional zoomies. Luckily, dog kennels, like our 8×14 Kennel will allow your pet to have some space to exercise in.

Although dog kennels tend to be very spacious and help facilitate exercise, it’s important to make sure your dog gets exercise outside of their kennel. A great way to do this is to take them to the dog park or on adventures. You might even wish to include your dog on hiking trips, runs, or camping. Make sure your furry-friend gets around 45-60 minutes of exercise a day to keep them happy and healthy.

dogs

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter if you have a pet dog, show dog, or a dog that works because regardless, they are a member of your family. Treat them as such by providing them with a dog kennel that will best suit their needs and that will show your appreciation towards them.

If you have any questions or suggestions, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact us for customizable kennel solutions that can keep your working dogs ready to give each day their all!

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Is Your Horse Barn Wearing the Right Hat? – Why Barn Roof Design Matters

Barns come in all shapes, styles and sizes and so do their roof designs. Selecting the right barn roof design matters and there’s a lot to know to get it right.

horse barn

In some instances, little attention is paid to whether the horse barn or indoor arena roof has the perfect pitch in design and construction until it’s too late. When calamity strikes and photos of a collapsed barn roof due to heavy snow loads from a storm or pictures of metal roofs peeled back by the wind like a can of sardines hit the newswire, then horse property owners may cast a worried look up at their own horse housing structures and regard the sturdiness of the apparent design.

If worrying about the perfect pitch for your new horse barn is ‘over your head’ then you are not alone. Engineers and architects spend years drafting their skills to include a mind-blowing number of mathematical formulas learning about structural design. Included in their education is how to calculate physical loads on headers and beams and other support systems within a structure.

Every building is different and should be treated on an individual basis. Depending on the geographical area where it is to be built and the present and possible future use of the structure, every horse barn needs to wear its own ’hat’. The initial load calculations work on the basis that the roof is flat and is then amended to take account of the slope or pitch of the roof and its design and material components.

The Loaded Question

If you are working with an established and experienced construction company that provides professionally engineered plans and follows legal protocols for building your barn, the nuances of roof pitch and roof support systems will be well-taken care of, and your new horse barn should weather adverse weather conditions just fine. But it doesn’t hurt to have a basic understanding of what’s important in roof design so you can ask the right questions with a decent level of knowledge on the topic.

Three types of load factor into the equations. Live load, dead or total load, and uplift load. As budget concerns also factor into every building design equation, it is easy to be tempted to cut corners by cutting costs and working close to tolerance margins.

Factoring loads will require consideration and review of all structural members of the barn. These items may include beams, rafters and headers, and walls. How these members are tied or joined together is also assessed, as obviously the strength and integrity of how these components fit together is often the weakest link.

roof structure

Total load refers to the passive load that the roof will carry such as the weight of the roof itself, pipe supports and any equipment likely to be added to the roof. This may include insulation attached to its underside or lights or other equipment suspended from its rafters or trusses.

Live load refers to temporary concerns the roof may endure. The most important of these considerations is snow load. If you’ve ever picked up a snow shovel and cleared pathways free of snow through a winter season, then you know that snow comes in different weights and different amounts of drift occur as a result of the amount of water in the snow. So expected wind speeds must also be taken into account when calculating live loads.

As if that isn’t enough temperature also factors into the mathematical formula as by laws of chemistry and physics the rate of ice melt, freeze and thaw and likely shedding rate of the load must be reviewed. And that’s not all.

How frequent is the snowfall likely to be? For example, a barn roof located in Alaska or the Yukon, may be piled high with snow for many months at a time, while an errant snowfall in the Carolinas is not likely to stick around for a long period. The cumulative effect matters. It’s all a matter of combinations and permutations in probability. But let’s not get buried in High School math class.

barn in snow

Ice weighs more than snow. Don’t forget that ice damming and the thermal loss from inside the building that can accentuate the issue of ice melt means how the roof and building is insulated, whether the interior of the building is heated, and the type of roof materials used, must also be incorporated by the savvy engineer into the planned barn roof design.

Barn design plans should also address where the entrances to the structure will be placed to ensure that access is possible when the roof sheds its snow load. Therefore, you see entry doors to barns, garages and other buildings placed at the gable ends. A porch roof, dormer roof or ice deflection system may be needed for doorways placed on the long side of the structure to ensure safe passage during snow and ice shed events.

Water in the form of anticipated rainfall should also be assessed. Gutters and drainage systems to take water away from the foundation of the building as it is shed off the roof are essential.

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Yes, its complicated to measure live load and yes, no wonder it is over most property owners’ heads, literally and figuratively.

But wait there’s more! Uplift load is created when the wind hits the walls of the structure and is then pushed to the roofline because of the impact. The angle of the roof and its dead load weight will determine how much uplift force is exacted by the wind. Sustained high wind speed will do more damage than wind that gusts at the same speed.

Issues with uplift load can be addressed with the use of heavier building materials, heavy duty metal ties or substantial mortise and tenon joinery (the strongest form of joinery in carpentry such as those used in timber frame barns) and the style of the roof. For example, a hip roof or circular roof will generally fare better in regions of high wind that an A shaped roof or shed roof.

Careful siting of the structure to address the prevailing winds, hurricane proofing ties and other special joinery methods can address the risk of wind damage given the rules are followed as to what is needed.

How well a building will tolerate disturbance from earthquakes and tremors is another risk that must be assessed in certain areas of the country.

The Slippery Slope

Local town councils and their building and planning departments generally oversee and govern the risk assessment and acceptable tolerances for any build. Armed with federal building codes and suggested tolerances for the risk assessed in their geographic regions due to weather, the local building inspector is well-equipped to answer questions and to monitor compliance with requirements.

However, micro-factors such as whether the property is at an extreme elevation and where the structure is to be sited should also be considered. Some examples: Is the structure is to be set on the brow or lee of a hill? What is its overall height? Will the structure be set to face north or with a gable end toward prevailing winds etc.?

If you employ an engineer or architect to design the barn and provide plans, expect them to ask lots of questions. These may include inquiries as to the exact site of the barn, its intended use present day and future, and whether its use will be strictly residential or commercial. The latter requiring considerably more safety measures be factored into the design. These additional considerations will include more than the risk tolerance of the roof. Details such as exit locations, numbers of exits and a myriad of other concerns will be analyzed.

When you purchase a prefabricated or modular horse barn from a reputable company the complicated math science will already have been factored into the designs. Their standard style offerings can be tweaked or adjusted as necessary for set up in your specific neighborhood and a full set of plans (certified by an engineer if needed) is usually available for a fee if a permit is required by your town building department.

barn plans

In certain states it is possible for the construction company to apply or ‘pull’ a permit from your town building department on your behalf. Don’t be shy to ask for advice when purchasing a barn. A good construction company will have assign a Project Manager you can liaise with directly to address any concerns and most questions can be answered before you put down a deposit on a structure.

Because the horse barn is generally considered an agricultural building it is not uncommon for no permit, permission, or review of the building plans to be required. As no oversight is undertaken by the town hierarchy the construction company or property owner is left to do as they please.

Sadly, by default this often results in ultimate adverse consequences in the soundness and integrity of the structure. The obvious ramifications of which are injury or death to humans, their horses, other livestock, pets, and possible damage or destruction to vehicles and equipment, neighboring or adjunct property.

Material Matters

Basic understanding of how the ‘hat your barn wears’ is designed and constructed will enable you to make better decisions in what materials you choose for the roof itself too. While different species of wood have different strengths, and grades of lumber offer variant levels of support, most horse owners are indifferent to such details, and these will be managed by the construction company and included in the drafted plans for the build and dictated by what products are locally available.

barn

Prospective barn owners worry about factors such as what color the roof is going to be and whether the roof will be sheathed with metal or coated with shingle. There will likely be discussions on whether the roof will be loud during hail and rainstorms disturbing life inside if metal is used, whether the roof should be insulated, and concerns about the likelihood shingles might blow off in high winds. But it is essential that basic tenets of safe construction are followed throughout the planning process of the design and that ultimate the build accurately follows those edicts.

Realizing that questions of load bearing values are all valid and need to be addressed and how they factor into the big picture in barn design will hopefully not be overlooked.

I speak from experience when I say if you make a mistake in barn roof shape and design you will only do it once. Consult a professional! It’s worth trotting the extra mile.

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The Chicken Coop – The Top 10 Questions You Asked Google Answered

When you set about keeping chickens there are many questions as to how best to go about it to ensure it is a successful venture.

chick in hands

The Spring influx of fluffy cute chicks at the local feed store has many of us cooing and contemplating how a fresh egg supply from our own well-nurtured hens would add quality to our lives. Then of course there’s the friend or internet post that filters past us offering a flock of hens for free. Tempting indeed.

Whatever inspires your interest in keeping chickens in your backyard, the first place you probably go to get answers to your chicken questions is our old friend Google. Based on their most popular searches on topic here’s a slightly warped and humorous look at the common questions asked and some answers that may surprise even the more experienced chicken keepers.

 

1. Are Chicken Coops Loud?

Obviously, the coop itself is a soundless entity but of course certain noises may emanate from the hens housed inside its confines.

Well, I wouldn’t suggest placing the chicken coop under your bedroom window. But your chickens probably won’t break out and party or invite other neighborhood chickens over to hang out, turn up the music and be discovered dancing the night away. But a rooster is a different story.

These lads often follow their own time schedule and cock-a-doodling can happen anytime, most usually though with the advent of Mother Nature’s cacophony of dawn birdsong for harmonizing help.

Aside from the rooster early wake up call, chickens are live critters and they are capable of making sounds. Cluck. Cluck. Chickens can argue with each other but generally are peaceful to be around and entertaining to watch. When distressed by loud noises or unusual activity in their environment they will usually run off and hide versus stand and fight with a perceived adversary.

nesting boxes

Beware pulling eggs out from under a nesting bird. This can cause loud commentary from the offended hen, and we can’t really blame her for that (and watch your fingers too). Coops designed with nesting boxes neatly provided with access from outside are a boon for quick egg collection and an additional bonus is you don’t have to step in the chicken poop mire or face down the ire of the broody hen to collect your supply.

 

2. What Size Chicken Coop Do I Need?

Chickens don’t follow the human foibles of wanting a big house to impress the neighbor. Whether they live in a coop the size of an apartment, a house, a mansion or even an RV style ‘tractor pull’ unit, the flock will likely be perfectly content to have shelter from the winds and wild weather events. But then of course the chicken isn’t usually the one holding a credit card or writing a check. Though hens have been seen sitting on a windowsill and watching TV, in general the shopper is of the human variety. For humans the size and aesthetic quality of the chicken coop that will likely sit in the view from a window of their house is likely to matter. Though it might be more prudent to focus on the actual comfort and design of the coop for daily functionality and cleaning.

inside chicken coop

If you don’t want your chickens bunked up like college students in a dormitory, and would like to allow them some space to feel the most comfortable with neighbors not of their choosing, the general rule of thumb is to allow 3 square feet of space per chicken inside the coop and 15 square feet of roaming space per chicken outside the coop. Here is an informative article on ‘How To Keep ‘Cluckingham Palace Residents Happily Housed’, for more info.

 

3. Do Chicken Coops Smell?

French beauty houses have not yet made an eau de parfum, cologne or perhaps better titled eau de toilette based on the olfactory delights of chicken coop aromas. The ‘nose’ of the perfumer would likely be offended by most smells to be found on a farm, and chickens do fit into the profile of farm critters.

That is not to say that chicken coops need to be hotbeds of stinky odors and chicken poop. Unless you live in a cold region of the country and are using the deep litter method of leaving hay, straw, or shavings on the chicken house floor to build up with manure and produce a heat source for the chickens in cold weather, the coop can be kept clean with a regular cleaning.

This is where the matter of ease of access and the type of flooring inside the coop comes to light.

Consider your kitchen floor laid with a smooth seamless smooth surface such as vinyl or tile versus an unsealed wide board rough lumber floor. Some floors are more cleanable than others. Then factor in whether the kitchen is littered with chairs, a table and even permanently fixed objects that must be cleaned around. Nooks and crannies are much harder to clean than open areas.

Nesting boxes that can be accessed from outside make cleaning easier, as do polyurea or other coated floors that are properly seamed under the wall of the henhouse and not seamed at the edge where the wall meets the interior space. The roosting bar or perches can be placed to allow the chickens their preferred elevated spot to sleep without being placed above the nesting boxes so that poop can be scooped up and cleaned easily. If the bar is supported at each end versus at intervals along its length, there is less impediment to cleaning.

The interior height of the chicken coop is also important. A chicken coop that is tiny will require more bending down and effort to clean than one that is tall enough for a human to stand up at full height to wield a broom or fork.

Passive ventilation for the coop will also keep the air healthier for the chickens during all seasons and allow obnoxious odors to escape with air movement throughout the structure 24/7. Gable vents, soffits and windows should all be protected from predator intrusion.

 

4. Can You Have 2 Chicken Coops?

Just as you can have more than one stable block or horse barn, you can have more than one coop. It all depends on how many horses you need or want to house, and how many chickens you want to keep.

chicken coops

You can have as many chicken coops as you like but the common reasons to have more than one is actually similar to the reason equestrians add more structures to their properties for horse housing:

  • They bought more stock after embarking on the initial foray into keeping animals at home and need more housing – after all, isn’t there always a reason for just a few more chickens.
  • The purpose of the second structure is for special needs such as quarantine or recovery space for injured or diseased stock – sadly these things happen and having a separate safe zone can be a godsend.
  • The enterprise includes breeding more stock so to protect moms and babies from adverse actions of other stock they have their own space – sometimes females without babies can ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ on the mom’s and/or their babies and cause harm to them despite a mother’s best protective actions.
  • There isn’t room on the property for one large structure so 2 are needed to house the needs of the numbers of critters owned.

 

5. Why are Amish Built Coops So Popular?

If you were contemplating giving your child driving lessons, would you use someone that was a bad driver or who had limited experience behind the wheel? Like their sibling, or their best school pal? If you were buying a high-end car, would you buy one designed by a team that were experienced in designing tractors? Probably not. You’d probably seek a source that was renowned and established for producing the best of what you want to buy.

amish built chicken coop

When it comes to buying most things to do with livestock and agricultural needs, the heritage of the Amish is world renowned for quality of craftsmanship and the use of sturdy materials. Artisan timber peg horse barns, log homes, sheds and storage needs aside, the chicken coop is a mainstay item in Amish lifestyle and has been for centuries.

When you combine Amish know how in design for form, fit and function, with modern day materials like LP Smartside siding and specialist floor coverings and utilize their knowledge and carpentry craftsmanship to build the coop, you can rest assured that the result will be stellar.

 

6. Chicken Coop with a Run?

The sad fact is that chickens are a tasty snack or even plaything for predators and keeping them confined to a covered run can help address safety and security concerns for the flock. Inevitably that chicken will cross the road given the opportunity. Consider the options of free range, fenced yard space or chicken pen as you would letting your kids loose in the garden.

Many of us grew up being told by our parents to go out and play in the garden or take our bike for a ride. I don’t know about you but when Mom thought us kids were bike riding just down to the end of the lane, we were in fact taking great adventures out further than that! When we headed out riding ponies or donkeys (yes, donkeys!) on long summer days and Mom told to stick to the bridlepaths, we were in fact traversing field and stream, riding village to village on busy narrow winding roads. Either playing at being John Wayne atop a steep ravine surveying the territory or trotting our little beasties as fast as possible to the local sweet shop.

Naturally, you can’t always keep your kids in a fenced yard and well protected and away from possible nefarious preying individuals or harm from moving traffic. Even the family dog may climb or jump a fence or dig out from its limited space in the garden given half the chance. Hens on the other hand are somewhat easier to confine.

chicken coop

If you are home and can keep watch over the flock during the day, then free range or a fenced yard may suit you fine. Losing the odd bird or seeing your flower garden rifled may not bother you. But if you want to ensure the flocks protection and safety, both from their own devices and that of predators a chicken run is a great idea.

And of course, you can always let them ‘out to play’ from time to time when you can supervise. Chickens are great entertainment. While they don’t break out a performance like an AGT (America’s Got Talent) contestant their antics and interactions can be fun to watch.

 

7. Are Chicken Coops Safe?

Well, I’ve never had one jump out and bite me but perhaps that’s not what the asker meant. Is a chicken coop safe for your chickens. I don’t know. Is it? You might ask is a particular car safe to drive or is a horse safe to ride? It will all depend on the car or the horse and in the ability, of you, the person involved in the activity to act and conduct yourself appropriately.

A sturdy and well-built coop, that offers bars or screens on windows, is set off the ground but secure from invasion with a run that is fenced down beneath grade to prevent digging in or chicken Houdini antics is a good start toward safe chicken housing. But it’s not much good if you leave the door open at night either because you forget or because you just can’t get home in time from work. You can address this issue by the way, by adding a secure run to the coop and having automatic door ‘hatches’ from the coop to the secure pen or run area on a timing device. Such devices can even be connected via GPS systems to adjust automatically for the daily minute changes in daylight hours.

Just as you can’t tell whether a car is safe to drive just by looking at it from a distance, an investigation into its road worthiness is required. In the case of the horse, you must watch it ‘go’ or trot up and down to even start the process of whether it is sound for the job, never mind whether it is going to be compliant and obedient to ride. Examine the chicken coop carefully from all aspects.

exterior box of chicken coop

Is a chicken coop safer than no chicken coop at all? Certainly. If you own a horse and let it free range it may be more likely than a chicken to travel far and wide, so unless you have a zillion acres of open range maybe not a good idea. It will likely get hurt or even stolen. Similarly, if your chicken keeping property is in an urban area, near woodland or in a vicinity where aerial or other predators are common (including free ranging neighborhood dogs), a covered fenced area or covered pen may be needed to keep your chickens as safe as possible.

Remember farming is a 24/7/365 activity. There are no ‘off’ days. Any time off the farm for the farmer requires organizing cover from persons qualified to undertake any animal husbandry chores. While keeping a few chickens doesn’t make you a full-fledged farmer, the responsibilities for any critter can be onerous, especially over time. A bit like getting a puppy for the children. Who walks and cares for the dog now!

 

8. Do Chicken Coops Need Electricity?

We could all live off the grid right? Well O.K., perhaps many of us would struggle without all the niceties that electricity provides. Chickens don’t have the same life experience from which to judge so like a kid that has never had a TV or screen to look at and doesn’t miss it in their life, you won’t find your chickens whining endlessly about how much they need electricity even if there are other chickens in the area that enjoy heated chicken housing, electric fans in summer.

Chicken keepers on the other hand may enjoy the provision of electricity to the hen house. While heating chicken houses in winter is not necessary for the chickens (indeed many experienced chicken keepers advocate against it), the option of having lights and power for commercial grade fans (safer than residential as motors are sealed from dust and hence fire risk is mitigated), and the power of power is often appreciated.

chicken coop with solar panel

Electricity can be supplied by many means aside from hard cable. Solar panels, battery hook-ups and other options exist to power the needs of the coop. Do some research. You’ll be surprised at how innovative the methods are for providing power to the coop.

 

9. A Chicken Coop Versus a Rabbit Hutch

You’ve probably heard the expression, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” We’ll go with that because surprisingly a rabbit hutch can be converted into a chicken coop. I had to look it up. I’d never thought of it.

A rabbit hutch can be secure as a coop. It is usually off the ground and given it has a dark space for sleeping and enough room for the number of chickens that will reside within it. There should be a distinct lack of rabbits currently shacked up inside as the two species don’t co-habitate well. A bit like you and your mother-in-law.

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10. Why Are Chicken Coops Off the Ground?

Would you rather sleep on a Japanese tatami mat (a straw like mattress or carpet) on the floor or off the ground on a mattress on a cot or bed? While space restrictions, communal living spaces, the health of the human back and its alignment, and the idea that cooler temperatures exist at floor level than higher up in humid, hot climates are reasons for the traditional floor sleeping habit in Japan, the chicken enjoy no real benefit of such ideas.

For most Westerners the idea of sleeping on the floor also means too much bending down and trouble getting up, (this is a problem I have encountered with sleeping in a Japanese home). Space is not at such a premium on this side of the planet so aside from the Murphy bed, the bed that folds up into a wall for studio apartment living, most folks appreciate the comfort of a regular bed. Chickens also feel happier sleeping off the floor.

In fact, for chickens there are significant health issues that come with a coop at floor level.

The coop will be more prone to flooding, and water that stands beneath it may cause mold. There will be more pests such as mites, rats, and mice. Plus, there is a higher likelihood of issues with predators digging under the sleeping quarters and entering the coop at ground level. The chickens cannot do what all birds like to do for safety when they sleep, and perch as high up as they are able. This elevation can sometimes provide safety from predators that are not able to climb.

chicken coop with chickens outside

For the human caregiver, cleaning chores, egg collecting and feeding regimens are also easier when the coop is off the ground as less back breaking bending down is required.