Quaint Little Cottage
My little peepers, appropriately named Brown, Yellow, Light Gray, Dark Gray, Red, and Australorp, needed a real home. They had been living in my bedroom in a big, repurposed aquarium for 5 weeks and getting rubbed on and loved up several times daily, so they were used to first class accommodations. But I needed my bedroom to not smell like chickens. So my husband and I put this together over a couple of weeks. We needed something small enough to move and easy to predator-proof. Eventually a bigger coop and run will be built, but for now everybody is happy being moved around every 2-3 days in their mobile cottage.
Footprint is 4'x6.5' in the bottom, and 3'x6' floor space in the top. An 8'x8' run extension is in progress right now so the girls will have more room to stretch their wings.
Pic of the whole shebang, with screen door insert in place. I don't have one with the screen removed and the door closed all the way, but you can imagine what it would look like, I'm sure. The pavers make it a butt to move, as we have to pick them up and replace them every time, but I like to think that they add some protection from daytime diggers. The wheels I have forgotten to picture. It is a 2x6 board with wheels on each end. My husband lifts one end of the cottage and I slide the wheel board underneath. He then lifts and rolls the cottage like a wheelbarrow.
The doors slide either way on a track, and can be fully removed. I wanted something to make it easy to clean, and to access everything that needs to be accessed (including the chickens when they are underneath and don't want to be caught). I was worried about the uppermost lip of the top track pooling up water so that it would drip on the girls so we added white rubber weather-stripping to that part.
We have plans for slide-on extensions for the top and bottom, including a run and egg boxes. These will use the existing door tracks. More pics will be added as they are completed. The slide in screen door is the only slide-on extra we've completed so far. It utilizes the same track as the doors, can be slid onto either end, and latches into place. We are making one with plexiglass instead of screen for winter, when they need sunshine and a window but not the cold draft.
We made sure to do the screen door right away because I wanted VENTILATION for the girls. I live in Southern OK and our summer was extreme last year. EXTREME. I needed to keep the heat from building up during the day, even if they are outside most of the time. The screen is only used when I am home, but that is most of the time, as I am a homeschooling mom of 4. I do not use it at night, but there is other ventilation for night time when it starts getting hot enough to need more than the high, permanent vents. The open/screen part is about a 16"x17" square.
In the following picture you can see what we have at the top of each end: 2"x4" permanent vents at the tippy top of the gables, as well as larger doors that can open (and stay open with a hook) and shut (locking with a pin). I keep these open during the day only so far, but they can be left open at night.
More ventilation in the floor, I think around 7"x9". This is especially for night time during the summer. It makes me a bit nervous, but my husband assures me that anything that can is big/tough enough to break through the 1/2" hardware cloth around the bottom run part of the cottage and then be able to break through the 1/4" hardware cloth of the vent won't be able to fit through the vent to get the chickens. I'm sure he's right, but I'm an overprotective mama, what can I say?
***All upper story ventilation is 1/4" hardware cloth because I had some left over from the brooder lid and smaller holes feel more secure for nighttime.
With the ventilation, the coop stays very fresh and sweet smelling so far, even in the morning when I first poke my head in. I'm very surprised, given how smelly the brooder got every single day.
In the pic above, you can see the (removable) egg box dividers. Here's another; they're pretty basic. We may end up making a slide-on box (using the door frame) for the egg box dividers to give extra roosting space, it really depends on the girls' preferences.
Except that the chicks want to sleep at that end, so right now it looks more like this, with the egg boxes removed and the portable roosts added in:
Where are they supposed to be sleeping? Why, at the other end, lovingly referred to as the Poop Box end. We made a removable poop box (notice the removable theme?) that currently has sand covered with shavings (eventually I'd like sweet PDZ, if they ever start actually sleeping and pooping there). The portable roosts live there sometimes, and eventually there will be taller ones, when they get the hang of the ones we have now. Plus, I wasn't sure of the size of the roosts (the portables are made from a 2x2 and a 2x3) so we'll see which they end up preferring.
The pic only shows a mockup of the taller roosts, which will be longer and a bit taller, if only to keep them from roosting on the edges of the nest boxes. As of now, as seen in a previous pic, they sleep on the other end and only go to the poop box to chill out during the day, gossiping amongst themselves and basking in the light through the screen door.
Most of the day, though, they hang out underneath. The gangplank is BY FAR the poopiest part of the coop, and probably the hardest part to clean. And unfortunately, NOT removable. *sigh*
We move it every two or three days to make sure they have plenty of green food. Here you can see the baking pan that is their sandbath. They are fast outgrowing it but still love to play there. They get free choice chick feed, as well as a treat bowl, water in 2 dispensers (with garlic and ACV) plus a big heavy dog food bowl with shallow water for them to play in. We've already had a couple of days in the high 90's so I needed to make sure they have a way to stay cool. Plus they seem to have such fun!
What I would do differently with this same coop design is not lock the pop door from the inside. I don't love having to take out the pin and unlatch it every morning, especially when the chicks have taken the liberty to poop exactly there. I also need to sand the top and bottom of the edges of the sliding doors, as they get sticky to slide with the outdoor paint rubbing against the outdoor paint. But for now it suits our needs, and with the run extension it will get us through the summer, at least.
I plan to edit as we have things in the works, but this, for now, is the Quaint Little Cottage our girls call home. :)