We recently decided to keep a few chickens so we had to build a coop. We originally had 3 girls but one turned out to be a rooster, so for now, we have just 2 princesses in the palace.
The finished coop.
I'm a stay-at-home mum who has never really built anything before. I was nervous to start a build with only the vaguest of ideas of what I was doing, but I just did each thing step by step so it wouldn't be overwhelming. I did sketch out a basic design on graph paper (total old school) and used highschool trig to figure out the angle of the roof peak (HOA rules required a low-profile) before I started and although it took quite a bit of elbow grease it really wasn't hard to do.
Original old school sketch of what I had in mind.
I made quite a few changes as I worked on the coop.
- decided to make the coop 8' long instead of 10'
- ditched the cupola in favour of the soffits and roofing vent
- moved the people door to the very end of the coop
- placed the pop door in the middle of the wall and ditched the window in order to accommodate the automatic chicken door
I did a LOT of research on BYC, specifically for small coops, watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to build a frame or install roofing vents (or whatever I didn't know how to do), borrowed a lot of equipment etc from neighbourhood friends, and gratefully received any donations like roofing tile to help offset costs. I also found quite a few materials at our local Re-Store which helped keep costs down. All in the whole thing took about 3 weeks to build, working on and off and around school schedules, and cost around $600, but that includes the $200 automatic chicken door. Truly, I would really encourage anyone who is kinda nervous to start a coop project to just jump in and do it! It was fun, I feel totally accomplished, and am really really pleased with how well it turned out.
The coop is 4'x4' above a 4'x8'x4.5' run with an external 13"x24" nesting box. We do not have fences so the girls never free range but seem very happy living in their coop. We specifically targeted quiet, docile breeds that do well in confinement and it seems to be working out well so far. With electricity in the coop (really, just a power strip and an extension cord) I was able to install an automatic chicken door on a timer to let them out in the morning and shut them up tight at night. It is wonderful! I also made a 5 gallon waterer with horizontal nipples and a PVC tube feeder. Chickens are completely automatic from day-to-day allowing us to go away for long weekends without needing a chicken-sitter to come daily to care for them. When we go away for any longer than a weekend I do have someone come by regularly to clean them up, collect the eggs, and check in on them. The hardest part was moving the incredibly heavy coop from inside the garage to out in the garden. In the end I bought 2 furniture moving sliders from Harbor Freight, laid left over MDF from the garage to the final location in the garden, and with the help of DH we pushed it into position. I hope I don't have to move it anywhere again.
Moving in day! Chickens are about 5wks old.
First night on their roost. (L-R Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Sophia)
You can see the automatic chicken door behind the buff orpington, and the electric cord that runs to the extension. Their removable roost is 2"x4" (wide side up) and runs the width of the coop right across where the double doors open for easy cleaning, about 4' in length. They all like to bunch up over this far side though.
Chickens at 18 weeks old - Elizabeth, the buff, started crowing this day and had to be rehomed. Sigh.
You can see the extra perch I installed for them to sit upon through the day, and the 'chicken enrichment' treat cage in the background I fill with treats. I did make a ladder for them which they used when they were very small but they outgrew it quickly and I put it away. They just hop right up on the perch, hop in through the pop door, and hop up on the roost with no trouble. Gives them a little exercise too.
I use PDZ on the floor of the coop and a 1:4 PDZ/sand mix in the floor of the run. It makes cleanup soooo easy! I generally clean them out each day with a quick scoop, both in the coop and the run, but have let things go as long as 4 days without any smell or problem. I also lined the coop floor and nesting boxes with leftover linoleum for easy cleanup, painted inside and out with same outdoor paint we used on our house trim, and I use carabiners on all the door latches to lock. All windows and sides are covered with 1/2" hardware cloth with a 2' apron all the way around. Working windows on all 4 sides of the coop plus soffits and roofing vents provide plenty of ventilation and can be closed partially or completely in the winter months.
I'm a little sad the girls don't have easy access to green grass or dirt to dig in and so Phase II plans are to build a day tractor so that they can go on outings in our garden from time to time. I might also put rain gutters on to redirect the rainfall away from the edge of the run as I don't like the way the mud splashes up on the white paint and it would be nice to use that collected water on the plants around the coop. Am also considering putting pavers around the front of the coop as the grass isn't growing well where I walk.
What would I do differently?
Honestly, I am really really happy with this sweet little coop. It is doing all that I am asking of it and keeping chickens has been a breeze. I would have loved to have been able to stand inside the coop but HOA regulations required a low-profile coop so I had to keep it under 4.5'. There is only 18" clearance between the run and the coop which makes it a little tricky to get underneath to rake but it is doable. I am toying with the idea of raising the whole coop up on cinder blocks (or the like) to give a little more (secret) clearance but not sure of the aesthetics. Hmmmm. Also, kinda toying with the idea of building a roll-out nesting box. Hmmmm.
I had plans to make a little run going around the big tree behind the coop but the neighbours aren't too keen. A day tractor might solve the lack of grass problem. Hmmmm.