I recently got an e-mail request for a link to plans of my Chicken Coop. There isn't one, so I wrote this up as a reply. I figured this old-timer thread would be the proper venue for a curmudgeon reply:
Chicken Coops---------------there are literally thousands of coop plans on the internet, most of which I consider “artsy craftsy” suburbanite crap requiring high cost, high maintenance and don’t address the needs of the chickens or keepers for ease of maintenance, cost, and durability.
However, you can look at the coop plans presented by Backyardchickens.com or look up chicken coop on Wikipedia which also links to free plans. Hopefully you’ll just look at these for amusement and ideas of what stupid people do.
What you really need is not plans per say, but a list of time tested ideas and techniques that have withstood the test of time that you can adapt to your abilities and resources.
I’ve attached a photo of my Chicken Coop that has been in use over twenty years and only needs cleaned out once a year or less depending on your needs for garden fertilizer. I built it with mostly salvaged materials, (windows, etc.) and only purchased the plywood sheathing since I wanted ½ inch exterior grade to last.
The basic concept my Coop is built around is a sub-ground level deep litter composting pit. This is a technique used for livestock management by European farmers for centuries and the Amish in the U.S.A.
The Coop itself should be built up on a foundation of Brick, Block, Concrete, or Stone. The idea is no wooden parts are in contact with the soil or the interior composting material. My Coop is a 8 X 12 arrangement and you will notice the plywood sheathing overlaps the foundation, this is to have rainwater run off the sides and not seep into the foundation under the wood part and cause rot.
The roof should overhang on all four sides, this is also for weathering durability. My foundation is sized such that my 8 X 12 coop sits with the sheathing overlapping it without having to cut or piece the standard 4 X 8 plywood. In other words, I’m lazy enough to calculate the exact size of the foundation and frame parts to not have to piece in the plywood. The composting pit is 18 inches deep from the top edge of the brick foundation to the dirt floor. The compost must have contact with the dirt for proper action. You start out with a 3 to 4 inch layer of lawnmower clippings or pine straw or whatever and add a few inches every so often. The chickens keep it scratched up and aerobatic decomposition takes place. If you have a concrete floor and mats of poo and straw you will get anaerobic decomposition which causes that nasty eye watering ammonia smell that is harmful to the chickens and most unpleasant to people. The compost will build up and cook down for over a year until you’re ready to shovel out the “black gold” for the garden or the Missus’s flower beds.
My ladder roost is pivoted with carriage bolts to the wall frame members and suspended with chains from the ceiling. I’ve also run a cable up from the roost through pulleys over to the door attached to a counterweight so I can lift the entire rig up and hook it in place. This allows me to tend to things in the coop without having to stoop or bend over.
My nest boxes are approximately 12” X 12” in a bank of 8 boxes, 4 above and 4 below, made out of salvaged wood. I mounted it within the wall frame and cut doors in the back of the boxes that can be reached from outside---for the women, children, and wimps afraid to go inside the coop to collect the eggs. If you do this the doors should be weather proof and latched such that a raccoon can’t open them. (I had to redesign my latch after an incident with the masked bandits, clever b-tards.)
Other details: The roofing plywood was tarred on the edges before I placed the metal drip edges and all the seams are over rafters. The seams were caulked before I placed roofing tarpaper, and then the shingles. They’re still holding up 20+ years later. Ventilation is from both high and low sides of the roof screened between the rafters---required, summer and winter.
The windows I have can be opened from the inside, but I have hailscreen firmly fastened covering the outside opening----this is to prevent predator entry. Raccoons can peel back screen, I used wooden slats to fasten down the hailscreen edges. Windows opened all summer, closed for winter. Windows face south & west for maximum sun in wintertime.
The people door I made myself with just 2X4 frame and plywood, the threshold is covered with angle iron I cut to size to prevent rodent chewing the threshold—I remembered chicken coops from my childhood on the farm that had been chewed by rats. So far so good.
The chicken pop door is a fitted piece of plywood hinged at the bottom so when it opens, it forms the ramp down for the chickens, again it rests on stone to prevent rot.
I used a rain gutter directed to a catch containment to have water available for the chickens. I see no need to run electricity or water to the coop like the suburbanites.
The chicken run itself should have plastic coated wire fencing buried at least 6 inches to prevent predator dig under and high enough to prevent escapees, mine is 6 ½ feet tall. I also have the run share a fence with the fenced in garden. In the fall and winter, I let the chickens into the garden for weeding/gleaning/tilling and fertilizing the area. The old timers would plant mulberry trees in the chicken run to help feed the chickens, I’ve done that somewhat better by planting the Illinois everbearing mulberries which drop berries for 10 to 12 weeks vs. the wild variety which only drops berries for two. I’ve also planted apples and persimmons and plums in the run to extend the “free food” season for the chickens. I originally tried to free range my chickens in the summer for forage, but found predation made that impossible-----dogs, foxes, coyotes, cats, hawks, raccoons, opossums etc. etc. etc.
Hopefully this will get you started,
Owner of stupid chickens.