Here is my first attempt at designing and building a chicken coop. It was originally for 5 or 6 hens but should handle up to 8 comfortably. I wasn't sure what I wanted when I started because I have never had chickens before. We live in a country neighborhood on almost 3 acres, so I knew that I wanted the hens to free range during the day. However there are lots of dogs in our neighborhood so I wanted to make sure they had someplace safe to roost at night. Here is the finished coop / tractor.
My original design goals were as follows:
[* ]Use as much existing wood material that I already had.
[* ]Make it light and portable and easy to move by myself, yet secure from predators.
[* ]Build it to last and weather resistant.
[* ]Make it easy to clean, and easy to feed and water.
[* ]Lots of ventilation for our hot summers (95 - 105 in July & August) yet be able to close it up in the winter (we had 2 solid weeks below 17 degrees a few years ago.)
So I decided to make a small coop with wheels on one end and handles on the other so that I could wheel barrow it around the yard. The overall dimensions are 3' wide, 6' high (including the legs), and 8' long (including the handles and nest boxes), but the actual coop is only 3'x4'x5'. I bought a few 2x4's and ripped them into 2x2's for the frame, but was able to use some 7/16" O.S.B. sheeting and 1x4" cedar boards (for trim) that I had laying around. I went ahead and primed and painted all the interior framing and sheeting so that I could hose it out and not worry about it rotting. I also wanted to use a wire mesh floor so that the litter would drop through. And I put in two access doors for care and cleaning. I painted everything with two coats of paint and put a nice new (and expensive) metal roof on to match.
Some other cool features are the front (plexi-glass) windows. They are hinged at the bottom and have a latch and an adjustable chain catch on top so that they can be opened for ventilation without opening enough to let the chickens out. I latter added some 1/2" wire mesh to the insides of the windows to keep the chickens in and predators out when the windows are all the way open in the summer time. I used a clamp style heat lamp for our first winter. This year I installed a hard wired double yard light socket on a switch and timer on the inside above the pop door.
Things I learn from this build or would do differently next time:
[* ]The wire mesh floor is great, but 1/2" is too small for mature sized chicken poop, I should have used 1" wire mesh instead.
[* ]The metal roof is excellent, I only wish I had used it on the nest box roof as well because the current piece of painted O.S.B. is swollen and rotted.
[* ]I should have made the legs out of 2x4" as I had to add lots of bracing to support the wheels. I also should have painted or stained them and the handles as they are getting weathered.
[* ]I would incorporate the handles into the frame rather than as separate rungs bellow the frame. I think the intention was to put a pull out litter tray in-between there during winter, but I found that straw deep liter on the wire mesh floor works great and keeps the coop draft free on cold winter nights.
[* ]The frame is way too complex for a chicken coop. I used pocket screws on the blind joints and angled the roof joists, etc. I should have just over-layed the vertical frame on to the handles and top rails and called it good.
[* ]I would not use O.S.B. in the future. 1/4" to 3/8" plywood would be much better and lighter. I had to replace my pop-door because it swelled so much in winter that I could not open or close it, I should have known better and left more play in the slider.
[* ]The door on the back allows better access to the whole coop and makes the side door rather useless, but I added the back door as an after thought late in the build thinking that the side door would be necessary if the coop was backed up against a wall or something.
- I originally used stair handle rail (flat side up) for roosting bar and closet pole brackets to mount them. What a waist of time and money. Just use some 2x2's.
The chickens seem happy enough in it. The nest boxes work great and its not to hard to clean out or too heavy to wheel around. All and all not a bad little coop tractor for a small flock of backyard chickens.