I had thought about getting some backyard chickens for my acreage a few years ago and then for whatever reason decided that I didn't want the hassle, especially in the winter. Then this spring the idea crept back into my little head and I decided that I wanted to have a little flock of about a half dozen chickens...lawn ornaments, with benefits
I joined BYC and after looking through hundreds of coop pictures I was pretty sure I was looking for something like the Wichita Cabin Coop. I also seriously considered just ordering a coop kit from Carolina Custom Coops. The exchange on the US dollar and the shipping were major downfalls of that idea though.
However, somewhere along the way I came across several articles and posts about the Woods coop design. I tend to be someone who likes to research things and I found the book that Woods wrote about this design to be engaging. I was sold when he mentioned that these coops had even been used successfully in Claresholm, Alberta which is not very far from me and therefore has the same kind of weather. Wind is pretty common here as we are at the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Much like Denver this causes interesting weather patterns and crazy temperature fluctuations.
I decided on a 6 x 10' Woods style coop since I am only looking to keep a small flock. This size also fit well into my chosen location; my Woods is going to sit on one end of my vegetable garden. My reasoning for its location is multifactorial:
That was it, the style and location were chosen. Though a big enough Woods coop can be used as a standalone solution, especially if the birds are able to free-run, I decided to build a run to the West of the coop itself, following the line and slope of the back wall of the coop. This would allow them to have daily time outside the coop even if free ranging did not work out for me. Ideally it would have been nice to have the run at the East side of the coop, since it would allow me to better see the chickens from the house and also allow the coop itself to offer a bit more wind protection. However, I did not want to have to go into the run to get into the coop itself, especially if I was going to be cleaning out the coop, and I didn't want to have to go around the coop to access the door from the West side. That seemed impractical.
- it is close to my back garage door for easy access - especially in the winter
- it will nestle with its back into a row of large lilacs for a bit of extra wind protection
- it is close to the compost bins for clean out etc
- I will be able to enjoy my birds while working in the garden and…
- the birds can be utilized to clean up the garden in the fall once the veggies are harvested.
So, there it was. My concept was ready. I laid out the size in the garden and I bit the bullet and ordered some wood to get started.
I will mention that I did all of this without really consulting DH, who I honestly don't think is thrilled with the whole 'we should get some chickens' idea. Lucky for me, he does love a project and once I got going he has been pretty supportive in at least getting the project built. We will see how he feels about the actual chickens!! (I think he is slowing coming around to the idea)
Despite my background in Interior Design, I wish I could say that I had done a thorough material take off to share but like most home projects it has been a buy-it-as-you-need-it affair. It has also taken more time, and more money, than I expected. Maybe not more money...I was figuring that if I cost $2500 to buy a well constructed coop, it would likely cost close to that to build one.
April 10 I ordered my first load of materials and I started building in my garage as we still had very wet ground and it was cold outside. I was also going to need to bring in some dirt to level off the run side of the coop area and soggy ground was going to make me wait for that.
I laid out my pressure treated floor and prefabricated all of the outside walls.
Once the walls were laid out I covered the floor with some commercial linoleum that I found at the local ReStore. This stuff is tough! After trying to cut it with a box knife, I resorted to scoring it with the knife and then cutting it with tin snips. That was much easier. I did not glue it down as the walls were going to be installed on top of it, pinning it down. Should I ever need to replace it, I can then cut it around the edges (that won't be easy), at least that was the thinking.
Next step; level out the garden.
I really wanted to try to avoid having to pour a foundation for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that if I ever wanted to move this coop it would not be impossible. So we went with concrete 'elephant feet' that we buried so that the 2x6 foundation would still lay flat on the ground. The West side of the site was a section of the garden that we had not used for years, an unused low spot. We spent a decade with it covered in black plastic trying to kill the horseradish that we foolishly planted there - just don't do it!
DH filled his truck with three loads of screened loam and we levelled off the back side where the run would be. It was not really great dirt, very clay based. At first this was a disappointment but I think it is actually going to work out quite well. It compacted pretty hard yet the site dries out quite quickly if it rains.
You can see the four concrete feet for the coop proper, buried and ready to lay the floor down. Once the base was installed, the prefab walls went up very quickly and we suddenly had the bones of the Woods coop. It was an exciting day...
Next step was to get this coop closed in, in the hopes of keeping everything sort of dry. I used LP Smart Panel siding to close the sides in and installed plywood over the rafters to go under the metal roofing in the hopes of avoiding condensation on the ceiling. The windows came from http://www.shed-windows.com/ as they were the right sizes and were actually cheaper than I figured I could make them for. Some materials that are inexpensive in the US turn out to be pretty expensive, or impossible to find, here in Canada.
Though a lot of Woods builders choose to locate the side windows across from each other, I chose to locate them exactly as suggested in the Modern Fresh Air Poultry Houses (Woods) book. I figured there may be a reason for this location. You can see that they are not directly across from one another. The drawback that I see to this decision is that the wall space farther back in the coop is reduced. That space across from the door is where a lot of people place their nest boxes. Mine will be located right beside the door on the East wall of the coop as I've added a pop door to the West to allow the chickens out into the run. I had not yet cut out the opening for the pop door in this picture.
One thing to pay attention to is the design of the 'monitor windows' wall. I was very concerned after getting this far that by the time I added my metal roofing I would not have room to instal my windows. In hindsight I would have used 2x4" headers and raised those windows up a bit. It has all worked out, but it was tense for a while there...These crank out windows were the exact 16 x24" measurement called for in the plan which I'm thrilled about and the cranks are long enough to reach through the hardware cloth that will cover them on the inside for predator protection. The slider windows will get hinged inner 'windows' made of HC so that I can get into them to open or close them.
In the meantime, spring was marching on and the garden was beginning to come alive. My tulips and apple tree went into full bloom making it delightful to be out in the garden working on this project. The garden planting also had to kick into high gear if I expected to actually have a garden this year!
Next up, starting the run. These walls were also laid out and prefabricated in the garage. I solid stained all of the boards (Sikkens is the BEST!) ahead of time and used a Kreg jig to set up for pocket screws on all of the sides. Then I prayed that I measured and laid it all out right
A girlfriend came out to help me lay out the hardware cloth, install the foundation feet and erect the run walls (we ran out of wire and had to wait several weeks for the remaining wire to arrive).
The coop looks a bit lopsided here once I trimmed the plywood off the West end. I wanted the overhang/soffit for protection on the East side but it wasn't important on the West because the run will be covered. I'm hoping at this point that the run roof is going to balance it out visually.
My husband had rented a wood chipper to chip up all of the pruning branches that we had stacked since the fall and I had him put them into the run to form a base of clean material. The chipper did a nice job on the bigger branches but did not do so well on all of the small branches which came out pretty much as they went in. I am hoping it will compact nicely but I may have to sort through this material a bit and remove any really rough branches - but at this stage I just spread it as it kept our feet high and dry and walking on it is helping it to lay nice and flat.
Despite a back and forth inner conversation, reading a bunch on BYC, and consulting a few Canadian Facebook Chicken forums there is definitely no consensus on insulating or not in Canada. I was going to not insulate and then do it later if I felt I needed to but DH figured I was in this far so why not just do it now? This did seem easier than doing it later and working around birds and bedding so we went ahead and insulated. I was only going to insulate the back walls, just to help cut any biting winter wind but one bag of insulation basically finished the whole coop.
The upside that I do see is that it created solid walls, easier to paint and to clean. Whether or not this will make ANY difference given that the entire front of the coop is open is entirely to be seen...I do feel like I will have done my best to keep the birds warm - given my choice of fresh air enclosure. You can see my pop door, the Pullet Shut, installed here.
This was my waste insulation - that's pretty great I'd say!!
This brings me to a few notable points about the 6x10' Woods design. This design is NOT particularly material friendly. Lots of angles and slopes and a dimension that is not divisible by 4 means a fair bit of wasted material. I feel like I've done remarkably well in using up my waste but it is something worth noting. It is also worth noting that things like the siding panel are designed for 16" or 24" stud placement. Using these measurements ensures that your siding overlaps occur at a stud. I've got several that don't. Not perfect.
The other thing about this coop is that it is clearly for chickens - NOT for tall people. My poor 6'3" husband has the scrapes and bruises on his head to prove it! Using insulation and sheathing is going to help with that as well as at least you are only banging into a flat surface most of the time, rather than the sharp edge of a stud, but tall folks, take notice! My coop is already being referred to as 'the DUCK house'
I do okay inside the coop as I'm only 5'6" but I am looking for some creative ways to keep myself and others from harming themselves on the edges of the coop - especially given that I'm using metal roofing at that the front and back corners are nearly right at eye level. A coop more out in the open may not have this issue but with it in my garden I will be walking around it regularly. I found this fun ornamental rain chain which may work, or I will place some potted flowers at the corners so that I have to take a wide path around the coop. I hope this will work because it has the potential to be seriously dangerous. The glove is there to remind me while I'm working.
I worked, mostly alone, on this coop nearly every day all spring. On the days when I needed help and didn't have it I worked on pretty things, like painting or installing trim, or constructing a door.
I just kept moving forward - one step at a time. Some days it has felt like it will never be done, and some days after working at it for 9 hours I've looked back and wondered what the heck I have to show for it.
I'm eternally grateful that I have not been in a hurry to purchase chickens. I've thought about it but I'm so glad that I was not building a brooder, learning about caring for chicks and building a good sized coop under intense pressure at the same time! If need be I'd be okay to wait until next spring - but I'm hoping not to have to
As of yesterday this is where I'm at. It is June 14 so nearly 2 months since starting. I have done 90% of the work by myself - something to be proud of I think. I need two pieces of strapping so that I can install some 1x6 boards to predator proof the front top edge and then the roof will go on this weekend. I need to cut and install trim around the monitor windows and top corners while waiting for my hardware cloth to arrive to finish up the windows and the last three run panels. I have yet to add dig proofing wire around the edges of the run but that may happen today if the rain stays away. This weekend DH will be finishing up the installation of some electricity so I can heat water this winter and add light should I wish and then my poop board and roost can go in and I can install my door and starting thinking about becoming a chicken owner!
I'll post the final pictures then.
Thanks for reading....
June 25, 2019 Update:
Still waiting on my roll of hardware cloth, most frustrating since now the garden center just down the road has it and I don't know if I can cancel my original order....arghh!
The coop is wired with one receptacle and a simple pull string lamp. DH is very mechanical but hates electricity so I'm pretty proud of him for getting that done for me.
The metal roof went up last Sunday. It was a pretty easy installation but I am ordering a deeper peak cap because the 1 3/4" one I have didn't look right.
The poop board is also built and installed, along with the roost bar. After reading the study posted here by @Howard E about roost design I've gone sort of middle of the road, a 2x3 laid on it's side with edges routered slightly round. Since I could not find the Blackjack product so often recommended on BYC I found a rubberized paint made here in Canada that I used for the bottom 10" of the coop and for my roost and poop board, along with a scrap of the floor linoleum.
The anti-dig perimeter wiring is mostly in and my pretty door finally went on. I also added some black mulch around the building and replanted some daylilies that I had to pull out when construction started. Whew - just about there...
July 7, 2019 Update:
One of the things I was struggling with was how to predator proof my shed windows. They are sash style windows with screens on the inside - meant to keep bugs, not coyotes, out. The problem I was having was that I did not want to cover my nice looking exterior trims with sort of ugly hardware cloth, the easiest and most obvious solution. I finally came up with the idea to create hinged inner window frames of hardware cloth, secured with eye hooks. My first attempt, with some leftover cedar that we had did not go so well so I almost abandoned this idea but I tried again with some 1 x 2 spruce that I joined using metal angle brackets. The HC also helped with the rigidity. Some face frame style cabinet hinges and a few eye hooks (surprisingly challenging to get right!) to secure them and I think they will work just fine.
I can open them from the inside, open or close my windows and then secure them back up without having to worry that I've forgotten to close the screen windows.