We live in the desert which means hot temps, frequent wind and the occasional haboob in summer, then we freeze in winter. So when planning our coop we realized we needed versatility. Not only did we need lots of air flow, we also needed simple options to provide shade or button it up tight as well. I looked at tons of different designs and images and found something I thought would work. We created this ourselves based on a picture of the exterior of a coop. It's similar but not exact and pretty simple as you'll see below.
For the interior, I try to keep the maintenance as low as possible, and this article includes the changes I've made since the coop was built.
I couldn't find our original sketch of the basic design, but I do have the materials list from our first shopping trip. I know I went back to the hardware store at least once more for screws and brackets. Igor used at least 2 brackets for every place one board meets another.
26 concrete blocks
10 sheets plywood
(4) 12' 2x4s
(15) 6' 2x4s
(10) 12' 2x2s
(18) 6' redwood trim
(4) 6' corner trim
7 polycarbonate roof panels, white
4 packages screws with rubber backing
50' 1/2" hardware cloth
3 boxes 2" screws
50 small L brackets
24 large flat L brackets
4 1/4" wood sheet panels
20 screen mounts
1 Box staples
12' 80% shade cloth, we had on hand
Air powered staple gun
On to building.
I planned to use deep litter and there are termites to consider here so we decided to build on top of cement blocks. Bonus: the chickens can dig and the wind can blow but litter stays.
Next, we planned size and layout. I knew I wanted a walk in coop from past experience. Since my contractor is somewhat disabled this makes it easier for him to make upgrades as necessary, and it's very easy to clean. We also needed something big enough for the whole flock to hang out in when storms blow through. Based on these factors and a small flock of 6 birds, we decided on a 6' X 12' X 6' coop. Plenty of room for the chickens in any weather but it limited the cutting/hauling of materials.
*I didn't include the vent space or the height of the blocks under the coop which brings the actual height to roughly 7' in the front.
Below we've already set the cement blocks, each was leveled as we went, and the initial framing is done. Igor used small and large L brackets with 2" screws to put the frame together.
While Igor worked on that I painted the plywood for the exterior walls with barn paint. Below you can see those attached to the back and sides using 2" screws.
After I painted the frame along the front and the door we stapled 1/2" hardware cloth on the front and trimmed with thin strips of wood that are screwed in place.
The hardware cloth was 4 feet wide. We stapled across the top, let the weight of the roll pull it down, then cut for a custom fit and finished attaching.
We used 2x2s for roof supports which also framed the vent at the top. More L brackets were used for this portion. In the second image here you can see that the contractor didn't account for overhang and had to do a little fixing to keep the roof panels from flopping around in the wind.
We read that the rule of thumb for good water drainage from the roof is at least1" of drop per foot of roof length. Ours works out to 1/2" per foot and so far we haven't had any problems. The vent is 6" in front and tapers on the sides down to 3" in the back.
2" screws were used to attach plywood panels for the roof, then we covered with white polycarbonate corrugated panels and screwed them on. These required a special screw with a rubber backing to attach but it was worth the expense. They've withstood our sun and we have no leaks.
We then stapled more hardware cloth to the vent area on the inside and trimmed with wood strips screwed to the frame.
For cold weather we purchased thin sheets of wood we can attach using window screen mounts. They stay flush against the front wall and keep the coop cozy in Winter. Then painted and attached.
I would like to note that we are in the process of making changes to these panels for this Winter. We were using 2 panels on just the door and we're swtching to 2 panels per section. The big ones can be hard for one person to handle and I want more versatility for Fall and Spring when temps tend to vary most.
March through October it's typically too warm to have the coop closed up. We made screens using 80% shade cloth, wood trim and more L brackets. These are pretty much permanently attached and I put the solid fronts on over them last winter. They're delicate but they do look nice and keep the coop cool. They also help limit wetness inside the coop from storms. L brackets attach the wood trim together and the shade cloth is stapled to the other side.
We found some white corner trim to finish off the exterior and that's the outside, pretty simple.
The first version of the interior had a roost, loft for transition from ramp to roost and plastic nest boxes mounted on the wall under the loft.
The braces for the roost and loft were made from a leftover 2x2 and mounted to studs.
The ramp was painted and then sprinkled with sand before I painted again to provide traction. We attached a piece of 2x2 to the stud next to the ramp with L brackets to provide stability for the ramp as well.
Changes we've made over the last couple of years are below:
We added a poop board and use sweet pdz on it. I really like this addition. Those awesome cement blocks were collecting a bunch of poop overnight. This makes it all much cleaner.
The board was built using leftover plywood. We added a lip by attaching 2x2s to the top with screws, then attached to studs using metal brackets.
I whitewashed the interior of the coop this Spring. It's brighter inside and I've noticed fewer flies. It has many benefits including deterring pests from laying their eggs, but isn't toxic to the birds. We also took out the loft and extended the roost and poop board.
We added a pop door and used a doggie door curtain to keep out small birds and most pigeons. The curtain is mounted to the interior. I would like to put some trim around the interior edge to make it look nice and we plan to make a metal door eventually.
The plastic nest boxes were too hot in summer and they seemed cramped and not very comfortable. Great for humans, but not great for the girls. I'm trying a community nest box with my new pullets. It's just a simple wooden frame that I half filled with pine, then topped off with timothy hay. We recycled some lattice and cut into strips, then drilled a hole in each large enough for a screw head to fit through. Then we attached to the poop board with screws and tucked the bottoms between the hay and box frame. They pop right off for cleaning. The strips are far enough apart to allow easy access even for larger birds and plenty of escape options if needed. I plan to whitewash the frame this fall when I do the coop interior again before adding chicks.
This is a trial, if we need to modify we'll do so.
I keep food and water in the coop. I know, big no no. Our weather is unpredictable at times and my flock has been hungry because of a bad storm while I was gone that flooded their feeder. This pvc feeder keeps the floor clear and I can cap it off at night to prevent pests. We attached to a stud with a small fire extinguisher mount. Here's the basic instructions we used:
Finally, the cooling system such as it is. The chickens seem to enjoy it quite a bit, just a stand mister and a box fan on a cement block. It helps cool the coop and the flock spends much of their afternoon in the area pictured below. I hope to have a separate shade structure fixed up by next summer to use for this purpose rather than the coop.
I have plans for the yard where my coops are kept to complete this oasis, but the main coop has been my top priority.
Once I complete work on the mini coop we'll add a shade structure for the mister and some wading options. I plan to try some bushes I've found that the chickens don't devour along the house and block wall to cut down on the ambient heat in the afternoons too.