Hoop houses keep animals warm

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Jason Beaton believes in making things by hand, even giant hoop houses to keep his farm animals in during the winter months.

Beaton, who owns Maplehurst Farms in Salisbury, N.B., has taken on the challenge of building a 21 metre by nine metre hoop house by hand to cut down on costs.

"They prefer it much more than our barn. We have an old 100, 120-year-old barn and it's damp, not very bright. The animals do far better in the hoop house all winter."

He built a hoop house four years ago and he decide he needed more room. He says his new house will cost roughly $3,500 compared to the estimated $10,000 to $11,000 to buy a kit.

Beaton makes the process sound simple. He says it's only a few steps which include laying out the shape of the base, spacing the hoops, bending the rebar and attaching the plastic covering.

He's been at it for weeks, delayed by poor weather, but Beaton says the entire process only takes four or five days.

According to Beaton the hoop houses are the ideal shelter for all of the animals, from chickens to cattle.

"We keep chickens in one half. Over the years we have had cows in there, had sheep in there last year. It's worked out well for everybody."

The covered houses are ideal in the winter because they stay warm enough for the animals. The straw insulation generates its own heat through the winter months.

"The sun warms it up, but bedding of shavings and straw, that fills up over the course of the winter, it starts to compost and gives off heat and it transfers out into the greenhouse," he said.

But Beaton says the animals leave the hoop houses in early spring, giving Maplehurst Farms ample opportunity to get an early start to the growing season.

"We are going to try to grow corn next year in them at the end of April or first of May," he said. "Get to market quicker than most people."