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Re-Coop -- A Noob's guide to (trying) to build a "chicken mansion" on a budget

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 

.

Let me start by saying:

 

#1 - I have very few carpentry skills, tools and/or building knowledge.

 

#2 - I already have built one coop....not pretty, not fancy, but it works and it keeps predators out.  (It was built in a rush, my chickens lived in my downstairs bathroom WAYY too long)

 

#3 - This is basically going to be a detailed write-up for myself as well as anyone out there who is nervous about building their first coop.  Initially I was very intimidated with the thought of building with enough ventilation, but not too drafty, warm for the winter, cool for the summer, predator proof on EVERY level etc. etc.  It can be a bit overwhelming.....

 

#4 - I'm going to apologize now, my grammar/spelling is atrocious (I'm a physicist....numbers not words!!!)  My stories are usually way too long and detailed and I get side tracked quite a bit…

 

Aaannnyyyyy way......

 

My wife and I have decided to expand our flock (if you consider 2 buff orpingtons a flock) and pick up 2 or 3 buff brahma bantams (looking for a local breeder).  This means that my 2'x4' coop will be obsolete very shortly.  

 

Now, YES we love our chickens, but NO we can’t spend $1000 on a coop, or even $300 on a coop…we decided to salvage as MUCH material as possible to keep the cost low, which will allow us to pay a little more for the important things to keep our girls safe.

 

Step 1 -  Size.....that was easy.....4 chickens at 4 sqft, that is 16sqft….well maybe 5…yea, 5 chickens at 4 sqft….wait…well, what if we get 6….no, we said 4 or maybe 5…….

 

Yea…like I said, “the easy part” What?!?!.…chickens are surprisingly addicting.  I used to say “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”….well, now that my jeep is gone….  “It’s a chicken thing, you wouldn’t understand”

 

Anyway, back to the decision on size (see #4 above).  I settled for a 4ftx6ft coop.  That gives me 24sqft, which will be plenty when they’re in for the cold New York winters….

 

Part of the decision for the size was to build in increments of 2ft.  This will hopefully give me minimal waste material since most lumber (salvaged or purchased) will be 8ft long. (I realize 4x4 might have made more sense, but that limits me to 4 chickens…again, they’re addicting)

 

Step 2 – Figure out a design…..3 dozen sketches, 14 hours on BYC, 8 pots of coffee, and 3 beers later….NOTHING…..

I’m guessing like quite a few of you, step 2 is VERY difficult.

 

 So I do things a little backwards (if you’re as indecisive as I am,  maybe try my method)….I go to the salvage store, find some cool stuff on the cheap, then design the coop AROUND your stuff…for me, it was these old window sashes…..

 

 

 

At $3 each at the local salvage store, why not.…..yea, they’re glass, but a little 1/4 inch hardware cloth behind them will keep the chickens from getting to the glass as well as protect them in case a predator trys to go through the glass. 

 

I also found these cedar planks (not in the greatest shape, but with a little light sanding they'll make a great floor.....10 inches wide, 1/2 inch thick and 8 feet long....at $2 each....that gives me a coop floor for about $8. I'm $14 into the coop.....so far so good....

 

 

Now I also found some 2x3s at the salvage store, so I'm going to be building with 2x3s.  I figure that it will be small enough that it doesn't need 2x4s and I can always add 1 or 2 extra supports if I need to and still save quite a bit of money (again, no building expertise here)

Now I can handle Step 2….design……2 windows, one on the long wall next to a door, one on a short wall.  DONE…..

 

Step 3 – Stick to design.  (Haha, what a joke)

 

My wife can attest for this….I absolutely CAN NOT, stick with a decision I made!!!  I have a few more days off before the fall teaching semester begins.  I sit at home and design/build the coop while my wife is at work…the poor girl…. I must have called her 8 or 9 times a day asking her what she thinks of my “new plan” convincing her every time I called:  “I’m definitely going to do it this way…it makes the most sense…”  Only to call her 20 minutes later with new BETTER ideas!!!    

 

My solution to my step 3 predicament…….start cutting wood and building and see where the coop takes you.

I believe it was Michelangelo who said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”

Well, “Every pile of wood has a coop inside of it, it is up to ME to figure out how the heck it all goes together”

 

I at least got the “floor” done.   Just used my father’s shop saw and some screws to rip out a ~ 4’x6’ platform….


Edited by JeepDVL45 - 8/22/13 at 8:58am
post #2 of 42

Haha, your poor wife. I'm sure it'll be worth it in the end..when you've finally stuck to something! ;)

 

When hubby and I started fixing up our first coop we bought it was hard. My mind kept changing on what I wanted/liked..especially where I've never own chickens before and knew of anyone that did!

 

Can't wait to see your progress.

Feather Tree Farm - Silkies and Barred Rocks

http://www.facebook.com/ourfeathertree

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Feather Tree Farm - Silkies and Barred Rocks

http://www.facebook.com/ourfeathertree

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post #3 of 42

Great story...keep going.

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

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

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.

Reply
post #4 of 42
Thread Starter 

So....onward and upward...literally UPWARD

 

I knew that I didn’t want to put the platform directly on the ground.  No one wants critters moving in under their coop.  The question was…..how high?  My old coop is sitting on 6 (yup, that’s right….SIX cinderblocks….(again for a 2 x 4 coop with a 3/4 inch plywood floor – over engineering at its greatest), which puts the coop at 18” above the ground.   Seems like a nice height….the girls fir under it, they seem pretty happy, so  18 inch legs it is…now wait….How about 24 inch legs?….18 inches gives me 4 inches of wasted lumber per 8 foot length...but I get an extra piece out of it….crap, let me call my wife…..

 

After some deliberation I was 100% sure to have the coop 18 inches above the ground….24 inches was just too tall…..

 

So, needless to say, my coop is 24 inches above the ground (yup….I’m THAT guy) ….well….23.5 inches above the ground...I used some of the waste PT 2x4s I had laying around and they weren’t quite 2 feet long. (yup….I’m THAT guy!)  I had picked up 5 some more PT 2x4 at $3.77 each. , built a basic “box” with supports about every 17.5 inches (don’t remember off the top of my head) and attached it all with decking screws (found them in my utility room)

 

Now I have a 4 foot wide 500 pound chicken coop upside down on my 6 foot wide front porch (and I’m on the wrong side of a corner) 

 

….smart Nick….real smart….

 

A few choice 4 letter words and a hernia later, the coop is right-side-up,  off my porch and onto the grass in the back yard….

 

Step 5 – BUILD!!!

 

Time to frame up a wall….whatever that ACTUALLY means. 

On the bright side, I now have a nice, 2 foot tall “work bench” instead of on my hands and knees on my porch

 

I was going to go with 3 foot walls…I figured, 3 feet plus the 2 feet off the ground, that puts me up to 5 feet…..5 feet is nice.  Then I realized I still needed to put a roof on it, and I wanted a steep pitch for all the snow.   Ok…2 foot walls it is…nope…can’t do 2 footer’s, the window is too tall.  Let me call my wife….(seriously, I have no idea why she married me…)

 

Easy solution….build the wall so the window JUST fits, but no taller (worked out to be about 32 inches tall).   So that’s what I did…..

 

 

Now this thing is starting to take shape.  Now that the window is "in" (just resting there so I can send a pic to my wife to remind her how AMAZING her husband is.....

 

Alright....time to make a door frame and a door.....

 

Sure, I can do that.  I never realized how difficult it is to make something with square edges.   The door frame was cake, but to ACTUALLY build a rectangle that fits inside it and has actual  90 degree corners…..I bet the NASA guys that put a man on the moon couldn’t handle that.

After a few attempts, I got it….sort of.  Its close enough.  A little bit of trim and some weather stripping and no one will notice.  (It does fit and swing, and it’s not off my much)

 

Unfortunately the only pics of this step is after I have the other three walls framed with it.

 

From here it was just frame up the other walls.  One of the short walls will have a window, and the other will have a small chicken door (Will the windows be kitty corner? Or will they be   I had NO IDEA.   Where the window goes isn't the important question.....the important question is, do I call my wife AGAIN?   Looks like I'm winging it! 

 

I decided (for now) to put the chicken door kitty  corner to the window you see.

 

Now just measure and try to cut right.  I KNEW my base was square, so I took all my measurements off of it and the wall I just built.  I figured that this would FORCE the walls to go up square.   I was either right or lucky……  This is where it stands as of yesterday.  Tomorrow I'll be able to do more work on it as long as the weather holds....

 

The plan for now is to put a roost on the back wall in the above photo along with a poop tray. (not the full length)  The nesting boxes will go in the corner's on the left (both front left and rear left) about 14 inches above the ground with an access door from the outside to each. Food and water will go up above (I'm going to build a 'loft'). 

 

 

 

 

 

Also...I do plan on fencing in beneath the coop.  I was going to block off 2 sides (one long and 1 short) with scrap lumber then use hardware cloth under and on the other sides  (with a couple access doors).  I also have a 4'x4' run covered with 1/4" hardware cloth already for my girls that I am going to attach as well.  This will give them about 40sqft that they can access all the time while I'm not home, then they free range while I am home....

post #5 of 42
Thread Starter 

Alright…so after the weekend I managed to get the roof “done” .   I spend the majority of the morning working out EXACTLY what will be needed for the roof.  After a handful of designs, I was set on one (and I didn’t even have to call my wife!!!)   So after a handful of calculations, I figured that I would need 8 2x3s  I had it down to a science.  I knew which drops would go for what pieces.  No waste at all.  Yea,  I’m that good!!!  So off to Lowes to get my material.  I picked up 10 2x3 rather than 8….just in case

 

I also stopped at the salvage store and picked these up for a little extra ventilation... ($1 each)

 

 

 

I headed home, grabbed my design, and made my first cut.  I figure that a 30 degree pitch for the roof would be more than enough of a pitch and still give the girls a little extra headroom. 

 

I made my cut then realized, for a 30 degree pitch, I needed to make a 60 degree cut…..  No big deal, I’ll just set the chop saw to 60 degrees….

 

Too bad the saw only cuts to 47 degrees…back to the drawing board….

 

Well, after spending literally HOURS working out the design for the roof, I decided I needed to get it done.  Rather than going back in and wasting the day, I just started cutting….looks like we’re going with a 45 degree pitch……

I made a few cuts, and built a pattern that worked (and only used 2 2x3s with about 20 inches of waste – and by waste, I mean a 20 inch support for their poop shelf).

 

After making my pattern, I cut 4 more sets of each piece…..which gave me this…

 

 

 

Now, that I have my wood, its time to start putting it together (I must have checked 10 times to make sure each piece was the EXACT same length….)

 

About an hour later I had 5 of these…..

 

 

 

This gives you an idea what the coop will look like.

 

 

 

Now, I did get my plywood on the roof (1/2 inch) – my neighbor is a contractor, so he had some ½ inch drops from his roof he is putting on his addition so the wood was FREE!!!

 

 

NOTE:  The top edge will be enclosed with plexiglass and it will be the South facing edge of the coop.  (There will also be some extra vents up there as well)

 

Unfortunately I don't have any pics with the roof on, it was getting dark quick and about to rain, so rather than take pics, I threw it together and tossed my tarp over the coop….I’ll have pics soon.

 

On Saturday, I got a couple landscape timbers to level an area in the back for the coop to sit on (no pics of that yet).  My dad also came out with his leftover ¼ inch hardware cloth, and some 2”x4” welded fence that I can use as a skirt for the run…  All that will go down when the ground dries out and I can get the rest of the area leveled for the coop.

 

This is all the wood that I have wasted so far with the coop build.....not too shabby.....

post #6 of 42

Keep up the good work, looking forward to seeing the final product. I wish there was cheap lumber in my area...the closest thing is free pallets an hour and a half away from me. 

post #7 of 42

Nice!...I love a clerestory roofline....you should put openable windows in that top spot.

 

Kinda like this:

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

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

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.

Reply
post #8 of 42
Thread Starter 
I'm trying to work out a way to make sliders, but still have it weather proof. The windows will only be about 7 inches tall, so finding some at the salvage store is going to be tough. Plus those will be just under 8 feet off the ground so getting to them to open/close might prove to be a monumental task. But I like the way you think!
post #9 of 42
I love this. Very nice. Can't wait for more.
post #10 of 42
This is like a book I can't put down. Anxiously awaiting the next chapter!

Four hens and a Free Agent Peacock at the moment. We call him Kevin.

Buff Orpington - Sunny (Sweet and silly)

Easter Egger - Benedict (Small yet beautiful sold as an Ameraucauna)

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Florentine (Egg Laying Rooster)

Black Australorp - Omelet (Alpha Hen)

Oh, and the bottom of the pecking order, our Chihuahua, Oscar.

Reply

Four hens and a Free Agent Peacock at the moment. We call him Kevin.

Buff Orpington - Sunny (Sweet and silly)

Easter Egger - Benedict (Small yet beautiful sold as an Ameraucauna)

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Florentine (Egg Laying Rooster)

Black Australorp - Omelet (Alpha Hen)

Oh, and the bottom of the pecking order, our Chihuahua, Oscar.

Reply
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