Week 16: The Chicken Coop
July 17, 2013
Back before we ever brought our chicks home, the plan was to have our coop finished by the beginning of June. We knew these birds would grow fast, and we wanted to make sure we could accommodate their need for space.
As it turns out, and as most things turn out, we missed our deadline by a couple of weeks due to unforeseen circumstances (rain), but we weren't too far off. By the third week of June, our chickens were moved from the basement into their new outdoor dwelling. And although the chicken coop is still a work-in-progress, all of the necessary stuff is finished, which means we can take our sweet time on the rest.
We started this project with the hen house. One of the things we acquired when we bought our home exactly one year ago was a large dog house that was the perfect size for chickens. It needed some work, of course, but we decided to make it the basis for the whole design.
The nest box and trimming were made from scrap wood from an old bathroom built-in that was torn out at the beginning of the year, and the stand that the hen house sits on was made from scrap materials we were able to scavenge from Matt's parent's house. It took four people to lift the hen house up on its stand, but once it was up there, we were able to attach the nest box, doors, and window flaps.
We knew we would want windows on all four sides for ventilation, which meant we were going to need to get creative. Especially on the side with the main people-door, pictured above. To deal with our lack of space on this side, we decided to install smaller windows inside the doors so we could keep the window flaps open on hot days and nights. Honestly, we went back and forth on the decision for this design for awhile, wondering if we were being a little excessive, but ultimately we are both really glad we constructed it this way. And so are the chickens, who have only now begun to adjust to the hot weather.
The inside of the hen house is really simple. You can't see it in these photos, but the floor is lined with super cheap vinyl tiles that are self-adhesive. Over those, we've added a layer of pine shavings, which really help with odor issues. I'm just using the same pine shavings here that we were using with our brooder, but I may switch to straw at some point if it seems easier.
On the left when you open the hen house doors you can see the small chicken-sized door that leads out to the rest of the coop. Behind that is where we keep their food and water containers. They don't use these much, but we keep them fresh because we want to make sure they can access their food, and especially their water, at all times.
On the right are the nest boxes, and the ramp leading up to the perch. Most of the girls don't even use the ramp because they can jump to the perch without any difficulty, so it's almost exclusively built for our super big, super clumsy chicken, Starbuck. Bless her heart.
Back behind the hen house, you can see there's another small window that we've been keeping open on warm nights for extra ventilation. You can also see that the chicken run extends three feet past the hen house. That's because we're in the process of building an enclosure back here for storage. In this picture, all you see is another small water fountain, but this is where we'll eventually keep our extra bale of hay, the chicken feed, and some tools.
As for the inside of the coop, the first picture shows our ramp leading up to the hen house. To build this, Matt bought a 1" x 10" x 6' board, and nailed in some twigs from around the house. It's not the most attractive ramp in the world, but it works.
Under the hen house, we've got the main food and water dispensers. Both are sitting up on round concrete slabs, but they're also chained to the underside of the hen house for extra support and security. If there's one thing I know about these chickens, it's that they knock everything over, so we wanted to make sure they couldn't do that with their food and water. Especially if we need to go out of town for a day or two.
The last feature of the inside of the coop is the tiered perches that we built to utilize the height of the coop. I'm 5'5", and I have to duck down to enter the 5' entryway, but once I'm inside, I can stand straight up with plenty of room to spare. That's because the apex of the roof is at least 6' high. So, because we wanted to make sure all of that vertical space wasn't wasted, we've decided to build perches along the walls with old branches from trees we've had to cut down around the house. We've only got a few perches set up so far, but we'll continue to add over the years.
It needs to be said that we got really lucky with the materials we used to build this thing. Most of it was made from scraps found here or at Matt's parent's house, including the roofing material. We used gift cards to buy most of our hardware cloth, so the bulk of the expense went toward wood from home depot, nails, staples, and paint. In total, we spent less than $500 on the whole project, which is pretty amazing when you consider that some of the tiny coops you find at your local feed store cost just as much.
With all said and done, if we could change one thing about this coop, we might've built it a teensy bit smaller. It's a huge space for just four chickens to occupy, which is the number limit you can have in my city before you need to get a permit. Still, we're very happy with how this project turned out, and are looking forward to adding some decorative detailing, especially garden boxes, a hand-painted sign, and some stenciled lettering, in the future.
If you have any questions about the coop, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. Also, I've got a set on flickr containing pictures from the whole process, so feel free to check that out as well.