The Pterodactyl Pen

Posted: 11th February 2013 by Joe Prepper in Buidlings and Storage, On The Homestead, Projects

…at least that is what my wife calls it. She even hand painted me a sign dubbing it such. It could be truthfully said that sometimes I overdo things. I have been accused of worse, but nothing so often as going over board with things I enjoy. In my mind, I originally pictured a quaint chicken yard with a covered area to get the chickens out of the rain. My great grandmother had chickens and as near as I can recall, she stretched some chicken wire around a few  old fence posts. The birds roosted on oak limbs nailed under a few pieces of rusted tin. They faithfully laid eggs every day and I can not recall one ever just dying, except of course when fried chicken was on the menu.

So with humble beginnings I started out to make a small shed and chicken yard to protect the baby chickens until they learned to return to their house every night.  We also wanted to be sure our Black Lab and Shepherd could control their natural instincts to fetch and herd my wife’s new feathered friends. I mostly blame the internet for what follows, and realize the irony in knowing that by posting this I am possibly encouraging those, that like me, tend to over-do stuff.  Personally, I think it is just right.

My ultimate goal was always to free range, or at least paddock shift my flock once I got a ground cover crop established and truly never intended to build such a substantial permanent pen. I had some free old telephone poles given to me that needed to be used. Before anyone sends me emails about using telephone poles and  creosote or other potentially harmful chemicals leaching out etc, I just caution everyone to do your own research. I did a lot, and concluded that using the free poles was the right thing to do for many reasons.

I am by no means a carpenter, which complicated my urge to overdo things….but not  much. So please don’t think I am giving advice when it comes to building. I just wanted to document what worked for me, and the issues I figured out along the way. It might not be pretty, but it’s sturdy. All the corner posts were concreted in. 6′ welded wire with 2″x4″ openings was stretched around every wall, tied back to itself, and stapled tightly. I dug a 2 foot trench and counter sunk the wire about 18″ then added stones in the ditch all the way around before filling it in. I also attached a 3′ wide piece of the same wire to the base and laid it all the way around the fence on the ground and covered it with dirt so anything trying to dig its way in would have a tough go at it. The doors are hung with fencing hinges and I use self-locking latches on the gates. I  also placed land mines every………….well…the last part isn’t true. I am however adding a hot wire around the base in the future. My three year old has a head as hard as a block of ice and I’m afraid he might try to lick it or something. Maybe next year. I used the word “I” a lot, but as with everything else around here, I could never have finished without the help of my wife and kids. They seem to be there to help just at the right times for me not to give up, but not there so often as to talk me out of starting something bigger than the original plan (grin).

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The water line in front of the chicken yard.

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The rear gate posts going in. This leads in from a path in the woods where we can take composting material.


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Stretching wire

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Wire is up and the front gate hung!!!

I wanted to add rabbits inside this area also, so I left a few of the fence posts taller in the corner for a roof line. I have some videos of the who process and may post them on Youtube if anyone is interested. Essentially I made a slant roof over one corner of the pen that extends out over the front and covers about 8 feet into the yard. where the hose and sink will be. I also store a few hay bales here used in the chicken coop. The tin roof is 22×12 If I remember right. There is nothing like the sound of rain hitting a bare tin roof. I am adding gutters and rain barrels to catch the rain water to water the animals housed near here.

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Self locking latch. I need to add the line to hang he carbiner.

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Here you can see the compost bin on the left and the rabbit area on the right.

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Showing the roof of the rabbit area and my so called carpentry.