Passive solar henhouse


Above photo notwithstanding (yes, that’s a daffodil fixing to bloom in my backyard in November), winter is rumored to be on its way, so we took Gretchen to the feed store and the lumberyard today to pick up materials for a recyclable, biodegradable, passive-solar henhouse. I ran out of daylight before I got the screen door constructed, but the walls and basic roof are together, anyhow.

The walls are made of six hay bales, stacked two high:


It’s hard to tell from the picture, but we staggered them slightly for better roof stability.

Here’s Ron, cutting a piece of plywood down to 4×5 to make the roof:


And here’s the henhouse with the roof installed:


I actually wound up removing the roof and sealing it with some leftover spraypaint I had in the garage from another project so it will withstand the weather a little better. After the door is constructed and attached, we’ll cover the roof with hay bales for insulation. I’ll take photos of the door — which I am constructing from hardware cloth and 1x2s — and post them when I finish.

I’m going to experiment with various plastic coverings for the front — clear plastic, black garbage bags, white garbage bags, etc. — to see how warm it gets before I put the hens in there. I want them to be warm this winter, but I don’t want to microwave them.

This is NOT going to be the hens’ regular winter home. It’s too small and dark to be a good house for them on a long-term basis. It’s just designed to keep them warm and comfortable on the very coldest days. Most of the time, we’ll just leave them on a bed of shavings in the chicken tractor, where they’ll have light and fresh air. I’m planning to get some kind of insulation (probably rigid fiberglass or polystyrene, if I can buy a small piece of it) to put across the north side of the tractor, and then I’ll get a couple of old storm windows from the Habitat ReStore to lean against the south side on cold-but-not-totally-Arctic days.

I’m also going to try to attach a spigot of some sort to a polystyrene bait bucket to give the girls a water source that won’t freeze.

The cool thing about the hay house is that it’s recyclable and biodegradable. We chose hay rather than straw because it breaks down faster and makes good compost. Once the bales start to rot, we’ll just bust them up and use the hay as mulch. The roof and door can then be reused for the next year’s henhouse.

I’m supposed to run the Route 66 Half-Marathon tomorrow morning. I haven’t done a bit of physical training since my little two-mile jog between San Jon and Glenrio on Oct. 1, but I’ve been spending a lot of time on metaphysical training this fall, so I anticipate a good run anyway. I think I’m going to head to Walgreens in a few minutes to see if I can find a pocket-sized digital camera to take along in case I see something interesting on the course. (What — you expected me to pay attention to the time clock? Please.) If you can’t wait to see how I did, you can sign up to track my progress here, or you can go here to see the results as they come in. My bib number is 166. Or you could just wait for me to tell you what happened; this being NaBloPoMo, I will obviously be posting at some point tomorrow.

See you in a few miles….


3 thoughts on “Passive solar henhouse”

  1. Would you like for me to check out Rural King for chicken waterers? I’m sure somebody makes something low-tech for the purpose.

    Wonder if you could attach parts from a hamster water bottle to a styrofoam bait bucket for the chickens? Would they figure out how to use it? This is so dangerous on so many levels I hate to mention it, so I’m just throwing it out without any recommendation. Certainly make sure your hair is covered and that you’re not home alone if you try it. And be sure to wash your hands before striking the match. If I remember correctly, I believe I read someplace that you can soak a piece of string in lighter fluid and wrap it around a glass bottle that you wish to cut off, then light the string and let it burn. I think maybe you submerge the bottom of the bottle in cold water up to the string line immediately afterwards while the glass is still hot and it breaks cleanly along the line. There are probably instructions somewhere on the net to accomplish this. The reason you would cut the bottle is to gain the screw-top threads at the top of the glass so you could attach the drinking spout to the bait bucket.

  2. I was thinking about hamster bottle parts. My plan was much simpler, though — it involved pulling the tube out of a bird bottle (like a hamster bottle, only the ball is red instead of silver so the birds notice it and play with it, thus learning that it dispenses water), poking it through a hole in the bucket, and using aquarium caulk — which is nontoxic — to seal the hole.

    Or, in a much lower-tech fashion, I could poke three or four holes near the bottom of the bait bucket, set it in a flexible plastic saucer, and call it a day. Their current waterer works on this basic principle, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work equally well if the bucket were made of styrofoam.

    If I needed to cut glass, I’d be inclined to score it with a file and break it like a neon tube, then fire-polish the raw edges to keep from cutting myself. The crossfires would probably be excellent for this purpose.

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