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Some thoughts for converting a play structure to a coop? (Comments and criticism welcome!)

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Our new house came with a partially-fabricated chicken shelter and run. We're starting to plan out how we can finish it off, but I'd really appreciate tapping the BackYard Chickens hive mind to help make it the best it can be.

 

This is the structure we're working with. The upper level has a deck and playhouse-type thing that my ten-year-old is enjoying (but  I expect she'll grow out of shortly).  The bottom level has been converted into a chicken shelter and run.  

 

 

 

 

This is a not-so-great picture of the inside of the shelter.  It's an octagon, 80" across.  I'd say it's about 5 feet tall...not large enough to stand up in, but not horribly awkward for a quick dash in to grab something. There are no existing windows, ventilation, etc...except for the wide-open entry way that opens to an fully-enclosed run.

 

 

 

We've been considering how to make this a fully-functional (and easy to maintain) coop, and have been toying with the following ideas:

 

  • Installing a human-sized door over the entry and installing a smaller chicken entryway within it...we don't want it drafty.
  • Adding some windows for sunlight and ventilation.  We plan on putting these on the west-facing side of the shelter, because it's the only side that isn't shaded or blocked by decking or stairs.
  • Artificial lighting via solar or battery-powered LED.
  • Nesting boxes will also go on the western side of the shelter, with access from the outside.  (See the dog's rump in that first picture? That's roughly where the first couple of boxes would probably sit, with more to the left.)  
  • Feed and water....I'm still trying to figure that one out. In the shelter? In the run?  Whatever solution I find, I'd like to avoid fattening up the local rat population.
  • Cleaning: this is the tricky part.  I'd like to put in poop boards, but I don't want to hunch over daily to get in and out of the coop to do it.  Thanks to that wrap-around decking, there isn't a lot of easily-accessible exterior real estate (especially if I already have windows and nest boxes taking up a lot of space). So...one thought is that we could take out the raised wooden floor, dig down a little, and pour concrete.  It should help with accessibility and cleanliness, but would be a pain to uninstall if we have regrets.

 

Anyhow...I'd appreciate your thoughts and wisdom!  We don't mind putting work in now, but don't want to kick ourselves a few months later when we realize we've overlooked a super-critical (or super-handy) piece to keeping our chickens happy.

 

Thank you!


Edited by kellysanderson - 11/1/15 at 9:38pm
post #2 of 18
Thread Starter 

Just shortened the original post a bit so it's not so long-winded.  :)  

post #3 of 18
What a cool structure! My coop started life as a play structure, but not nearly as architecturally interesting as yours. It was not tall enough for me to stand in. I didn't think it would be a big issue, after all, how much time would I really spend in there. Well, far more time than I imagined and it didn't take long for me to grow to hate it. The first chance I got, I blew the top off that thing and made it taller. Best decision ever. I will never have a short coop again. I might have an elevated coop that I can access and clean while standing, but never one that I have to stoop to get into.
post #4 of 18
I just reread your post. Is the coop built in a way that would allow you to remove the ceiling, eliminate the second story and make it all one space. Those windows up high would offer nice ventilation and light. It would mean evicting your daughter though.

Or, if you are patient and don't mind whacking your head, you could try living with the low ceiling to start and just expand upward when she grows out of the playhouse stage. Once my son realized that giving up his fort on top meant a huge decrease in the number of chicken chores I'd ask him to do (he was small enough to fit without bumping his head), he was more than willing to give up the space for the chickens.
Edited by TalkALittle - 11/2/15 at 5:43am
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

OK...no stooping, unless we're a glutton for punishment.  Got it! 

 

Removing the roof is probably possible...it's just not my daughter's first choice.  But the upper level is a little cramped as-is, and she's about to hit middle school, so I don't think she'll be invested in the thing past another year or two.  IT's definitely something to consider!

post #6 of 18

Welcome to BYC!

 

Very cool structure!

 

Taking the floor out might be a great idea....you'd need to protect against diggers somehow.....could be something living under there anyway.

Hows the drainage in surrounding areas...don't need it to flood.

 

What is your climate?


Edited by aart - 11/2/15 at 2:01pm

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thank you!

 

We'd definitely need to shore up the side from diggers (enemy #1: my dogs), but that's one thing we have a lot of practice at...we had to reinforce the entire perimeter of the property when we realized our dogs REALLY like to dig at the new place.

 

Climate is relatively mild. It's in the coastal mountains of Northern California.  We had temps up to ~90 this summer, but that was exceptional.  Lots of fog is the norm.  Snow can happen, I'm told, but it's shallow and brief.

 

We had our first good rain last night and I didn't notice any drainage issues.  Given El Nino, it's likely to come down a lot harder throughout the winter, so we'll have lots of opportunities to confirm this.  :)  The structure is on a slope.  What we expect to find under the wooden floor is sloped dirt, with the dirt at the doorway level with the bottom of a set of steps that lead to the entrance.  If we can make the entire thing level, and remove the steps, we think we can easily stand in the shelter.  Won't be easy to get a shovel or push broom in there, but with large access door, I think we can make it happen.

 

Any issues I should consider if the people door and the chicken door overlap the same real estate?  (That is, the chicken door will be a small cutout of the adult door?) 

post #8 of 18

Can we have some more pictures? Pleeease?

 

Is the human door in the run? And if so, how tall is the run? You might just want to make the human door on another wall of the coop, so you can make the door as tall as you want it when (if) you take out the floor of the second story. Bonking your head whenever you go in or out of the coop is always a pain, even if you don't  have to crouch when you are actually in the coop.   A pop door inside the door you already have shouldn't be a problem, though.

 

For the poop board access, what if you take off  the rap around decking, or part of it? You could put doors and windows anywhere you wanted too.

 

You already have a few windows in the top story, and you can add more for light in the bottom story. Do the existing ones have glass?

 

What are the dimensions of the coop and run?

 

Sorry for all the questions, but your coop/house is very interesting. 

 

If you don't want to feed all the mice in the area, you could try ... um... (here is where this type of feeder really needs a name!) It is a gravity feeder. Basically, you take a big, watertight container (like one of those plastic containers cat litter or detergent comes in) and cut out two or three 3" holes near the bottom, so you can fit a 3" ninety-degree PVC elbow into it from the inside, leaving a small gap between the container's bottom and the other opening of the elbow. This allows you to fill the container up with feed, and raise it above the ground (no mice getting into it), AND the chickens can't beak out any food (no waste, and no crumbs for mice). Here is a link to what I am talking about: http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/ and here is a GIANT one: http://catalog.douglascountylibraries.org/

 

I use this feeder, and it works very well. Except that my girls like to sit on it, and use it as a step stool. :rolleyes:

"With a good set of power tools, some glue and some nails, all things are possible." Me

 

Dragons are a lot like cats. They sleep with one eye open, tail a-twitch, and will rain fiery death down upon you should you disturb them.

Reply

"With a good set of power tools, some glue and some nails, all things are possible." Me

 

Dragons are a lot like cats. They sleep with one eye open, tail a-twitch, and will rain fiery death down upon you should you disturb them.

Reply
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 

Ha! No, I love questions. This helps me sort out all of the nuances of the thing.

I will try to take a few more pictures tomorrow, with a better camera, but here are two more I managed to get in before daylight gave up on me.

 

First, the entry to the run.  This is on the opposite side of the structure as the other exterior picture.  The run is about 85 sq feet, and you can stand up in it.  It will be relatively easy to make it large-animal proof (it's 90% there), but it's a sieve for rats.  For what it's worth, my plan right now is to fence off part of our property to allow the chickens more room to roam during the day, but to lock them up in the coop at night.  I'd eventually like to be able to leave them in the run for a long weekend if I have to get away and can't find a chicken-sitter, but it's not secure enough for that quite yet.

 

 

 

This is a picture standing just inside the door to the run.  The steps lead into the shelter, and the top step is flush with the wooden floor of the shelter.

 

The way the thing is set up, the run is covered by the upper deck of the play structure.   Here's a rudimentary diagram.  Basically, this is what the thing would look like if I sliced the top part of the play structure off and just left the lower part and deck intact.  The dashed line is where the run ends.  

 

 

To answer your questions specifically:

 

1) At this point, the human door is in the run, which is tall enough for most people to stand in..probably 6'.  I'd like to make a human door  elsewhere, but I'm running out of room to install doors/windows/poop boards/nest boxes without having to stoop low or step into the run to get to them.

 

2) There's not really a way to take away part of the decking and leave the functionality of the play structure...or is there?  Just had a wild thought: maybe instead of taking down the deck and facing my daughter's disappointment, I disassemble the *run*, or at least part of it, and some of the decking above it. That would give me a bit more room to play with.  Hmmm.... this has potential.  I'm going to have to go and eyeball it in the morning to see if it makes structural sense.

 

3) There are windows on the second story, but they're not glassed.  Think jail bars. :)  Either way, no light from the upper level reaches the lower level...I'm going to have to create my own here. 

 

4) Coop dimensions: an octagon with an 80" diameter, 32" on each side.  That makes 34 sq feet.  The current run is 65x150", or 68 square feet.  

 

 

That is a super-cool feeder!  I hadn't seen that design yet...thank you for sharing.  The big concern I have are the rats. Around here, they're incredible climbers, and will work very hard to get to food. If a chicken can get into the feeder, so can a rat.   Since the rats are (largely) nocturnal, I think the solution here is to keep the food where the rats can't get to it at night (the coop, if I do it right?).

 

Thank you all for your ideas!  This is terrific.

post #10 of 18

Ok, thanks for clearing that up. From the pictures, the doors all looked a lot smaller. So, if the door is six feet tall, is the inside of the playhouse, too?

"With a good set of power tools, some glue and some nails, all things are possible." Me

 

Dragons are a lot like cats. They sleep with one eye open, tail a-twitch, and will rain fiery death down upon you should you disturb them.

Reply

"With a good set of power tools, some glue and some nails, all things are possible." Me

 

Dragons are a lot like cats. They sleep with one eye open, tail a-twitch, and will rain fiery death down upon you should you disturb them.

Reply
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BackYard Chickens › BYC Forum › Raising BackYard Chickens › Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance › Some thoughts for converting a play structure to a coop? (Comments and criticism welcome!)