Mark was surprised at how
easily I gave in and let him order a kit for a dome-like
What he didn’t know is that I was envisioning filling in all those
triangles with wattle and daub.
Wattle and daub is of
those ancient building techniques that is completely green — you can
often make structures out of all on-farm materials, and when their life
ends, they can just rot down in the compost pile. Specifically,
wattle and daub fills the walls between structural timbers with a woven
mesh of flexible branches (like a basket) plastered with mud, then
often covers that with a coat of limewash.
Although wattle and daub
walls won’t last forever, if you provide a large roof overhang and some
sort of foundation to keep them dry, they can go a good distance.
We even have an intern at the moment to make all
the labor realistic. The primary trouble is…we don’t have clay.
You’d think we do, from the
wet mess we slog through during the winter, but our soil is actually
primarily silt, which doesn’t do the same job. Quality daub is
made by mixing 70% clay with 30% sand, then adding the same amount (by
weight) of chopped straw. The straw may be left out in cold and
wet climates, but clay is an integral component no matter where you
are. A jar
test is a simple way to determine the composition of your soil, and
in our case, even the “clay” deposit down by the creek turns out to be
Mark wants to go
entirely traditional and just coat the walls of the new coop with metal
siding, but I haven’t given up quite yet. I’ve got a couple of
other places I want to test for clay, and I suspect there are also some
other green building techniques that would work well with
dry to keep hens (and wattle and daub walls) happy.