My mother and I have been wanting to get chickens now for several years. The only problem is my dad did not want any. However, after several years of begging and trying to convince him of all of the benefits of having our own chickens, he finally relented. On the condition that he did not have to help us raise them or build the coop. After reading an article in National Geographic, we wanted to raise heritage breeds in order to 'do our part' and contribute to the biodiversity of the Earth. We also wanted a breed that was a good dual purpose breed. But after hearing soooo many horror stories about getting chicks from a hatchery we decided that the first time around we would get our chicks from a local feed store. So we went to the feed store in the early spring and checked out all of the breeds they offered. We decided on the Barred Rocks and Reds because they were all pullets. We also got some Barred Rocks that were straight run and we were hoping for at least one rooster. We were under the impression that Red pullets were either a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red. As it turns out 2 of the reds look like Buff Orpingtons and 3 look like Red-Sex-Links. So our plans to get heritage breeds fell through a little but we have plans to get some in the future. While some of them are heritage breeds they are not the most endangered of breeds.
There was only one problem. We didn't have a coop! At first we kept them in the house in an old dog kennel which we lined with with news paper. We hung a heat lamp in the coop and wrapped the kennel in an old comforter.
This 'coop/brooder' worked good for several weeks and gave us some time to build them their 'big chicken' coop. Another problem that we faced was the weather. You see, we live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and as any Yooper knows it can snow any month of the year around here. Also living in the U.P. we had to build a coop that could repel a wide variety of predators. Including Raccoons, skunks, weasels, coyotes, fox, wolves, bears, bobcats, lynx, hawks, eagles, and the most terrifying of all...SNAKES!!!! This coop is the Fort Knox of chicken coops.
We also decided to try and use left over materials we had laying around the house. My dad was not so fond of this idea because he did not want any eyesores on our property. The first major project was clearing an area for the coop. The area we decided to use had been over run by raspberry brush and it was a good reason to clean the area up.
After cleaning the area up we had to decide on a coop design. So we looked around the coop designs on Backyard Chickens and eventually decided on a lean-to style coop. This coop had to be big enough for our twelve growing chickens and the chickens we would be getting in the future. The coop would be 8X8 ft, with a 12X40 ft run. The coop also had to be near one of the other buildings on our property so that we could easily run electricity to the coop.
In order to fill in some of the low spots in the run we went to a creek near our house and got several loads of sand. The chickens also appreciate the sand for eating and dirt bathing. While we were building the coop we decided that the chickens could no longer stay in the house. As everyone on this site knows chickens get big quick and quite frankly, they stink. So we had to move them out into one of our garages and during the day we would set up some fencing and let them eat and fertilize the yard. They also got to explore my mom's garden.
It was not crunch time. The chickens were getting A LOT bigger and needed a nice roomy place to move-about and concentrate on learning how to make tasty eggs. As I said earlier, one of my dad's conditions for us getting chickens was that he didn't have to be involved with them. But deep down my dad is a big softy, and when my mom and I started to struggle my dad jumped right in and practically build the whole coop. First he built the roof from some left over tin we had from building our garages and from re-roofing our house.
Next he put in the two windows, we decided on two small windows facing east and west, in order to get the most light and also when the weather gets poor here it usually comes out of the north. So no windows on the north side of the building. Next, we started putting up the walls which we got from the place where my mom works. She works at a place that makes hard wood flooring. Underneath some of the specialty floors, they put a type of board that reminds me of plyboard. Anyways, we used this board for the outside walls of our coop.
Next, we got an old door and painted the coop green with white trim. Every building on our property has a green roof, and except for our house had green walls, and green trim. My mom and I joke that having all green roofs makes it some people can not see our house from space via satellites and google-earth like programs. Take that big-brother! jk
We have also constructed several nesting boxes and a poop deck for underneath the perch but for now we are largely done with the coop. We have some many things going on every weekend that we really don't have time to finish the interior for a while. But is is warm enough out that we don't have to worry about insulating the coop until fall.
But wait! There's more! We had to make the run predator proof. Which we did by surrounding the run and bottom of the coop with chicken wire and a thicken 8ft fencing. We also had to lay fencing on the the ground around the coop. This ground fencing is held down with garden staples and helps prevent predators from digging underneath the fencing. Eventually, we will also be putting fencing over the entire top of the run. Until then we have to supervise the chickens when they are outside of the coop. We also have to lay some old bricks around certain parts of the coop and run. These also prevent predators from digging and once we get it done it will hopefully look really nice. We also have to build a better ramp for the chickens to use when going from the coop to the run. Oh well, its a work in progress!
Hope everyone enjoyed the story and pictures!