10' x 10' Pastured Hoop Design (No welding required)

written by

Dave Shields

posted on

August 19, 2018

Building pastured broiler shelters is a defining moment for every pastured poultry farmer. It is kind of the equivalent of forging and quenching a piece of steel to turn it into a knife. It is the tool of our trade and all of our requirements are very unique to our land, climate, operation size and so forth. Perhaps you are simply raising chicken for your family or your plans are much larger. Regardless of your ambitions, you need to first see how your requirements stack up against our requirements and whether or not this design is a good choice for you. For years I have built a number of pasture pen prototypes trying to get the perfect design combining multiple requirements:

  • Strength for daily moves
  • Weight and ease of movement
  • Heat concerns - we are located in Florida so this is a big one (hence the tall hoop design)
  • Durable & Easy to build (I have some going on 8 years with original parts) 
  • Cost effective construction with pay off in one season
  • Room for 60-75 birds

This is a pretty long list, but it is something I feel like I achieve pretty closely with this design. First off, I know the standard Salatin pen is 10'x12'x30" but since most top rail (1- 3/8") is easily purchased in 10' sections I have gone with a 10' x 10' design. However, if you can obtain 21' sticks of top rail (1- 3/8") this same design can be used to build a 10' x 12' pen. For the purpose of this build, we are going to build a 10' x 10' pastured pen. Life is busy enough on the farm so I wanted a design easy enough I could have my kids help with the assembly which essentially rules out welding. 

Building Supplies for a single pasture pen:

  1. 10' hoop bender (here is a link to what I have)
  2. Approximately 20 pieces of 10' top rail (1- 3/8") - this can be found at most hardware stores
  3. (4) 1- 3/8" gate corners (If you intend to build a door with scrap, get 4 more)
  4. (18) 1- 3/8" end rail clamps
  5. (3) 1- 3/8" brace straps (I would keep extra of these on hand)
  6. (15) 1- 3/8" cross connectors (purlin straps)
  7. (2) 1x4x10 untreated boards * (Potentially used in alternative purlin placements)
  8. Cage wire of your choice (we like to use 1"x1" vinyl coated wire)
  9. Canopy tarp - approx 10' x 20' (if want roll-up sides) 
  10. Door material (this can be built with scrap top rail)
  11. Plenty of U/V rated zip ties 

To get more familiar with some of the parts listed above, here are some images of what each component is:

Gate Corners - These are used to create the 1-3/8" base frame and also can be used for it's intended purpose of building gates/doors for the pens.


End Rail Clamps - These fasteners are to be used when you have flush perpendicular intersections of the tube. In the case of this project, we primarily use this to connect the hoops to the 10' x 10' base.


Brace Straps - These straps are used for multiple things, specifically where you have tube connection points that are not 90 degrees. They are great for creating angle braces or connection pipe on the end walls to your hoops. I am beginning to use these more and more since they are the least expensive of the fasteners.


Cross Connectors / Purlin Straps - Used for any perpendicular cross-section of tubing. In the case of this project, these are used to connect the purlins to the hoops.


All of these fasteners are very common and can be purchased at most greenhouse supply or chain link fence supply companies. We purchase most of these components online (https://chainlinkfittings.com/...) and in a pinch have normally been able to find them at local hardware stores, but at a premium. It is best to get your shopping out of the way before you begin the project. If you think it is likely you will build more than one pastured pen I would recommend you buy in bulk so you can take advantage of the savings depending upon the deals you find online. Definitely, don't rule out local craigslist deals either. Often times, people are practically giving away top rail for chain link fence especially if you take the fence apart. Ever 200' of a fence, in theory, would be enough top rail to build a pen. 

Building the 10' x 10' Base Frame

This is a very straightforward task. Simply take 4 sections of top rail and measure 10 ft from the female end. This should be just short of the base of the male end on the other side. Use your choice of tools to cut off the male end, in our case, I used a cheap pipe cutter (https://www.harborfreight.com/...) but certainly a hacksaw or reciprocating saw with a metal blade would work fine though pipe cutters give the best result without chards of metal going everywhere. One note when using pipe cutters is it will slightly crimp the end you cut so in instances you plan to connect a male end into a cut end I would use a hacksaw or be prepared to ream out the cut end so the nipple will fit. Once cut, simply insert the tubes into the gate corners and attach with self-tapping metal screws. Be sure you uniformly orient your corner fittings so your base doesn't skew, i.e. build on as flat and level of a surface as you are able.

Bending the Hoops

Hoop bending seems very intimidating, but I can assure you, after 20 minutes of watching videos and trying you will be an expert. The art of hoop bending is wrapping your mind around where to mark your tubes and how much remains straight versus being bent. Once you master hoop bending, your world will be opened to the pure joy of cheap yet strong hoop structures that can be used for anything from this very pastured pen project to greenhouses, storage areas, or whatever you may be able to dream up. I personally wish I had tried this sooner, but didn't due to the intimidation factor. I highly encourage you to not let that prevent you from getting started on this very useful building method and skill set. You will thank me for it later.

To bend hoops I have simply mounted multiple sizes of hoop benders to a piece of 3/4 " plywood which I can then mount where ever I want. They even sell hitch kits so you can use vehicle hitches to mount your benders. There are tons of videos on YouTube so I will not go into detail on how I bend hoops in this post.

hoop bender.jpeg

It is important to remember that there are two ends to a piece of top rail. One end is the male end and the other is the female end. The hoop spacing on this pastured pen is 30" so we will have a total of 5 completed. Each hoop consists of (two) 10' 1-3/8" top rail that meet in the middle and you simply connect them by sliding the male end into the female end. It is VERY important to note you will bend 5 top rail sections starting from one end and then 5 more from the other. In order to achieve the proper hoop size you will make a mark at 24" inches from the base. Obviously, the straight portion of the tube is the lower portion of the hoop that connects to the base frame. You need to keep in mind you are essentially bending your tubes starting with the lower portion of the hoop and finishing at the peak. So when you make your 24" mark this will be inserted through the bender to that point before you make your bend. Do not include the male end tip in your measurement. You will start from the base of the nipple on the hoops that begin on that side since the nipples will be cut off where they connect to the base frame.

10ft hoop marking.jpeg

You hoops should look something like this:


At this point, you simply insert the male ends into the female ends of the hoops and place a couple self-tapping metal screws to hold the connection. It is important to do this on level ground so your hoops are straight. There is a lot of forgiveness in hoop structures so don't worry if your hoops are not perfect.

Mount your hoops to the base frame

End rail clamp on base.jpeg

Now take your end rail clamps and loosely fasten to the base at pre-marked centers of 30" along each side of the base. Be sure they are loose enough so you can still push the hoop ends into the clamps. This is likely a two-person job. It is important to note, that if the hoops were bent correctly, they will be about 6-12" wider than the base. This is normal and actually adds to the rigidity of the structure. Secure one side, and then push the hoop inward in order for it to fit the clamps.

Since we are using the corner fittings to build the base frame the end rail clamps will not fit all the way into the outside of the frame since the corner fittings typically have gussets that will push your hoops about 2" back from the corners. This really does not impact the fit and finish of the structure. 

Once you have all of your hoops in place and on their centers go ahead and tighten the center bolt and nut on the clamps. This will secure the hoops to the base frame. There is a place to put self-tapping metal screws to ensure the tube does not slide out of the clamps or the clamps move along the bottom frame. Often times I will leave adding the metal screws to the very end in case I need to change positions of clamps or make adjustments. 

Position and connect purlins

purlin strap.jpeg

For purlins use a full 10' piece of top rail and leave the nipple end on. This will give you a little additional room for your end hoop cross connects to fasten on to both ends of the pastured pen. My current design as depicted has a purlin at the top center of the hoops and then one 22" inches from the base bar to act as a mounting point for the cage wire and tarp. *

When attaching the purlins, it would be beneficial to mark the center of each top rail tube and then measure 30" centers out from the center mark twice on each side for a total of 5 marks evenly spaced on your purlin. These will be good reference marks when attached your purlins to the hoops to keep the structure relatively square and evenly spaced on hoop placement. Don't tighten your purlin straps until you have everything in place. I typically just tighten the center strap and then adjust all of my hoops and their positions first. Once I am happy with the alignment I tighten everything down.

After the purlins are in place you will have the major bones of your cage constructed. Not all cages will be the same so feel free to modify some of the finishing aspects of this project to your liking or materials available.

Purlin locations.jpeg

*NOTE on Purlin placement* After some thought and use I may actually suggest a modification to the above design. Currently, my design places a purlin at the middle peak of the hoop and one on each side about 22" from the bottom.  This design works, but for purposes of hanging feeders and watering equipment, I will modify my future cages (and the ones in use) to have purlins 36" from each side of the center. Then at the 22" mark, I will place the 1x4x10 to connect the side cage wire and also be a mount point for the tarp using wiggle wire channel like I do for my larger cages.

Build end walls and wire the pen

As you enter the end stretch, you can build the end wall how it best fits your situation. In my case, I used a lot of the scrap pipe and fittings to build a door frame on one side as you see here. In the case of this particular cage, I had a piece of cattle panel that fit the opening of my door so I re-purposed it for a door after I covered it with cage wire. On the back wall, I simply place a single support at the middle to help with the weight of a water bucket that I hang for the nipple line. Once I had the caged wired I placed the tarp in place using the U/V stable zip ties. Certainly, you can customize this how you want but this is what worked for me and what I had laying around.

10ft cage.jpeg

Thank you!

More from the blog

Sorting through "USDA Organic" Deceptions..

From the Pastured Life April 28, 2021 Newsletter:Sorting through "Organic Chicken" Deception..In this newsletter, we are going to dive a little deeper than we normally do on issues very near and dear to our hearts. We have had many conversations with a lot of you out on our delivery routes, in email, and on the phone and normally the topics are the same regarding the differences in "Organic" products in the store and of course what we produce on our farm. Find reference links embedded below throughout. I would recommend going back to the links after reading the article fully.First, let us discuss the problem with "Organic" Pastured poultry products in the store.Under current USDA regulations, these are the three key criteria for all certified organic chickens:1. No antibiotics or drugs, ever2. Fed certified organic grains3. Access to pasture Seems easy enough, right?Guidelines for Organic Poultry:https://www.ams.usda.gov/.../Poultry%20-%20Guidelines.pdfI'd like to let you in on a few dirty little secrets of the organic poultry industry. Let's unpack these one at a time. First, let's tackle antibiotics & medications.Did you know that over 2/3 of the world's supply of antibiotics is used for livestock?!?! I think we can all agree that excessive use of antibiotics is bad for animals, consumers, and the environment, and it's no coincidence that we're seeing a large recurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA and antibiotic resistance even in young children as a result. The organic rules clearly state that the birds can not be fed or administered any drugs, including antibiotics and antiparasitic medications, but in giant confined poultry houses things like coccidiosis run rampant in flocks of 30K+. The poultry industry and pharmaceutical companies have found a loophole - vaccination programs are allowed. Now hatcheries can spray chicks with coccidiosis medications and simply call it a vaccination program to be in organic rule compliance.That certainly doesn't sound like no drugs EVER to me. Chick spray cabinets used to skirt the rules: https://5mpublishing.sirv.com/.../contents/CF1Para.pdfSecond, and this is a BIG one.Nearly 80% of the organic grain used in livestock production in the US is imported, and half of that grain travels through Istanbul, a port that is rampant with fraud. The USDA has acknowledged the fraud risks only after the Cornucopia institute completed a multi-year investigation into imported organic grain fraud. To make matters worse, in several countries or origin, the amount of acreage under organic certification did not correlate to the amount of grains and legumes produced. In some cases, the exported crop(s) exceeded nearly TWO TIMES the amount of acreage to produce said crops. You can read more about this here: https://www.cornucopia.org/.../looking-at-fraud-industry.../These problems aren't limited to import grain markets either. They happen here and schemes like this one make the news every couple of years, so it's getting harder and harder to know who to trust and when you can trust them.https://www.kansascity.com/.../crime/article239079858.htmlIn this case, the USDA was completely unaware, and the situation only came to light after a competitor grew suspicious based on abnormal prices and volume of organic corn and soy that he was moving exceeded the supply in their region.This brings us to the third requirement: access to pasture. We've all seen the packages of chicken in the store, each with its own images of chickens roaming on picturesque green pastures. The sad truth is, NONE of those chickens ever saw a blade of grass or chased a bug; and for many, the first and only time they ever saw the sun was on their ride to the factory for harvest. Organic chicken houses have tiny doors that open to sun porches, but they are seldom open - and with nothing other than dirt outside, there's little reason for a chicken to ever venture out. The National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) serves as an advisory board to the National Organic Program (NOP) who is in charge of rulemaking for the USDA's Organic program and FORTY of the board members of the NOSB have recently penned a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, and among their list of requests, is for the USDA's organic program to enforce the pasture rule for organic poultry. Stating that "public trust in the USDA organic seal is faltering due to highly public examples of poor enforcement of the pasture rule."  https://www.cornucopia.org/2021/04/letter-to-secretary-vilsack/This is why it's never been more important to know your farmer. This is why we choose to buy our non-gmo feed directly from the farm that grows it. This is why we buy our day-old broiler chicks from a small, local hatchery that we can visit and know exactly where our chicks come from. This is why we raise our birds on pasture. Why? Because our family deserves this, our patrons deserve this and if you're paying $8.50 lb for "Greenwise" chicken at Publix or $9.00 for organic chicken at Whole Foods, you should get what you are paying for. Inspect what you expect and don't fall for the marketing and misdirection.

The New Pan-Normic?

I can see it in everyone's eyes when I come to town every week, it's a feeling in the air, almost like everyone is holding their breath. What will our new world look like, what will we take forward from before and what will we change and make better?