Our Chicken Coop

Hello, friends! We finished our coop months ago, but I finally got around to organizing the pictures! Since the Backyard Chicken website images informed the way in which we built our coop so much, I wanted to be sure to come back and say THANK YOU and also share the results.

I wrote more about what keeping chickens means to me and my family on my blog (http://www.srilalita.com/2011/11/07/building-a-chicken-coop/ or it might be easier to go to
Open Ayurveda and search?) I also plugged BYC and there are other pictures there, too. So check that out, but I wanted to give a bit more for you chicken enthusiasts...

We did not use plans. We looked at a lot of pictures on BYC, read the posts and then just sketched some stuff out. We spent a million hours hammering out what made sense for our space sitting around the kitchen table late nights. And then a few more hundred hours hemming and hawing at the hardware store. Design was important for us. It had to be aesthetically pleasing, easy to clean, easy to catch them if one got sick (minimal ducking for the humans) and we wanted to maximize space for the birds so they would be less prone to fight.
This medium-sized coop houses 8 birds currently and measures 4ft x 6ft and the run is another 7ft out...so that is 6ft x 11ft total. Plenty of room and we let them run underneath to get a little extra. It turned out really good because it means they get afternoon sun underneath the coop in the summer. Also, since the coop is elevated, it eases cleaning for us.

We used redwood where we could (found some warped stuff for cheaper at the hardware store) and some existing old fenceposts. We were basically working with the idea that since we want to eat these eggs, we don't want anything pressure-treated or chemical-laden near them or that they could peck at or which could disintegrate into their dirt bath/scratching fun area.

Though, we did use T-111 and I don't really know about that stuff. Seems like it must be made with glue. When my husband attached the T-111 to the frame, he used a strip of some weather-damaging-prevention stuff. It was like tape and he folded it around the corners under the T-111. We intend to later cover the corners with redwood (which you don't need to treat and doesn't rot as quickly) on the edges of the coop and around the window (which we picked up at Urban Ore, a place that stockpiles used doors, windows, doorknobs, etc.).

Having a good coop is all about design, design, design. It's nice when cleaning and gathering eggs is easy. So, with that in mind, we put cheap linoleum to ease scraping the s**t out on the inside. We made a wide door, positioned it right next to our compost heap, and also left the right amount of space between the coop and the garden boxes so we could drive the wheelbarrow right under the door. The human door on the other side also fits a wheelbarrow and we positioned the chicken entrance/exit into the run farther toward the back (as you enter from the human-sized door).
The nesting box is accessed from the outside so we can send our son out by himself to check for eggs without having him track chicken s**t all over the house.

We spent a lot of time researching racoon prevention. We saw recommendations about digging several feet down to lay the rat wire (RAT WIRE, not chicken wire. but you already knew that, right?). Anyway, that just seemed too labor-intensive. We saw recommendations about laying a "skirt" of rat wire covered with a few inches of dirt that you could still plant grass on, but that also seemed like a huge pain. We ended up digging down about 6-10 inches and extending the rat wire down that far, then lining the little "ditch" with large chuncks of concrete and other big rocks (our neighbor was removing his side porch with a jackhammer that summer and had a big pile). The idea is that if you are a 'coon intent on eating our birds some night, you'll have to dig through big rocks and then, unless you go deep enough, you'll hit a wire. We have lots of racoons, but have not had a problem.

We chose breeds with high yields and docility (Golden Sex Link, Black Sex Link, Rhode Island Red, Golden-Laced Wyandotte, Australorpe, Buff Orpington, and Americaunas–the kind with the green and blue eggs). We raised them from day-old cuties who would take naps in our hands and grew so fast you could see the difference from hour to hour to awkward teenagers with patchy feathers, funny long necks and knobby knees (not really about the knees) to fine, shiny laying pullets (ok, not so shiny on a rainy day).

We feed them our food waste and cooking scraps–including meat and bones–and trimmings from the garden, so the organic chicken feed is only there if they really need it. This diet equals awesome eggs and happy birds who don’t fight. (Just like us humans, really.) In fact, we can’t stand to see waste from people’s plates and have been known to bring home “chicken bags” from restaurants. In fact, just the other night, the birds ate a mismatched assortment of burrito ends, nacho chips, plate garnish and an eclectic variety of fresh salsas from the taqueria. I wish we could get scraps from the whole block. It would save us on organic feed.

Speaking of diet, when they were chicks, we did not fall for the hype and give them the medicated feed. I get why people do it, but it is crazy to have antibiotics fed to healthy birds in my opinion. Our chicks survived. Maybe we got lucky, but I know I wouldn't take antibiotics unless I was sick, so why would I feed them to my chics? Especially while their little bodies and GI tracts are forming. Admittedly, I have no idea whether they depend upon healthy gut flora like humans do for digestion, but still, they are natural creatures and must have some kind of symbiotic relationship with the viruses and bacteria that is part of having a body in this world. Keep them clean. Check thier butts. Don't feed them drugs. Just my two cents. No disrespect if you don't agree.
I had no idea that my selfish desire for cheap eggs that are actually good would put me solidly in the middle of the food rights movement.
I sure am glad.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me through my website (listed above) or here, though I never really check here unless I have a dire chicken emergency to work out!
(P.S. Thanks to Somie, RA, Shankarfor helping out and keeping us company. And Pat for the advice. Oh, and the meatball sandwiches from the place down the street.)