Well, after a couple months of work I finally got the coop "Chicken Ready" and moved the chicks in a couple days ago. It turned into a much bigger project than I had anticipated when deciding to build rather than buy a kit. This was the first thing I had built anywhere near this complicated, learned a lot along the way and had to do some things twice but I think it turned out pretty good for a first timer.
I spent a lot of time looking at other coops and took a little from here and there like most folks, changed what I liked to work with where I wanted to coop and the size I needed. Big thanks to all the people that took the time to post their coops and how they pieced everything together, I had pretty much zero carpentry experience but my Grandpa was a general contractor so I hoped I inherited at least some of those carpentry genes!
I decided first thing to build bigger than I thought I needed in anticipation of future flock size. Right now I have 10 chicks, 3 are bantams. One of the bantams turned out to be a rooster who's just found out he can crow and likes to show off his newfound talent so I'm going to make sure the neighbors get some fresh eggs when the girls start laying.
After building an outside "playpen" and bigger brooder for the chicks and realizing maybe I could actually attempt a coop I set out to draw some plans. I kept the pencil eraser companies in business for the next several years erasing and re-drawing the pages for several hours. As you can see, they ended up only vaguely resembling the end product. Gone are the four doors on the back as I realized how tricky doors actually are to get aligned correctly, I used two doors instead and glad I did. Other things just didn't work out when it actually came time to incorporate them.
Front of coop
Basic dimensions (as they ended up) are as follows:
Coop is 10' long x 4' wide and 6' tall at the front, 5 1/2' tall at the back. It's elevated 2' off the ground with run space underneath.
The run is 14' long (not counting under the coop) x 4' wide and 8' tall at the front, 7 1/2' tall at the back.
Base in place and leveled, 4x4 posts and 2x4,s stained. The front posts are cedar and the back are pressure treated. They're sitting on small pavers to keep them off the ground a bit. In hindsight, I wish I'd buried the posts but the coop is so heavy it would take a tornado to move it.
3/4" treated plywood coop floor on and painted with 2 coats of exterior latex paint/primer for easier cleaning.
1/2" hardware cloth on coop base and aproned out from the base. It's open on one end (right end) since it will join up with the run when that goes on.
Cleanout doors on the back of the base swing up and are latched at both ends. I laid hardware cloth out and stapled it down under the doors as well.
Working on the coop frame. Here's where my first (of many) error occurred... In the plans I drew up, the base was to be 2" high and the coop itself 4' tall at the front and 3 1/2' tall at the back for a total height of 6' at the front and 5 1/2'. Not thinking I framed the walls to be 6' high at the front and 5 1/2 feet tall at the back. Hmmmm... it took me a couple days to realize my error when I started running low on lumber way too early! Basic lesson learned early on, stop and think about what you're doing from time to time.
Framing up on the base. Had to borrow my Nephew for a few hours to help lift the frames and hold them while I screwed them together and to the base. I had no clue what framing was supposed to be, just put 2x4's where it looked like they were needed except I knew the dimensions of the windows so framed them out. It was then I realized I'd bought pretty small windows to fit that supposed to be 4' tall wall in front and they now looked mighty tiny in that 6' wall. Time to order bigger windows for the front and use one of the small ones on the left end instead. Another thing to do twice to get it right. I had lots of those moments.
3/4" treated plywood going on the walls, nest box framed out. I decided to go with a front opening nest box to make sure it was watertight. I liked the design that Hawkeye95 used HERE and tried to use the same basic idea.
Walls about done, door spaces cut out and windows in. Installed the windows backwards so they can be opened/closed from outside. Roof rafters in place with hurricane straps, although we don't get many hurricanes around St. Louis.
Cedar fence boards going on for siding. Mental note, cedar fence boards vary widely in actual width straightness,and thickness. I decided to call it "rustic" when the alignment didn't quite fit up. Plan on using clamps to squeeze them into submission.
Nest box dividers in place, I put a 1x1 across the bottom on the inside opening that can be lifted out for cleaning the boxes to keep nesting material from flying too far astray. Another note, it was around this time piecing in the cedar siding that I realized how important a carpenters square and level were. Of course they would have been important during the wall framing phase when I made the assumption that because the 2x4's fit together OK they were basically square and level. This turned out to be a really lousy assumption as I found out when measuring around the doors and window openings as well as the corners of the coop. I also found out that the garage floor is a poor choice for laying out boards if it turns out to not be at all level. Please, if you decide to build a coop, use a square and level from the beginning!!
Chicks in their outside "playpen" wondering what all the noise is about...
Roof is on after 2 more trips to the hardware big box store and lots of help from my step brother. I used the green corrugated plastic stuff on top of 1/2" treated plywood for the coop rood and 3" lathe boards over 2x4's on the run roof Run framing also going up that day, used 4 treated 2x8's for the bottom and top with 2 4x4 posts on the end and a lot of treated 2x4's in between. Roof extends about 6 feet over the run to keep the food and chickens dry.
Cedar siding about done on the coop. nest box door on, starting to look like a chicken coop by this time.
Run boards stained with lots of help from my mom, nieces, and nephew. That's a lot of boards to stain. 100+ feet of 1/2' hardware cloth on the run walls secured with many, many 3/4" lathe screws. 1" heavy duty hardware cloth on the top of the run for the end not already covered with a roof. Hardware cloth is aproned out all around and tacked down with 6" landscape staples. Corners are reinforced with hog rings where needed, I don't think a mouse could squeeze in from anywhere around. I put a few inches of all purpose gravel down on the run floor outside the part covered by the coop. Coop doors going on slowly but surely. Wishing I wanted less doors by this point. Doors are a pain if you have no idea how to build a proper door like me.
All sealed up, cleanout doors (2 bigger doors instead of the double sets of smaller ones I'd planned originally) installed on the back of the coop. end door done as well. Glad I was done with doors until I realized I had to build a human door for the end of the run too.
Human door hung on the end of the run. NOW i was done with doors! Time to order some sand for the run and coop floor and start on the interior of the coop.
Wiring done with much assistance from my Dad, there's a covered light and GFI outlet inside the coop, another outlet outside on the front, and a light at the end of the run. I made two "poop trays" and hung a lift out 1x1 frame that sits on "L" brackets with 1" hardware cloth a couple inches over them to keep the chickens from getting into them. The trays lift out for the occasional deep cleaning. It took me a couple tries to get it set up like I wanted, way more complicated that I thought it would be.
There's two roost levels, one at the same height as the poop trays that sit on "L" hooks so they can be lifted out if I need to climb in and one higher up. both are made from 1x3's. The roosts are in front of the two cleanout doors with a gap between the two so there's actually 4 roosts, two high and two lower although they're all higher than the nest box. The upper roosts are about even with the tops of the windows. I put a couple boards joining the 2 sides of each roost and hope they dont roost on the boards and miss the poop trays. May have to re-visit that decision and just let them hop over if they want to move to the other side. The trays have a few inches of sweet PDZ in them for easy cleanup with a kitty litter scoop. I Insulated the ceiling and walls with the bubble wrap solar insulation, easy to work with and the chicks won't eat it, no room for vermin to nest in it. I was originally just going to do the ceiling but decided with the electric stapler and how easy the stuff was to use I'd do the walls too. Another trip to the store for more insulation.
I built a ladder system for the chicks to get to the upper roosts, they learned to use it pretty quickly and were up top the first night in. It took me some deep thinking how I was going to put that in and where so as not to block anything. I ended up using 2 hook and eyes on the lower ladder so it's easy to remove from the end door and doesn't get in the way of removing the poop boards. The floor of the coop is covered with a few inches of fine sand for easy cleanup and some insulation when it gets cold..
Outside and inside pretty much done at his point, I boxed in under the roof edges but left the middle three 24" openings on the front just covered with hardware cloth for ventilation. The smaller thing to the left in this picture is their outside "playpen that they were kept in during the day, happy to not have to haul; them from their brooder in the garage every morning and back at dusk cause at this point the chicks are in their new coop!
Back of coop with the two cleanout doors and the cedar trim pretty much finished on the corners and under the eaves.
Sand was delivered and I put about 6" of sand on the run floor, first putting down some heavy landscaping cloth between the gravel and sand to keep the sand from washing out in heavy rain. The part of the run under the coop was left bare dirt for the chickens to dust in and they really enjoy that!. I hung some roosts in the run using a couple branches off an apple tree that died this year along with a bench to sit on. Only used one 2x4 for the bench to hopefully keep the chickens from doing their business on the seat... The automatic chicken door is installed, just need to train the chicks that they should be going inside the coop at dusk before the door closes. If they decide to enjoy the nice weather and camp under the stars in the run I guess it's not a big deal as long as the run doors are closed up, I don't see anything breaking into the run as we don't have bears or mountain lions in the neighborhood and it's sealed pretty tight for anything smaller.
Another view of the run with the end light installed and the girls having a good time stretching out.
I used a 7 gallon bucket painted black to keep anything from growing in it and some PVC with 3 saddle nipples for their outside water, there's a galvanized waterer with heated base inside the coop behind the front door for winter.
This was certainly a big learning experience for me, in the end I'm glad I took the plunge and went with building rather than buying a kit. Lot's of satisfaction seeing something come together and watching the progress along the way.
A few things I learned the hard way to sum it up:
1. Don't think just because you've never built anything you can't do it. Ask questions, look at other coops, and go for it. You'll be glad you did in the end.
2. Lumber and hardware ain't cheap. Plan on spending more than you think unless you go the recycled route.
3. Plan 10 steps ahead. It seems like every board you put in place affects something else down the line. If you don't think about what you're doing, you may end up doing it twice. I know I did.
4. Plan on getting to know the cashiers at the hardware store, their kids names and birthdays by the time you're done. I bet I made 4 trips a week minimum, in a couple cases twice in the same afternoon. Make a list and don't leave it sitting on the workbench when you leave,
5. Decide ahead of time what finish you want before buying door hardware, etc. I now have a pile of hinges, barrel bolts, clasps, etc. in stainless and zinc coated because I later decided black looked better with the cedar.
I'm sure there's many more lessons learned, I may add to the list as they come to me.
Again, thanks to everyone before me that posted their coops for the chance to learn from the mistakes and successes from their experiences.
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