We bought 18 chicks from the local feed store at the end of April. I built a 4 x 4 x 2' high brooder out of Advantech (very good particle board), complete with heat lamp (38 dollars a month extra to run), and kept them in the house for my two-year-old to amuse herself with. I figured I'd be done with a coop by the end of June at the latest. By the time July rolled around and the coop no more than four , 8 X 8' walls with not much sheathing, we had to do something so we moved the brooder out of the house into our quonset. I built a little roost into the inside back of the brooder. For the last few month they perched on the makeshift roof and every night I would go out at dark and put each one inside and close the roof. In the end, I just let them stay where they were and shut the canvas door and took my chances.
My third and current career is carpentry so I kind of had an idea for a coop in my head as I read as many posts on this site as I could in preparation. Originally I had in mind a roof modeled after a Scandinavian stave church but significantly scaled back my plans as finances and work reared their ugly heads.
I had never built in board-and-batten fashion and wanted to give it a try and had some fun with it. The boards are 1 X 10, gapped 1/4" and the battens are 1 X 2 1/4", screwed into the gap between boards.
I made five outside nest boxes partitions out of 1/2" Advantech and sheathed the whole mess with the same boards and battens used on the main house-and hinged the door on the bottom so that there is no need to worry about latching it in place while eggs are collected. Poop catcher pulls out of a door hinged on the inside; also made of 1/2" Advantech, fitted with 1/2 X 3/4 runners which slide on a track built up on the floor (also Advantech). The roost is 8 ' long on two levels but since only the upper one is being used so I'm going to make it more substantial and get rid of the first level. *(9/18 update) Given that the poop catcher cuts down significantly on my floor space, especially in the winter time when indoor space becomes more problematic, I'm going to elevate it and move it closer under the roost; the roost will also be extended beyond the existing 8 feet to at least 12 feet, partially above the nest boxes. 18 birds are fighting for space currently and the losers end up on the bottom roost where they sulk the night away.
The two red rolls you see on the outside of the coop are actually sawmill belts and they lap up under the sheathing above the first pieces of what will be a continuous roof which provides shade in the summer and a snow block in the winter. Windows are real glass, 14 X 16, with hardware cloth stapled on the inside. Ventilation is above the entry door; additionally, both entry door and poop chute door are fitted with hardware cloth. Eventually I will fit both gable ends with vents.
The coop is admittedly, overkill in terms of space (especially headroom) and to a lesser extent materials (I am sure there is more than $1000 in it by now) and could have been more easily constructed with a simple 6' shed roof and plywood throughout (which could have been finished with shingles later on) ; I do however like having 64 ft2 for our current flock and find myself wishing I had gone 10 X 10 or 8 X 12. Certainly anything you put on the floor area immediately cuts into the hens ability to get away from each other and I will be moving my feed can out of the coop at some point to give them more range of movement. I also wish I had elevated the exit doors (theirs and mine) a bit more than the current plate thickness (1 1/2") to about 3". Pine shavings easily spill outside currently and the nest boxes could also benefit from a bit more of a lip on their entranceways.
People here don't seem to be too concerned about insulating in cold climates so all I did was staple plastic on the studs to keep the stud bays from collecting a lot of dust and crap. Flies are bad but that's only because I'm still figuring out what to do with the crap on the poop board.
The run is a hodgepodge of 4 and 6' wire, 500 ft2. They have already flown over the 4' portion so I bought a roll of 3 X 50' and added it to the short side. *(update) I recently discovered they've been using the ramp entrance to launch themselves over the run door but as soon as the shelter roof is completed on that side of the coop that problem will disappear; currently there is just one bird doing it, an exceptionally agile Americauna...We free-ranged them for several months and ended up with a yard full of crap and more flies than we could count. Therefore, while we really want to give them as much freedom as possible we are not about to let them go berserk again*; we will extend the run as time and finances permit. We also plan to do meat birds at least once a year so the new run will provide for that.
*Update 10/21 We've gone back to letting our birds free-range in the afternoons when one of us is home.
**Update 11/21 I've concluded that a (dedicated) poop board is vital to keep bedding clean but unless your coop is very hard to get inside and muck out, it makes no sense to make it removable...it certainly was NOT worth creating a side door which allows me to slide the board out for cleaning; this is easily accomplished with a dustpan (and plastic tub) in about 5 minutes. Again, if you have a tiny coop which you're not able to easily enter physically, a removable board makes sense.
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