Cozy Cottage Coop
This is the coop I made for my small 2-3 hen flock in Houston. I based my plans partly off of a design in the book 'Building Chicken Coops for Dummies', but my dimensions were determined by the scraps I had in the garage. I purchased 2x6s for the base, 3 lengths of 2x4s for the run, and of course the hardware cloth, screws, and staples, but all other materials, including the roofing, were remnants or recycled. Since most of the materials were free, I was able to splurge on paint, hardware, and a keyhole router bit. My husband set the rule about using up what we had, but he failed to give me a budget. He learned a lesson there! Since I had almost no lumber costs, the total amount was around $150 (paint adds up!). One of the main concerns in Houston is the heat, so I have maximum ventilation available, and positioned the coop in a place in the yard where it is almost constantly in the shade.
A panel slides into the door and sides attach to the nesting boxes to provide protection from rain, cold, and drafts in the winter.
The door between the coop and house slides up and attaches to a hook in the ceiling (added after the photo). I've so far only closed it up once during a bad rainstorm. The girls did NOT want to be closed in, they'd prefer to sit in a puddle under a bush than stay warm and dry. I'm glad I have the option though, particularly if we get a hurricane. This also shows their perch, which has since had a poop board added.
The coop fits into a little corner of the yard, the fence and oak provide almost constant shade:
This was shortly after we got the girls as pullets, with our curious pup watching on (they've since all become good friends, though the girls don't exactly appreciate her tongue baths).
My truly 'backyard' flock! From left to right are Rose (Tyler), Amelia (Pond), and Martha (Jones):
Dimensions, Materials, and Constructions Details:
The base of the house is a side of a shipping crate, which was a sheet of composite board set on a 1x2 frame, and sized 39 1/4" x 27 1/4". That measurement pretty much dictated the other dimensions such as the overall width of the coop. I raised the house 2 ft off the ground to give the chickens enough room on the ground level, and built the house 27" high at the front and 15" high at the back, with a slanted roof. The coop length is 70", and the height of the pen, which meets up with the roofline at the back of the house, is 44 1/2". Most joints were made using a Kreg pockethole jig and Kreg screws, and I cannot express enough how much I love that tool!
The paint colors are behr 'embellished blue', glidden 'candy apple', and glidden 'white on white'. I purchased the hardware (hinges, latches, pulls, and 24" hardware cloth) from hardwareworld.com.
I didn't use a pattern for the arched pen framing and scallops. For the arches, I cut the 2x4s the correct length, then wandered through my house checking platters, tables, anything with a curve to trace. In the end I used my dining table. For the scallops on the doors I did the same thing, I cut the lengths, marked out 5 equal segments, and then checked bowls, cups, and sour cream containers until I found the right curve.
The accent colored front to the nest box, pops off and on with keyhole slots for easy cleaning. The panels to close up the sides of the nesting boxes attach the same way. I just used a 1x4 and gave it a decorative top edge with the router:
The front door to the house has a slide-in panel, which has a hand hole cut out so I can pull it out. This shows the groove and the 2 layers with the hardware cloth sandwiched between them.
The ramp to the house is made from 2 pieces of cedar fence board, held together with rungs made from a furring strip (1x2). I mitered the edges of the rungs just for fun. The ramp attaches to the house by resting on a board. I played around with the router to come up with a way of hooking the pieces together so it comes off easily but stays on securely. I found a combination of dovetail, v-groove, and square bits that worked, which came in a starter set I had.
The latches on the two main doors close automatically from the weight, and the nesting box has a slide latch (shown below) that can be locked, but as-is its easy to open with one hand and an easy habit to close after collecting eggs.
What I love about it:
*The colors and cut outs still make me smile!
*The size fits comfortably in the yard, and will guarantee I keep my flock small.
*Cleaning: its easy to get a rake and shovel across the ground from the door, despite the low height of the run. The height of the house is perfect, I don't have to bend down to scoop shavings or reach to collect eggs.
*Currently, the small feeder hangs from under the ramp, so I can reach it from the door, and it stays covered in the rain. I like the convenience and it isn't wasting space the girls would otherwise use.
*I feel confident in the security. We went out of town for one weekend and without us or our dog around, the chicken door was attacked! No one was harmed, nothing got in, but it was dramatic for me as a suburban chicken mom! (I'm sure the country folks would be laughing at me).
The attack evidence:
What I don't love or would change:
*The girls make a huge mess of the feed, which is causing a lot of waste. I need either a better feeder, different feed, or a different system.
*The run is a little tight for 3 full grown hens. I let them out most days, and it might just be that they're restless, but they seem so unhappy whenever they're cooped up. I was planing on only getting a pair, but the woman I bought them from convinced me I had to take a third.
*I'd like to add a perch in the run, so on days when they don't get let out they have a place to hang out.
*I did not think through where their water would go, right now its hanging from the hardwire cloth roof of the pen but I don't know if that will always work.
*The low height of the run is annoying when I have to catch one of the girls from the corner or if they lay an egg down there.
*The drainage in our yard is poor, we recently got about 8 inches of rain over 3 days and the run flooded. The girls did not go up onto the ramp or up to the dry house. I threw in some bricks and a log to get them out of the water, but I would like to eventually raise the whole coop another few inches and fill it in with gravel and sand.
What do Rose, Martha, and Amy think of it?
They are quite happy going off to sleep in the nesting boxes, though they would prefer it if they could all fit together in one like they did when they were younger. Reluctantly, they've started perching at night, though I do still sometimes find them at 10 pm trying to fit in on top of one another. Aside from the sleeping, laying, and eating, they stay away. They'd even prefer to drink from the dog's bowl on the patio than return to the coop for a drink.
They prefer sunning on the patio:
Or playing in a puddle:
Or digging in my flower bed and eating the buds off the flowers:
Plans and Construction Pictures:
Below are my marked up print-outs from the book (Building Chicken Coops for Dummies), which more or less show what went on. I did many changes as I was building, and decided something fit better with a different configuration, and just cut things to fit. Working with scraps meant I had a lot of boards with nail holes, gauges, crooked parts, and of course warping. Also being a fairly beginner woodworker I had a lot to learn about squaring up a frame.
My powerpoint semi-schematic (mainly I used this to decide how to paint it):
Note: These are my plans, sketches, notes, calculations, etc. I don't know if even I would be able to reproduce my coop from this mess, and if anything doesn't match the picture, its because I changed it as I was building. I'd be happy to answer questions or take a measurement if someone would like, but I don't skills with a design program. Several of my notes mention shingle siding, I found a box in our garage from before we moved here and was planning on using it, but there wasn't enough. The shingle plan was the main reason I have extra vertical frame boards on the house. Fortunately there was also a sheet of old beat up plywood in the garage, so I still got away with 'free' siding material.
The house and pen all assembled, plywood siding up:
Before I moved the coop to its location, I dug down 4" into the soil at the footprint, and put a layer of my extra hardware cloth to deter critters from digging. I also put strips of the cloth along the edges, and put a layer of granite backsplash slabs (3/4" thick and 4" wide) to cover the top of the wire and provide a foundation for the coop. My husband found the granite on craigslist for free. Later I also added another outline of granite around, it isn't exact but I used what I had and fit broken pieces together. I think its a good extra level of security, the great thing about the granite is its too heavy for animals to move and obviously solid. I've used pieces elsewhere to keep dogs from digging under fences.