This is an experiment in communal chicken keeping. We are 3 families sharing the work and benefits of 10 chickens. We live in Boulder Creek, California in the middle of a redwood forest. We have many predators to contend with: raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, hawks, mountain lions and the occasional neighborhood dog. Because of this, we are trying to build a sturdy a coop as possible.
Three families are sharing the work and the expense of the project, but my husband and I are the host family so the majority of the responsibility lies on our shoulders. Here he is after we cleared the space of ivy, building the foundation.
We had a work day with the other families and we were able to build the skeleton of the walls fairly quickly.
The 2X4s, the roof and the windows were all acquired through FreeCycle and Craigslist . If you haven't used these services in your area, you should check them out. Without it, this project would have been much more expensive than it was. When it is all finished, i think we will have spent under $600 for this coop and run. That's still expensive, but not half as much given the quality of the building and materials.
So here's the backside of the coop with the outer walls primed and the roof on. We still have to cut out the vents my husband is planning, and the chicken door. The area where the kids are playing is where the run is going to be located. For 10 chickens, the run is going to be 12X20 feet; plenty of space for 10 chickens. The chicken door is going to be where the base of the ladder is, with a little bridge leading into the run. We have really been enjoying the ideas posted on the automatic door, so I think we are going to try a similar idea.
Because we are under the gun to house our growing chicks somewhere before the frost sets in.. we are going to finish the coop first, move the chicks in and then build the run while they are getting used to their new home.
Here's my husband installing the insulation, after he's cut out the door and the vents. We were really impressed with patandchickens' Big Ole Ventilation page , we knew we had to build this thing with plenty of ventilation. But it was too much work to get those free windows to open up. Instead, he build vents below the windows that will have closing flaps to the outside. That way they can be closed up during the winter, and open up in the summer.
Also, notice the grating on top where the roof will be. There is a 3 inch space, fully grated all around where the walls and roof connect. That way they have ventilation all year round, but no direct breeze will blow on the chickens.
Here's a close up on those vents.
So here's the final coop...minus the nesting boxes which will be there on the front, some details on the inside and a final coat of paint. That door was something my husband designed with the amount of ventilation needed in mind. It has a grating on the inside, and those wood panels can screw off creating a make-shift screen door. Perfect in the summer when temperatures can reach the high 90's.
We aren't really fond of the roof and might replace it eventually. But it was free! Beggars can't be choosers...
Here's our daughter modeling the door. You can see the grating on the inside. That wood panel where the chick is sitting on is keeping all the shavings in, as we are planning to a modified deep litter method. Also, you can see our secret weapon in the lower right hand corner; RAISINS! They love them.
Here's our girls. Actually, we have one roo that we definitely know about and you can see him next to the waterer. We also suspect the New Hampshire sitting on the shavings block next to my daughter is a roo, but its hard to tell with the New Hampshires.
Here's a view of the inside. We don't have the final roosts up yet because we ran out of time before Christmas. But we plan to have ones with poop boards and a little ladder going from each one.
Here's a better view of the inside.
Once we get through the holidays, we plan on finishing up the run so the girls can get outside and stretch their legs. Then we can finish up all the details that haven't gotten done yet. I'll update this blog when we have more photos of the progress.
Here's an image of the new poop board. Its covered with aluminum flashing to make scraping the poop easier.
I think we made it too wide though. Currently it's 22 inches which leaves a good 11 inches on either side. I say that i think it's too wide because of what the chickens started doing as soon as it was put up... as you can see in the following photo.
So it's been awhile since we updated the coop but it's finally in working order. For the longest time, because we didn't have the run finished... we just let the girls out of their coop every day to roam in our yard.
They loved the freedom and for the most part it worked out well. We did discover however that chickens CAN fly. Especially young teenagers that haven't gotten too fat yet. My cat had a bad habit of rushing them once in awhile to get them to scatter. Most of the girls would just fly a few feet but the Leghorns are flighty and can cover a big distance. Once day one took off and flew over the fence and over the river that backs our property. My husband freaked! He went scampering down the ravine and calling for the bird. I was pretty sure she landed in the river and we had lost her but lo and behold... look where she ended up!
He ended up having to shake the tree and the bird had enough sense to fly back to our property. But this little incident reminded us we REALLY needed to get the run done. So we called in some favors and got it done.
This is the run before we got the netting up. As you can see, we needed to put a top on it because the girls pretty much escaped within the first hour of captivity. Eventually we plan to put a roof on it, but for now we are tacking down netting. We lock them in their coop at night so we're not too worried about animals climbing over the top. We've put the fencing down 2 feet down into the ground so baddies can't dig their way under. I should also mention that up here in the mountains, you can't take any chances so we've got locking latches on all the doors. We've heard stories about raccoons and how smart they are about opening up things.
So we evened out the dirt and made their door with a ramp. They seem to like it but I'm sure they'd much prefer to be out in our yard going thru my veggie garden.
I think i want to put a permanent bench in the corner just so I can hang out with my chickens!
Here you can see how roomy it is and their little door and door my husband made so we can go into the run. We are going to put cement blocks in front of the fence and eventually when we do the beauty pass, we'll mosaic the bricks and plant flowers too. Now the only thing left to do is build the nesting boxes. We're a month away from them being 6 months old.
Here's my daughter goofing around while my husband builds the boxes. We have 8 chickens who are almost 6 months old, and three 6 week old babies. We don't plan on ever exceeding more than 15 chickens so we decided to only build 3 nesting boxes and let them duke it out.
So here we are. Needs a fresh coat of paint and a little stairway to get up to the door and boxes, but for the most part it is a fully functional coop!
And just for fun, I thought I'd post a few pictures of my girls.
This is Rosy. She's a New Hampshire Red and our Alpha Chicken. She's always first one out of the coop every day for her treats.
This is one of our Single Combed Brown Leghorns. Really pretty birds; very much like a road runner in appearance. I'm told they are excellent layers but I won't know until they get going. One thing I can say about this breed is that they are athletic! They can really fly a great distance and are speedy on their feet too!
These are our Easter Eggers, Laverne and Shirley. (Laverne is the redhead, Shirley is the black head.) These two are my favorite girls of the bunch. Tons of personality and really beautiful plumage.