(Converted chicken coop from swing set playhouse.)
My wife and I tried our hand at chickens about 3 years ago. We loved having them, but we made some mistakes in our setup that ended in the termination of our chicken ownership. We mixed aggressive and passive breeds, had a big coop that was built by a rookie, and our run was in a damp area that bred mosquitos. Our poor girls were featherless on their butts from brutal attacks from the other chickens establishing dominance. They would go to sleep at night and get eaten alive by mosquitos since they had no feathers to protect them. In addition, I built the first coop with a chicken cloth bottom to "make cleaning easier". So, Craigslist helped me offload the chickens and the coop in about 2 hours! Ever since, we've missed having them.
We believe in repurposing whatever God gives us. "If it can be used for something else don't throw it out," is one of our mottos. For about a year and a half we've been watching the price of eggs go up and talking about our girls and how we would do it differently next time. Little did I know that my big opportunity was rotting in my backyard!
After Hurricane Katrina, I bought a 2 decker, wooden swing-set with a slide and playhouse on top. Lately, the kids have been telling me how the boards are bowing and they feel like they're going to break. The bottom deck was starting to rot and the boards on top were probably at the end of life. I decided to take it down, but noticed that the playhouse on top was still in great condition.
(The playhouse before I dismantled it. I took it down on July 27th, 2013.)
I was looking at the playhouse through my living room window one day and BOOM! "That's the new chicken coop!" I then recruited one of the boys to help me separate the playhouse from the rest of the unit so we could inspect it. It was a go!
Below is a list of our requirements for part 2. It's very dorky, but necessary to make sure we make the coop we want this time. The underlined requirements are our lessons learned from coop #1.
To get farm fresh eggs by creating a healthy, mostly bug free environment (inside the coop) for 6-9 chickens that will also fertilize our raised garden beds.
- Coop will have a chicken door.
- Coop will have a human door to run.
- Coop will have a human access door to coop.
- All doors should have latches.
- Chicken door should have a critter-proof latch.
- External nesting boxes with doors.
- 2-3 nesting boxes.
- Access will not require entering coop.
- Easy to clean floor.
- Chickens should not be able to poop into nest boxes from perches.
- Should be able to feed without entering coop/run.
- Watering can be done through human door.
- Water needs to be hidden from sunlight.
- External access to feeder to feed table scraps.
- Can be moved by no more than 3 people.
- Should be able to fit 6-9 chickens.
- Minimal obstructions inside coop.
- Floor must be removable for cleaning and easy access to inside of coop for maintenance.
- Floor must support sand/shavings.
- Perches must be above nesting boxes
- Enough room for 6-9 birds to perch.
- Open spaces protected with chicken cloth and screen where possible.
I must admit, as time went on, I wanted to deviate from the original plan by cutting corners and making "good enough" modifications to it. However, I kept getting pulled away from this project by football, cheerleading, band practice, etc. and I had a lot of time to think about it.
- At least 2 windows that can be closed/covered during winter.
- Windows must be protected with chicken cloth and mesh screen.
- Wind blockers can be added to windows during really cold nights.
- Coop should be elevated from ground.
The rest of the blog post will be a chronological series of pictures with details in the captions. If you have any questions please email me. I could not have made this coop without all the blog posts and advice I read from backyard chicken forums and such.
This is what I originally had in mind. Some of the new coop looks like this, but I
changed to a permanent coop instead of a chicken tractor.
The playhouse after it was removed from the rest of the swingset.
I removed all the boards, screws and bolts from the swing set to see what I could .
I was quite surprised to see that the hardware was still in great shape. About
60% of the wood was still usable.
Notice the 4 main posts are now taller than the originals. I removed these posts
from the main deck of the swing set and replaced the shorter ones on the playhouse.
The additional height was about 18 inches.
I removed the railing and found it made a perfect chicken ladder/ramp to get the
girls into the coop. Also, now you can see my first shot at an "egg access" door
on the right side of the coop. I got impatient and made this instead of sticking to
the plan. I would later rebuild this door.
The "human door" after I cut it out. I decided where to cut, popped a line and went
at it with a circular saw.
My son helping me build the external nest boxes. It helps so much to have someone
out there to grab drills, screws, etc. Plus, doing this is way better than XBOX!
The external nest boxes after the outer structure was done. That's my daughter
hiding behind the door with her cleats on!
Here is an inside view of the 3 nest boxes. We plan to get only 6 chickens, but
want to have enough boxes for 9.
I wasn't sure how to build the external nest boxes so I seached online. My Garden Coop has a great website with directions on how to build the boxes. It was very easy and I feel it is the most water resistant out of all the ones I saw. The coop is airy because of the slatted walls, but my goal was to keep the nest boxes as dry as possible.
Egg door opened. I had to put a small piece of wood on the bottom to help keep
the bedding material in place. It's not attached.
Green, oil based enamel getting slapped on!
My 6 year old son doing his part in the painting. He did a great job!
I installed some brackets to rest the perch on. I wanted to be able to remove the
perch and clean the "fun" off of it. You can also see the other perch thingy I built.
I"m not sold on this, but I think it will suffice as long as I screw it to the wall. We're
planning on getting Buff Orpingtons and they weigh 6-8lbs.
This is the installed flooring. I used 12 inch strips of 5/8 plywood so I can remove
them easier for cleaning.
I bought some cheap peel and stick vinyl tiles from Home Depot and fitted them in.
This looks really nice now. I'm trying to enjoy how pretty the coop is before I stick
the chickens in it. It's amazing how completely nasty they can make a coop. I've
actually seen one poop sideways!
One of the final pieces of the coop is attaching sleds to the legs. I needed to move the coop about 70 ft to the area where the run will be. I was able to pull it with the lawn tractor, with the additional help from my oldest sons. I still can't believe this plan actually worked!
Transporting to "Chickenville"
All in all, I spent less than $50 for this transformation. Between the hardware that was on the playhouse already, and materials I had on hand, this really was a fully sustainable project.
Here is a link to the dimensions of the playhouse without the roof: