WICHITA "CABIN COOP"
Update, spring 2013:
We have recieved a lot of requests for formal drawings / plans to build this coop. Note that I didn’t have anything like this when I first built it (see original narrative below). However, I recently used the Google "SketchUp” drafting program (available free off the web) to create a couple detailed 3D computer models of this coop. I also developed a building material list and accompanying writeup with general build guidelines and recommendations.
basic framing model:
enitre coop model:
excerpts from the material list and build recommendations / guidelines document:
If you are interested, for a nominal fee we can send you copies of these files. Please reference the following link to the "Buy-Sell-Trade" section of the BYC forum for more details:
Alternately you can PM us, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
My wife has also put together a Facebook page, featuring pictures other folks have sent us of some of the great coops they've built w/ the help of these models and material list -- https://www.facebook.com/WichitaCabinCoop
Look who's finally big enough to pick up and carry the chickens around -- !!
They like to follow her everywhere, and will even hop up on the swingset / slide to be with her.
There is a whole lot of "chicken hugging" going on in our back yard nowadays...
Original narrative, circa summer 2010:
Inspired by many of the coop designs so graciously displayed/shared in Backyardchickens.com, I was able to build my own this year. Some of the prime design considerations used while designing/building this project were:
Sized for around 3 - 5 laying hens
Convenient access / cleaning -- be able to stand up inside, removable ramp and feeders, etc.
Outside access for egg gathering, window opening, ventilation adjustment, etc.
Hopefully pretty predator-proof
Asthetically pleasing enough to keep wife and neighbors happy
I didn't really have a set of formal plans -- mostly rough sketchs drawn out on scratch paper and made up in stages as I went along. Tried for a sorta rustic farm building / cabin look.
The basic dimensions are a 5' x 10' base footprint, with front wall at 7' high and back wall at 6' high. The floor of the coop sits about 2' off the ground, giving chickens enough room to wander around underneath, but still easy to access/clean out coop portion from the front door. Enclosed coop portion and front door are roughly 1/3 of the overall 10' front width. The shed roof overhangs about 1' on all sides.
Mostly used 8' 2x4 studs for construction (some were reclaimed wall studs), although used 10' 2x6's for front and back of base, and 12' 2x4's for front and back edges of of roof. Walls, floor, and front door made from 1x6 shiplap boards. Nesting box is made from 1" flat boards (plywood would work as well). Roof is metal over 1/2" plywood.
Screws (and a little glue in few spots -- e.g. front door) hold it all together. Used a cordless drill, skill saw, sawhorses, and tape measure / levels for the most part -- pretty simple tool layout.
See pics below for more details.
Construction started late last fall, 2009. The "foundation" was made of leftover flat paving stones from our garden (around 12" x 15" each, I think), buried edge-on to help keep things level and discourage our local raccoons from digging under too easily.
Another row of pavers was laid over the top of the vertically buried ones. Coop frame will sit directly on top of these.
Framing started. Base is 5' x 10'. 7' tall at the front wall, sloping to 6' tall at the back wall. Since too cold to paint outside at this point, all the boards pre-painted inside w/ a couple coats of deck stain before assembling. Used more stain, but no need to paint when finished.
More framing, and screens being installed. Decided to use 1/2" mesh galvanized hardware cloth, after hearing about big dogs charging right through chicken wire, and/or raccoons able to reach though and grab chickens (w/ unpleasant results...).
Close-up of hardware cloth installation. Stapled on after being trimmed to size, and then later sandwiched/secured by the outer framing members.
Siding going on (ship-lap boards), along with floorboards, and nesting box being fitted. Floor is up about 2' from ground, and coop is about 1/3 over the overall 10' front end width. Floor is slightly sloped from back to front to allow easier water drainage when hosing/cleaning out (same for the nesting box). Note that there is some framing installed for the small chicken door, but I removed it later when I decided to install the sliding door on the inside of the wall, rather than the outside (using screws for construction made mid-building design changes like this a lot easier...).
Siding completed and roof put on. Decided to put metal roofing over plywood for strength, weight (help keep coop from blowing over in KS winds), some insulating value, etc. Little $$$, though...
By early next spring, I'd built and installed the doors, trim, and lid for nesting box.
Mid-March (2010), and chicks have arrived! Brooding them in the basement until it gets a little warmer out.
Cat-proof brooder lid.
Meanwhile more work on coop completed. Inside shot of nesting boxes, roosting bars, and removable board at door to hold the litter in later on. Left open space in front by door for feeder/waterer placement (and access) while birds young, or in really cold weather. Note rope and cleat used to open the inner sliding door.
Detail of inner sliding door -- once again, designed to be opened from outside (lower roosting bar removed for the picture). Kept door and ramp near back side of run area so they would be out of the way of us and the feeder/waterer. Opening is about 10' x 13" if I remember right. Door is up off floor to allow for about 5"- 6" deep layer of litter later on. Ventilation holes at roof level of front and back walls.
Detail of nesting boxes. They are about 13" wide x 14" deep x 16" high (to allow for layer of nesting material). Not really visible in the picture, but there is a small gap (~1") between floor of nesting box and lower bar at front, to help w/ the cleaning/hosing out a couple times a year. Another narrow board is normally placed across gap on inner face to hold nesting material in for rest of the time. Floor of the nesting box is slightly sloped from back to front to help w/ water drainage during cleaning. Roosting bars are also removable for easier cleaning, too.
We moved the chicks outside around mid-April, as was getting warm enough by then for them to stay out (and we were tired of the dust!). They are around five weeks old in this picture.
Outside detail of nesting box and lid. Sand in the run -- supposedly easier to clean and for chickens to scratch around in.
By early summer, I'd built and installed a couple windows. Will leave them propped open all summer for ventilation -- probably close them in the winter. Ventilation holes at top can be covered/shuttered as well, if necessary.
Evidently does not dig chickens...
By late July, hens are pretty much fully matured. Just waiting for the eggs to start... We have two Rhode Island Reds, two barred Plymouth Rocks, and an "Easter Egger" mutt.
Hand feeding. These are pretty tame/friendly birds so far.
A rude bedtime interruption.
First eggs started arriving around mid-August, 2010. Yay!!!
Fate of our first egg...
The Rhode Islands lay the bigger darker eggs, Plymouths the smaller, lighter-colored ones. The Easter Egger has only laid a few so far -- they are greenish.
Morning laying routine...
Once we get the yard secured a little better (taller fencing) and clip wings, we'll start letting them out of the run this fall. Gotta wait for the garden to get done producing before we let them attack it, though...
Some things I might do different "next time"?
- Use more reclaimed / cheaper building materials where possible (e.g. pallet platform slats as wall boards, maybe?).
- Used a more natural/wood-toned stain. The one we picked turned out to be pretty "orange" looking.
- Maybe use pressure-treated bottom framing members, although I ought to be able to replace these later if necessary w/out too much trouble.
- Space the "rungs" closer on the chicken ramp -- the hens look like they end up sliding around a little more than they'd like.
Mostly it turned out just about right, though, and was a pretty fun project overall. Pace was laid back enough so that I could plan/design (and enjoy) it as I went along. I'm not a professional/practiced carpenter, so studied a lot of the pictures in this site whenever I came to another building phase or challenge -- thanks again to all the folks who have generously shared their designs on these pages!!
Here's some updates / shots from later summer and fall, 2010:
Our youngest has finally warmed up to the chickens and now enjoys following them around and trying to pet / feed them.
Older girls enjoy the birds, too.
Found this in the nesting box one morning -- !!! Looks like a goose egg or something (double-yolker).
Won't even fit in the carton. All I know is that I'm glad I'm not that chicken's butt...
After garden was pretty much done for the season, we started letting the birds out every afternoon to roam the backyard freely. Note the nearby compost bins -- handy for taking care of chicken poop. One corner of the "foundation" (near corner in pic) settled enough where the raccoons were starting to have some success at prying out the top brick, so I've got it staked in for the time being until I can add a little more dirt around the edges.
Rigged up some lights when days started getting shorter to keep the birds laying regularly. Cut a corner out of the coop door to allow clearance for the power cord.
Had to modify the board that holds back the litter at doorway of coop. Hens kept kicking the shavings up into the gap between door and board, so attached a sloping top board that rests flush w/ the door when it's closed -- no more mess. Somebody had asked about how we rigged the pop-up door, and you can see the set-up fairly well here. The rope is guided through some larger eye screws at the corners, and uses knots (that won't fit through eye screws) as stops to control the travel limits.
These last few shots are taken near Thanksgiving 2010, almost exactly a year after I first started building the coop. It's been a fun project, and the birds are good "pets" and great layers so far!
Winter updates, 2010:
Winter weather / storms. Temps around zero to -10 F at night, plus 30+ MPH winds out of the north -- cold weather for Kansas. Brrr!!!
Made some side panels out of extra plywood (left over from roofing) to make a windbreak area underneath the coop. Theses are removable -- held in place with standard shed sliding latches on either end, fitting into holes drilled in the side posts.
Moved the food and water "indoors" for a couple days during worst portions of storms. Waterer sits on top of an upside-down flower pot w/ lightbulb underneath to keep water from freezing. Everybody seems to prefer staying cooped up in this kind of stuff. We continued getting eggs through it all, so they must have been reasonably comfortable...
Nicer weather following the latest storm.
Even though it was finally sunny, nobody wanted to come outside -- what a bunch of "chickens"!!
Winter 2011: Tried a different style of windbreak for the run portion of the coop this year, since chickens didn't seem to care much for snow in the run last winter (ref. above / pics).
Stapled clear plastic sheeting ("visqueen") to wooden lattice, and then secured to wire sides of run with baling wire, twist-ties, or etc. Left a gap in the plastic at the top to allow for ventilation / drying, but high enough up where rain and snow shouldn't be able to blow in. These can be easily removed / stored once warmer summer weather returns.
Note that the plastic sheeting is sandwiched between the outer wooden lattice and inside wire hardware cloth. This has stood up well to wind / storms so far this year. Some snow has blown in at the open front portion, but rest of run stayed dry.
The proper way to clean a chicken coop is, of course, to have your teenage kids do it! (if you have them) It's not quite as good as having a full-sized family farm for teaching work ethic and etc., but I'll take whatever I can get.
We periodically clean the run and coop out, about once a week or so. Just trying to get as much of the surface poop, feathers, and dirt out of the run and coop as possible.
Roughly twice a year (spring and fall), we do a more thorough "spring cleaning", taking it all apart, hosing everything down, and maybe scrubbing with a disinfectant solution if necessary (e.g. bleach and water).
We try to keep the sand in the run somewhat clean by raking all the poop, wasted food, etc. into a pile, and then using a shaker box (with screen on the bottom) to sift it. Sand comes out the bottom, and poop, feathers, and such remains in box, to be thrown into the compost pile.
Sifting box in action, in the background. Just like panning for gold, heh, heh...
A plastic-bladed snow shovel works great for removing poop and old bedding (won't scratch up the wood/paint too much). It all gets tossed into the compost pile.
Everything gets sprayed down with the hose (including inside of the coop and run), scrubbed a little if/as necessary, and then left to air dry.
Some of your customers may get impatient to have their nesting box back during the spring cleaning process. Note the built-in gaps at bottom of box -- makes it easier to sweep and hose all the dirt out.
Removable boards fit in at the bottom of the box to hold the nesting material in after you're done cleaning.
Spring cleaning accomplished, and fresh bedding in place. Your chickens will now dig around and eat all the food on the ground they've been ignoring for the past several weeks -- go figure...
Random construction details and other ideas:
Here's some detailed shots of how the pop door and side guides are constructed:
The door is just a piece of flat board or plywood with a couple reinforcment/guide pieces attached. You can put on some nylon or teflon sliders to help adjust the gap and ease the sliding action of it gets a little sticky.
The side guides are narrow strips of wood with a slightly wider pieces attached on top of them. The brace at the bottom is open across the door opening, to help keep the litter material from piling up and binding or holding the door open at the bottom.
The door's lower edge sits a ways below the bottom of the outside opening when closed, so that raccoons and other pests will have a hard time getting their paws under it to open the door from the outside.
The ramp in the run is removable (for cleaning convenience and etc.). The two eyebolts on the ramp have been modified into hooks by sawing a little off with hacksaw. Two more eyebolts are screwed into the door frame to hold the ramp up. Shouldn't be able to slip or fall off, but still relatively easy to remove when you want to.
Here's how we kept our waterer from freezing during the coldest spells in the winter:
We set it in a flower pot "saucer" or base, which in turn sits on top of a large, upside-down flower pot. A light bulb or similar heating element is mounted underneath. Regular and/or paving bricks are stacked around the bottom to keep anything from touching (i.e. maintaining an adequate air gap between heating element and pot top/sides), and allow routing of the power cord in the gaps beneath it all. You'll obvously want to use terra cotta or ceramic components throughout (no plastic or other meltable/flamable materials). A ceiling chain acts as a safety to help keep your most rambunctious boarders from tipping it over during any coop squabbles. A thermostatic power source (e.g. "thermocube", or similar) can be used to automatically shut off power to the heat source in warmer weather.
I like this design because the saucer and overturned flower pot will catch and/or deflect any spilled water away from the heating souce, helping prevent short circuits and fires. Still have to be careful with any bedding or other flamable material that could work its way up into the hot interior through any gaps or etc., creating a possible fire hazard.