In April (2011) my wife said she wanted some pet chickens. So I ordered some and set off to design our coop and run. But the last time I encountered chickens (not on a plate) was in the grandparents chicken house some 30 years ago. And I don't recall being particularly fond of them. So I did what I do best, planning and research!
I came to this site and others and digested everything I could reading thousands of posts and viewing even more pictures. Learned how much space they should have, pros and cons of bedding, runs, and protection from predators. I had several criteria to satisfy with the design of the house:
1. It has to fit within the black rubber spot you see in this picture (I really didn't want a monolith in the yard):
2. It has to hold four hens. Our HOA in Highlands Ranch, CO, requires that we only have four hens. This is good because it means I don't have to build a giant structure. Since I've never built a house, barn or anything else, maybe it will be easier.
3. The structure has to follow guidelines and be approved by our "architectural review committee":
- The structure must be of similar construction to our residence.
- It must be set back from the property line at least 2 feet.
- Fencing (run) should follow the guidelines for materials and construction for a dog kennel. Which is cedar wood material.
- The height can be no more than 7 feet.
- At least 50% of the structure must be screened from view by neighbors.
This is the back of our house, the coop will have to look similar.
I used Google Sketchup and Photoshop and designed this, submitted it to the committee and they approved the design.
- The house is 5 feet by 4 feet and 4 feet tall at the peak
- The house is raised 18" off the ground and supported by the run
- The nestbox is hinged on top and includes two storage areas on both ends. The nesting box is 12" x 24"
- The run is 10 feet long, 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall
- The run is fully enclosed, top, bottom and all sides with 19 gauge hardware cloth
- The side door of the run is used to enter the run and to let chickens out for some backyard ranging
- The top door of the run is used so we can enter the run
- Blueberry bushes will be used for screening
Fourth Week of June
Our chickens arrived the fourth week in June. They got here on Thursday after being shipped on Monday. By Saturday, June 26, all four chicks had died. But we found a local breeder that day and my wife went to pick up 2 australorps and 2 mix breeds (compact and flighty). Don't know the mix, but they sure are pretty. If you live near Denver, check out Hudson Poultry. They were two weeks old and here is the girls on their first day in our brooder.
So now we have two week olds, which means I've just lost 2 weeks of build time on the coop and run. The following monday we went and got the lumber and most of the supplies. And started on their house.
First and Second Weeks in July
Nest box and storage cubes are to the left. Main people door in center. Window and pop door to the right. Rafters are just sitting on frame. I need to be able to get the house through the gate to the backyard so the rafters will be attached onsite.
July 3rd, and the girls are now three weeks old and I think they doubled in size since last week. Time to get moving on their house!
The first week in July the rain came! Work slowed to just what could be done when the rain stopped for awhile. And I began working on making some doors and the window while it rained. Here we set on the 9th of July.
At four weeks old, the girls are looking like they need some outside time.
Third Week in July (10th thru 16th)
Sheathing and roofing done.
Wrapped the walls with felt.
Insulated walls and ceiling.
Sealing the fiberglass bats in the ceiling so the girls (or I) don't have to breathe the stuff.
And installed the roof vent.
While I worked on the house, the weather turned warm to hot and it was time for the girls to go out and play! So they started spending their days in this pen. The first morning after their first all day outing, they were chirping loudly in their brooder at daybreak wanting to go play.
The little "diggers" sure love the mulch.
And here they sit at 5 Weeks old after a long day of playing in their pen.
Third Week in July (17th thru 23rd)
Now we pick up the speed. And the girls get to play outside every day!
Installed a piano hinge for the nestbox lid.
Cut the soffit vents.
Sided, Trimmed, Installed Doors and Window, and Painted.
Installed Soffit Vent Covers.
Tiled the floor, Painted the Interior and Installed the two roosting board holders.
Installed Ceiling Vent Covers...
and the Roosting boards.
Finally, the run was framed and the top door (used when we want to enter run) hinged.
And on the 23rd, instead of having to return to the little brooder, the now 6 week old chicks finally got to spend a night in their home.
Sunday, July 24
Nearly completed the hardware cloth installation but still have the top door to do in the morning. Then we need to get some sand/gravel mix for the run and some blueberry bushes for screening.
Installed the side gate hinges and latch.
Laid some weed block to keep the clay soil from mixing with the sand and gravel.
Then cut and installed the hardware cloth with screws and washers and a few poultry staples on the floor.
And, one piece to go!
Monday, July 25
We pretty much completed (as much as a structure such as this can be) everything today. Attached the remaining piece of hardware cloth to the top gate.
Then we filled the run with pea gravel.
And dumped several mountains of sand on top of that.
Spread it all around but didn't mix it too well. Figured it would give the girls something to do. And I'll no doubt be turning it and mixing it regularly with cleanings. Also added some play things and the log they've been growing up with as a ramp. It's a little too steep but we'll fix that in a minute.
Then I opened the pop door to see if anyone would come out and test out the new yard. Only the "queen" chick was brave enough to venture out at first.
She hopped out, spent about 2 minutes walking around the perimeter and then went back inside. And for about 2 more hours they stayed in the house.
So, I changed some things in the coop. Added a perch, moved the log and positioned the perch so its like a gangplank in front of the door. Added an outside waterer and about 2 hours later they all came out to check out the new digs.
My wife brought out diced tomatoes for evening treat and they pretty much played in the run until dusk. At which point they all headed through the pop door into the house and up on the roosting boards. But as they were leaving I heard them saying, "Cheap", "Cheap", "Cheap". I called them ungrateful spoiled brats and informed them they could be dinner someday if they aren't good little girls.
The worst part of this project was making the doors, the window and the casings, and then having to plane the doors after painting them and the house. The lesson there, I guess, is to always shim the casings with the doors/windows (or substitute) in the frame. The second worst part (but only barely) was all of the snipping, trimming, and attaching the hardware cloth. And even with work gloves when handling it, still managed to get scraped up on legs and fingers.
Things left to Do
- Install weatherstripping on doors, window, and nestbox lid.
- Install Gutters.
- Install small awning over pop door to keep rain out.
- Make and install snow panels.
- Plant Blueberry bushes