My husband and I were very excited when we finally made the decision to keep backyard chickens this spring. We live down the road from a poultry farm and get to hear the roosters crow every day so the thought of having our own small flock didn't make sense to us when we first moved in. I don't think either one of us could have been more wrong. Our three girls have brought us so much happiness and joy in the past 4 months. It has been wonderful watching them in the yard and learning all about chickens and educating others. We picked up our chicks in early May. We got a barred rock, a black sex link and an ameraucana. They were pretty happy living with us for the first 6 weeks, and then we realized we had better get started on that coop!
We really tried to start the coop before they got too big, but it was more fruitful getting to know them and build a coop that we really thought they would like. The coop is located in the an area of the back yard right off the patio, we are in a suburban neighborhood on Long Island and have a quarter acre of property. The overall coop size is 9' w x 4' d
Thanks to this website (wichita cabin coop specifically for all the detailed instructions!) for all the help and support. We started with pouring a concrete curb on a beautiful June day.
Notice that we ran the 1/2" hardware cloth right under where the concrete curb is about to be poured- we wanted a very predator proof coop!
The concrete curb measures 6" w x 6" h all around. We sunk the j bolts right into the concrete to have a very sturdy foundation to attach the framing to.
The girls watched with great interest in their nearby chicken tractor as we built them their coop!
First pieces of the frame work go up and the roof that we constructed while it was on the ground and then lifted it into place. We had to use a lot of cross bracing at this stage that you will see we later removed as it was a little unstable. We did a 1' overhang on all four sides for the roof. (roof 11' w x 6' 1" d) This would allow for weather protection and look nice too!
Here you can see the framing is now starting to get its beautiful slate grey color. We went with the color scheme that our house will have one day. On the right hand side is the elevated coop that is 3' w x 4' d the area on the left and under the coop will serve as their run.
We used standard 2 x 4 framing lumber for the overall coop and went with a barn siding for the enclosed area. This allowed us to have a nice detail but not have gaps where we would have to be concerned in the winter (anyone else remember those polar vortexes??!) I also tried to paint as many of the pieces after they were cut but before they were assembled. Painting once assembled is VERY difficult. You see that the inside of the siding is a bright sunny yellow. I went with this color to keep the girls cheery on the darkest of days and had two gallons of it left over in the basement from a bedroom project gone wrong!
Here you can see the assembly of the coop area and a cut out for a window and the nesting boxes.
More of the framing complete and the 1/2" hardware cloth starts to get hung. We used an air stapler and then capped it off with a 1" x 4" for added security.
The roof was done with traditional asphalt shingles donated by our neighbor who only asked for a dozen eggs in return! I am starting to like this barter system! We trimmed it out with aluminum drip edge to give it a nice finished look all the way around.
Coop is almost finished, the girls are almost 10 weeks old and they need to move out! We cut a nice vertical window on the front of the coop for ventilation and so they could see out and we could see in.
Move in day! Trimmed out the window with a 1" x 2" painted in an eye catching lime green.
The girls approve!
After the girls were confined to the coop for a week (since we wanted them to know where home was) we finished off the run, they got a beautiful racing orange door and the run was filled with sand.
We did a traditional hinged pop door which I open every morning for them and they come racing down the ladder to see what the treat du jour is. You can see we hung the food and water on the underside of the coop using electrical bridle hooks which is working very well. I only wish I could get the girls to eat the slugs that also find their food quite tasty in the overnight!
Coop complete! Here is a side view where you can see the window (which will have an acrylic framed insert also in the lime green once the weather gets cooler) the nesting boxes have a corrugated metal roof on a hinge for easy access to the eggs once the girls start laying.
We placed several large pieces of slate around the front of the coop so things wouldn't get muddy if it rains and when we go to see the girls and collect the eggs. This also was another predator proofing method. We also landscaped with some chicken friendly plants, so far the girls have left them be, now if I could only get them to eat the weeds around the yard and leave the hostas alone.
Look who is finally all grown up! 16 weeks and counting... now if we only got some eggs!
Overall the project was a lot of fun to do, and we really enjoyed the nuances of a finished carpentry project. The girls really seem to love it and so do we. There are a few things that you learn along the way so I thought I would pass them along to anyone that hasn't started building their coop yet.
- We used sand in the run and coop as I was tired of the messy shavings that we had in the brooder box. Every morning I quickly scoop out the coop and run and place in a near by compost can that gets added into our large compost bin. This has been working well.
- We worked off of dimensions that worked for our yard and the amount of chicks we had gotten. In hindsight we probably should have figured in some of the dimensions of building materials and taken that into consideration. For example the roof was a 1' overhang all around which made the dimensions 11' x 6' 1" which doesn't not figure into the standard 4' x 8' sheet of plywood nicely.
- Pouring a curb was great, it was a little more work up front but allowed for a secure, level base that we could build a strong coop on.
- We still have yet to run electrical and water out to the coop, filling the water by hose hasn't been a problem in the summer, but the snow will come soon enough. I also think there needs to be general lighting because it will also be dark before and after we go to work, so that will be a challenge as well.
- The nesting boxes were kept closed with hardware cloth until the girls were 16 weeks. They always roost and put themselves to bed at night. I have set up a nest box liner and the fake eggs (shh don't tell them that!) for encouragement on where to lay when that day comes.
- I painted all of the surfaces and have a scrub brush that I use to clean should things get messy- all in all the girls are a lot cleaner than I originally gave them credit for.
- I hung a suet container on the hardware cloth and every morning along with their chick feed (we will be starting layer feed at 18 weeks) they get a healthy veggie snack that keeps them interested and occupied.
- I probably want to do some sort of a roost in the run as they are in there all day and spend evenings and weekends free ranging.
- Just as an FYI, our roof pitch was 3:12. That's 3 inches up for every 12 inches out. This translated to 14 degree miter cut for a lot of the wood.
- All of the exterior doors (the run, the coop and nesting boxes are all kept closed with a keyed masterlock. It may be overkill but it makes me sleep at night. The interior pop door is secured at night with a barrel bolt. All of the hardware including the exposed screws that we used were galvanized. Again, a little more cost up front for a longer life in the end.
- Hinge selection is very important. You do not want a typical swaged hinge as you would find on an interior door. A swaged hinge bends in after the knuckle. As such, you cannot surface mount these and have the hinge sit flat. What you need is an unswaged hinge. These are commonly referred to as patio/screen door hinges. Each hinge is rated for 45 pounds, they may look small but they can hold a lot of weight. Additionally we recommend utilizing 2.5" screws to secure the hinges all the way back to the 2 x 4 framing.