Welcome to Da Coop. We're from Minnesota (Me-ne-SOOO-tah!) so we say it da cOOOOp. We talk funny and we're proud of it!
When we first started thinking about building a coop, I found a lot of places that were dead-ends, that were appearing to offer help, but not really doing it. This Backyardchickens.com website was a treasure trove of useful coop-building information!
My DH & FIL both have experience with building/construction (FIL is a retired engineer, who used to own chickens himself), so basically all I had to do is show them a "detailed" picture of what I wanted the coop to look like, and they make it happen. Much of what they did for the structural "planning" (stud spacing and placement, board measurements, etc) was done on scraps of lumber as they went along. But I will try to show as much of that as possible (or pictures), in the chronological order that the work was done, so that anyone wanting to incorporate elements of this coop into theirs, can. I have been assured that, with the spacing of the studs and general "over-engineering" of the structure, I should now consider this to be our own personal storm and/or bomb shelter, and should plan to go here in case of an emergency.
The first thing I did was call our local City Hall to find out what kind of structure I could build. Our coop is 10 ft x 12 ft x 8 ft (not including the upper roof part), the maximum sized structure we could build without a permit. Based on research, and the suggested 2-4 square foot per chicken for inside the coop, I planned that my maximum number of happy chickens would be about 30, so this was my target for other details, such as roost space, nest boxes, etc.
Pretty much our entire property is on a gentle to not-so-gentle slope, so we (being my DH & FIL) decided to put the coop on a concrete pad, so the coop won’t end up surfing if we get a lot of rain, or during the spring melt. This will also protect against potential predators and make cleaning easier.
This was the full plan that I gave them. It includes the 18' x 15' + 6' x 10' run(s) You don't want to know how many revisions it took to get to this final one. Or the look on my DH's face when I changed the nest boxes from an inside "shelf" to the outside covered one you see here, after construction had already started. (Before any walls went up, but after the concrete was done) I have been sworn to NO MORE CHANGES. Lol.
This is a picture of the coop, so you can see the layout and dimensions better. For scale, each little bitty square is equal to 2". The larger 6x6 squares are one foot. Windows and other openings are indicated along with walls in blue. The roosts are actually just a solid tray along the long wall, not sections. And we hung two lamps over the roost, not 4.
Here you see 2 of our kids helping my DH mark off the entire area, indicating where the corners of the run and the corners of the coop structure will go. Most sources I found suggested 3-6 square feet per chicken for the outside run, and we used that as a preliminary guideline. You will want to make sure the corners are square, so you don’t end up with wonky corners to deal with later on. It was helpful to be able to actually go down and walk in the area once it was all marked off with stakes. We ended up enlarging the run once I saw how big (er, small) the space really was.
After we marked it off, the frame was built for the concrete base. This picture shows it only partially done. The wood went all the way down to the ground. Dirt was piled in, tamped down, watered, tamped down some more, rained on, tamped down again, then sand was added & tamped down, and finally a 3" channel was carefully dug around the entire inner wall. This saved on concrete, but still gave us a solid concrete wrap, so the dirt wouldn't wash away. Be sure to back fill the area that was dug up after the frame is removed.
We rented a concrete mixer and poured the concrete in 2 separate trips. It was a 3-4 person job and if you have friends who have experience with concrete, this would be a great time to offer them a free meal and beer (AFTER the concrete is poured!!). Because concrete will always crack at some point, due to temperature extremes, particularly where it meets if poured at different times, the line where it meets was purposely located under the wall in the coop that divides the storage area and the rest of the coop. For the 10x12 pad, we used 1 sq yard for each pour. This was perfect for the larger section, and had some left over from the 2nd, smaller section.
The bolts that hold the soul plate (the piece of lumber that is secured to the foundation) were put in place before the concrete hardened. All walls will be attached to these pieces of lumber. I believe they need to be green treated, to prevent wood rot? Bolts were placed about 2" from the edge of the concrete. Note: make sure they are all the same distance in, and that they are all upright (not tipped) as this will definitely affect the ease with which the wood goes down!
Then the frame went up. They used regular 2x4 construction lumber, with the exception of the two taller posts that lead to the roof point. I believe those are 4x4x12. The plywood wasn't added until after the walls went up so that the walls could be trued and the structure perfectly squared.
This is what the wall looked like for the back of the coop. I am standing at the front looking in. The long, narrow area you see framed in under the windows will be where the nest box goes. Rather than cut that open right away, the guys are working on getting other more essential parts done and will come back to this in the finishing phase. Ditto for the clean-out door that will be located on the bottom left. Space for the nest box opening is 100"w x 14"h. Clean-out door is 23"h x 18"w. The inner dividing wall (giving me a storage area) is not up yet. That will come later, along with the nest boxes. (We're in a race against winter, and hoping to get the structure sealed up and roofed, as well as the run done before the ground freezes... inside stuff can be done after.) It's not a drawn-out labeled blueprint, but this should give anyone wanting to try to use this as plans for their coop the ability to see what the stud spacing and wall construction looks like. Note the thicker beams above and below the nest box, designed to support the jutting out, heavy weight. Walls were all covered with standard exterior plywood. (Worthwhile note: Make sure your wood is dry and FLAT when you purchase it, or it will warp once it's on the walls.)
This is the right side wall. You can see the main supporting beam in the center. Just a tip: The walls were built layed flat and then raised and put in place. Have your windows handy, label them with painters tape and be sure to try each window in it's space BEFORE putting the wall up. It's much easier to fix when it's all right at your feet and not over your head. Someone with a strong attention to detail will notice that in the picture, this wall appears to have 2 windows. I will save you from the entire story, but the short version is that we had an extra window, and so it went in that open space, above what is now the brooder area. (above the window you see on the ground)
This is the left side wall. Originally, the pop door was supposed to go under the window, but it was soon discovered (AFTER building the wall, much to my DH's "joy") that that wouldn't work, due to the poop boards that extend over the space where the guillotine door mechanism was supposed to be located. So... as noted in the photo (and thankfully before any holes were cut in the siding or exterior walls!!) a support beam was added over the top of the location of the pop-door, with a 2x4 support beam added on either side to distribute the weight of the roof (indicated by the arrows) on the 2 beams that were cut. It's a good thing my DH and FIL know what they're doing... and that they are so very patient!
This is the front of the coop from the inside, left and right of the door, respectively. I couldn't get both in a single frame. The windows were supposed to be 24"h x 36"w, but there was a slight misunderstanding as to what wide and high meant and they were going to be put in the wrong way. Then it was determined that it might not be possible to get the less expensive utility windows in the tall size vs the wide size. Currently, they are still in our garage and at some later point, we will either put in 24"w x 36"h or 36"w x 36"h, depending on what size we can find. Fortunately, as you can see, they are sized for either!
Here is are images of the rafters and the main roof top support beam (can't remember what that's called) But I do know it was 4" x 4" x 14" & green treated. Not sure what the spacing was, but there were 11 of them all total, including the ones on the end. They trimmed the ends and added the fascia before adding the roof panels. There is a 12" over-hang. The beams are still visible from the underside. To get all of those rafters perfectly cut, they cut two and adjusted them til they were just right and met up at the top without any gaps. Then they used those as templates, tracing the cuts onto all the other rafters.
Roof has been papered and partly shingled. No action shots here. I can’t watch when my guys are up that high!!
Once we got the main structure built and the roof covered, we needed to shift gears for a bit, to try to beat the unpredictable (but inevitable) Minnesota winter that was quickly approaching. Work on the enclosed run started. (If the ground froze, we’d be unable to work on the run until spring)
Post holes were marked with stakes, according to measurements. We used a post-hole attachment on my DH’s tractor, but if one doesn’t have a tractor with this attachment, post-hole diggers are pretty easy to rent and use a local rental shop. Sure makes the work a lot faster. Once the holes were dug, the posts were placed and set in concrete. We used pre-packaged “post-hole concrete” – literally, pour some water in the hole, dump the bag in, pour some more water in (bag tells you how much) then give it a little stir with a stick, hold it for a minute while it starts to set, then you’re done. We used 8ft green-treated 4x4 posts.
A little prep and fore-thought goes a long way for this part. Some tips for run posts:
* Call your electric company to make sure you are safe to dig!!
* Double-check your post measurements before you dig the post holes.
* Mark all your posts 2 feet from the bottom. Use these marks to line up with the dirt line, so your posts are all the same height.
* Start with the corner posts, then do the posts in between the corners, to prevent an uneven run. We use mason line (string) to make sure all the posts were in a straight line.
* Once the concrete sets, those posts are stuck. Make sure everything is upright (use a level!) and facing the right direction before letting the concrete set. Consider using mason line again, to make sure you don’t need to rotate the post a bit
* Post holes are supposed to be bigger than the posts. Make sure the post is positioned in the right spot by measuring one last time, so you don’t end up with a mis-shapen polygon instead of a square or rectangle!
Setting the posts for the door to the run was a two-person job. First, one post was set, leaving ample room for the rest of the door and other post to go in. A frame was made for the door to the run, and it was attached to the 1st post. After measuring the distance needed between the posts, the second post hole was dug, (the post hole was wide enough to allow for some wiggle room), and the 2nd post was attached. One person needed to hold the whole thing up while the other person mixed the concrete, to prevent the entire thing from leaning and creating gaps in the door, or preventing it from closing properly. We used a level to make sure it set up perfectly straight. Concrete was poured into the space under the door, to help maintain support of the beams holding the doors up. That took 3 bags of post hole cement, for anyone who might be wanting to know.
Once the posts were in place, we dug a trench in between them, about a foot down, and about 6-8 inches wide. This was so that when the metal fabric was hung, we could have it extend below the fence line and curve OUT away from the run, to help prevent any predators from digging in to get the girls. Many other chicken owners recommended doing 2 feet down and a full foot out. But, having helped with the digging, I can attest to the fact that our particular soil is mostly rocks with a little bit of clay on top, and even the tractor struggled to get through it. If we have issues, we will come back with more metal fabric, but I really, really don’t think we’re going to… Any coyote, fox or raccoon that can get through this without losing its paws would have to be super-natural. Oh, yes. It really is that bad. (Over a year later, we have yet to have a “break in”…knock on wood!)
Using the ground-level guide at the bottom of the post as a guide, we measured 3 feet up from that and made a mark on each post. This kept our metal fabric at an equal height around the entire perimeter of the run. We used regular fencing staples to attach the fabric to the posts, as it will be sandwiched between two sheets of wood for extra stability and to help prevent any random pokes or snags from the edges of the metal.
The fabric was attached directly to the plywood facing of the coop, so that it was directly in line with the fence post. It was then covered with the corners of the siding for added stability and coverage.
Boards were cut to length and attached along the top of the fencing to provide stability and support. Frames were added along the top to provide stability for the covering. We will be starting out with mesh bird netting, but if it doesn’t work well, we might need something heavier or sturdier. More on that later!
Next came the trim on the sides, around the windows, the clean-out opening, the pop-door and the people-door. Once those were in place, the first board of siding was put up. We used tongue and groove siding.
Every single row or piece of siding that went up, was verified level before getting nailed into place.
A small piece cut from one of the ends, was used as a tap, to prevent damaging the tongue of the siding when being hammered into place. Each row was nailed into place at about 9-12 inches apart.
The siding goes up pretty quickly. Which was a good thing, because I really wanted to get this thing painted before snow started falling. As my luck would have it, after one of the driest summers in history, as soon as the siding went up, we had a string of rainy days. So I had to wait for a couple of sunny days that were followed by days good for painting.
Now, I had already had some experience with painting our little all-in-one coop. I went to our local do-it-yourself store and bought a good, high-quality exterior paint (as suggested by the guy at the counter) that I had tinted. I also bought the suggested oil-based mighty-expensive covers-everything primer to use under it. It stayed in the garage until I was done painting it, so the wood was nice and dry, and the primer could soak in. It took 5 (!!!) coats to get adequate color coverage. It was a good thing it was so tiny.
So for our big coop, I opted to try a different route. I bought a less-expensive self-priming latex paint from Fleet Farm that came pre-mixed in “Barn Red”. To make the primer, the instructions say to add one cup of water to a gallon of paint. I have to say, the coverage was impressive. Three coats and it was done. It seems to have wintered well. I don’t see any chipping or peeling. And it cost a whole lot less. Oh, and for anyone trying to recreate this coop, 2 gallons of the red was plenty. I also got a gallon of the white for the trim. That took 3 coats for good color coverage, too. (In the picture above, the front has 2 coats, the side has 3)
Back to the roof… For optimal ventilation, we decided to use two 4” vents on top of the roof. These use wind to turn the turbines and pull the damp air out of the coop. (And where we are, there is no shortage of wind!) This keeps the air moving and exchanging, without causing drafts on the birds. And, as much as I like functionality, I am also a sucker for “cute”. The cupola and rooster-shaped weathervane fit that description! These spinner vents have been absolutely fantastic for helping to keep the coop cooler in the hot summer and free of ammonia smell or moisture in the winter. Love them!!
My plans included some electrical needs, so the first step in finishing the inside is getting things wired. One of the things we needed to consider was a plug-in for the heated waterer during the winter months, as well as a place for the automatic pop-door, if we ever got one. If you know someone who knows how to do electrical work, that’s great. But don’t trust something as potentially dangerous as electricity to just anyone!!
I wanted lighting for when I was in the coop for cleaning, as well as a dim night light on a timer for the evenings. For the bulb in the storage area, I opted for an LED bulb. They cost more than a fluorescent bulb, but they are a great energy-efficient bulb that doesn’t take an hour to turn on in the winter, and doesn’t require a haz-mat crew to replace. For the tiny night light, I used a tiny 7-watt bulb that has a regular lamp base. It’s not intended to keep the girls producing eggs all winter long, but provides just enough light to see by in the middle of the night for all year use.
Then the inner walls went up. We had left-over insulation from another project, so used that to insulate the walls. We used ply wood to cover the insulation and inner walls. Then the storage area was framed in.
I forgot to get a picture when we did this step, so will have to settle for one from a later time stamp. We decided to use a wooden screen door on a closet track, so it slides to open. The door is about 6” up, and mounted to the storage side wall, to help keep the wood chips where they belong and out of the door track. I wasn’t sure I would, but I love the sliding door. If you plan to use this option, make sure you measure your shelf ahead of time so you can accommodate the shelf and the sliding door in the plans. Fortunately, we had our shelf ahead of time, so I was able to measure it and make sure the space was the right size.
Right about this time, winter arrived in full force. The snow wasn’t so bad… My gals had been staying in the little coop, and going out in the run. I put tarps down to keep snow off, and shoveled an area clear for them to be outside in. But then the temps took a huge dive, deep into the negative numbers, (actual temps, wind chill even colder) and were expected to last at least a couple weeks with the daytime highs not even going near zero, let alone above it. My resolve to “finish” the big coop before moving them in completely melted. We made a small roost/next box and hung a heating lamp over it. Even with all of this, the temps hovered just at zero inside the coop during the daytime. As soon as the temps were high enough that the coop stayed at or above zero overnight, I turned the lamps off again.
Once the big freeze was over, the pop door was cut out from the inside, based on where it has been framed in. The opening is about 2-4 inches above the bottom floor level, to accommodate the pine shavings. We used a guillotine style set-up, with a pull-cord on a pulley. Works well. I don’t mind going down to open or shut the door. I like to get a chance to check everyone out in the morning, and make sure everyone is ok before going down and closing the coop up for the night. We wired for it, but I am not at all sure that I want an automated door opener at this point!
In order to make cleaning the coop easier, we built in a clean-out door. The clean-out opening had already been framed in, so a hole was just sawed right through the plywood, following the framing, and a cover on a hinge was created. The cover consisted of the outer layer, which has hasps on the sides that lock on the outside. But under the cover is a “plug” that fits snugly into the opening, to help keep out drafts and critters. It goes all the way down to the concrete, so I can just push it right out of the coop, into the run. However, because of its location just under the nest boxes, I don’t have a place to hook it to, to prop open from outside. So I just place a length of wood under it to prop it open. Sigh… Hindsight is always 20/20. But it works well, and makes coop-cleanout much, much easier. I just use the wood and hay from the coop in the run. It slowly decomposes in the elements and becomes more dirt. I’ve been pretty impressed. Even on hot humid days after a rain, there is very little smell. And it's like Chicken Christmas every time I do it, because the chickens all love to dig in the "new" covering outside. I just make piles. They spread it around for me!
Despite the cold weather, work continued in the garage. In my research, I found that it was recommended to have one nest box for every two to four hens. I was shooting for about 20-30 hens, so we built a nest area to accommodate 8 boxes. I wanted liners in the nest boxes, so I could easily clean them out or even replace them if needed. I bought kitty litter boxes ahead of time, and used those to determine the dimensions.
Next boxes were made in two sections of 4 each. This shows how each of the dividers has a slot to rest in. They were taken out, then secured once the box was secure in the coop. The other shot is what they looked like from the side. You can see the 6” walkway that sticks out, for the girls to walk along once they are up there. (Measurements for the base of this will vary, based on the size of "box" you use, but add about 8" of extra space to accommodate the box, the walkway and the back panel) The top part of the slant extended 7" above the opening.
The hole was cut from the inside. Girls were more curious than scared, and full of suggestions, that they would tell the guys as they worked. Space for the nest box opening is 100"w x 14"h.
The nest box slid into the opening and was secured on the bottom, along the wall frame. Definitely a two-person job. In fact, three wouldn’t be a bad idea. The second picture shows the seam of the two boxes together. A dvider will go in that slot, hiding the seam. The roof will be in one long piece, so there shouldn’t be any leaks.
Then the dividers were put in place. And the ends were anchored to the coop with L brackets. And the outside back piece was put into place and secured with screws
I moved the temporary roost/next box that they had been using over to the new ones to help with the transition. I took the old nest boxes out and put them into the nest box slots. Not even an hour later, we had a happy customer. Just as a note, it isn’t shown, but it’s a good idea to secure a piece of wood along the back of each section to hold the back end of the nest box liner down when they get in, so they don’t flip up and knock everything, including the hen, out. The nest boxes are 18” off the ground. The girls can hop right up to them, but we did add a ramp for them to walk on.
I slowly replaced the old boxes over several days, and then put up curtains for privacy once the girls knew where to go. They are cute, but I also heard that they help prevent egg picking. I haven’t had any problems with that yet, so maybe there’s something to it?! We took a vote on what fabric to use for the curtains. The girls won, so we have light pink stripes and flowers. The roos weren’t sure this was a fair vote, but they were quickly reminded that they are not the ones who have to use the nest boxes. ((wink!))
The roof of the nest boxes was constructed as one long piece. We used left-over shingles from the roof to cover it. It is attached to the side of the coop using a piano hinge. It is enormous and very, very heavy. This is one thing that might be on our “re-do” list when we get the coop all done. In all fairness, I did tell the guys that I wanted it in one long piece. (I was trying to avoid any leaking where the seam was, and didn’t want the awkwardness of having to try to open one side up so the other side with an extra flap of wood to cover the gap, could be laid into place on the bottom/first) So they warned me and then built what I asked for! I wasn’t sure that I liked the idea of a pull-down back panel (was worried about rain or snow-melt leaking), so this seemed like the better option. I will say that I haven’t had to latch it. It would take a bear to lift it.
The girls continued using the old, small roost while the new one was being built. This is what 3 days of poop looks like from just 4 hens. Insane. Luckily, I heard about poop boards and have become a huge fan of them. I think you will too. In case you haven’t heard about the poop board page, here it is. ( https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/621363/poop-board-convert-warning-graphic-gross-poop-pictures) At my last reading, this was the general gist of what I gleaned from it:
* Sides of the poop board should be about 3-4” high.
* Line poop boards with approx 2-3 inches of Sweet PDZ. Some people use the powder version. I am using granules and am very happy with it, and don’t find it to be too dusty.
* Roosts should be approx 8-10 inches above the top of the collecting litter.
* You can add DE to it, but you don’t need to. People who tried straight DE said it was too dusty. Someone also noted that they might try to cover the entire floor of their coop with it. That wasn’t recommended, as it was too dusty for such a large space (and expensive, at approx $10-15 for a 40# bag)
* Another similar product is Stall Dry (but not exactly the same, it’s made from something different, according to the “ingredients list”) Tractor Supply carries Sweet PDZ. Fleet Farm carries Stall Dry.
* Sweet PDZ is not toxic to your birds if they eat it or dust-bathe in it.
* Placing your roosts 8-10 inches above the boards will help to prevent eating and dust-bathing in it. Roosts should be approx 10-12 inches from the wall, and about 3-4 inches back from the outer edge of the board.
Here’s how it works: Your birds roost on the roosts. When they poop, it goes in to the Sweet PDZ. The Sweet PDZ dries it out and helps prevent it from getting stinky. It also prevents it from even touching the board under the roost, which means the ammonia doesn’t soak in and you have a cleaner smelling coop. You scoop out the poop daily (or even every couple days) with a kitty litter sifter scoop. I put it right into an old kitty litter pail with a lid. Smell stays down, you have fewer flies… Even in the summer. I could hug the gal that came up with this!! A year later, I still have very little odor. I didn’t quite get my front-most roost far enough back so we now have some splats on the edge. But I am still a huge fan of this way of keeping the coop clean!
For our roosts, I used the guidelines from the poop board section above. I chose to have two rows of same-height roosts to help tone down or prevent any pecking order issues. We used 2x4s set with the wide side up, so the girls can nestle their feet into their feathers when the weather gets cold. They are approximately 36” inches high, at the bottom of the trays. The roosts themselves add another 8” in height. You can see the nest boxes right under the roosts and poop boards
Due to limited space in this direction (and to prevent blocking the clean-out door), the ramp was made into sections. I had to help the girls a couple times with getting up to the roosts, but they figured it out soon enough. I have one stubborn hen who will sometimes try to sleep on the platform, but everyone else is happy to use it to get up to the regular roosting area. My lighter, flightier Ameraucanas prefer to just fly up to roost.
I had a plastic shelf in our garage that I wanted to repurpose to use in the coop. So I had the guys make this room wide enough to accommodate the shelf and the sliding screen door, with just a little extra room. Everything fits just perfectly. Thanks to Pinterest ideas, I have a shelf full of cutely decorated recycled plastic jugs to use for my chicken needs. (Grit, calcium, etc) I have a place to store an old dog crate to use as a quarantine area or isolated recovery room for anyone who can’t be in with everyone else. I had to raise the shelf up on wooden legs to fit my feed and scratch cans under it, but it’s a useful little area. I also have plastic bins with emergency supplies in it.
A rack just behind the door holds other necessities up and out of the way.
We put cinder blocks around the run to help make the edge a little more finished, to provide an extra level of critter-proofing, and a little extra shade. I filled the holes with dirt, marigold and sunflower plants. So far, even with daily free-range time, the flowers haven’t been decimated. This fall, I had a nice harvest of organic sunflower seeds to give as treats.
The run was too large to try to cover it with wood-framed sections of metal fabric. But being in a rural setting, near a river and a lake, we have a lot of eagles, hawks, owls and vultures in the area. Our neighbor has already lost a couple chickens to hawks, owls or eagles, so I wanted to make sure we had something over the run. We opted to use avian netting, which was a lot less expensive and I had heard a lot of people used. So far we haven’t had any issues with it.We used one huge “sheet”. It took 3 of us on ladders to get it up on the sides and then pulled over the run. It hung up on every little thing. We draped it down the sides, and wrapped it under a board, then sandwiched it between another board on the other side. This also sandwiched the upper edge of the metal fabric.
To keep it from sagging in the middle, we mounted metal rings onto the wall of the coop in two places, and strung wire across the run in two “fan-like” patterns. A number of the wire lines crossed. The ends of the wire were twisted onto what I call O screws. (Like a cup hook, but they make a full circle, and they screw in) I used zip ties to attach the netting to the wires. I left them with the extra hanging down so it gives the netting a little more visibility, hopefully deterring any would-be flyer from even considering an attack from above. The nice thing is that if a section becomes worn, we can toss another layer over. This won’t prevent a raccoon from climbing up and over the run at night, so we lock our flock in at bedtime. But it should provide protection during the day from flying predators. You would want to evaluate your own location and coop set-up before using this method, I think.
This picture shows both the ring and wires in the middle of the coop, as well as the motorized fan we installed over the summer. It helped suck warm air out of the coop on those still summer nights. It plugged right into an outlet on the ceiling inside and is located in the center of the north-facing wall, just above the roosts. The nice thing about this sort of fan is that it has the vent flaps that fall down and block rain, or snow and wind when it's not in use. Inside the it fits flush with the wall, so we can just put a wooden "patch" over it to help insulate the coop in the winter.
The windows still just had the regular screen over them, so before we could leave them open, we needed to get them covered with ½” metal fabric. We cut it to size and secured it using washers and lath screws (with the wider head).
My goal was to have a self-sustained flock, allowing hens to go broody and raise a clutch or two of eggs each year. I built a wall and door frame and used ½” wire mesh to create a sectioned off brooder area that could be doubled as an isolation pen. Another pop door was added, along with a smaller enclosed pen outside. Once Mama has rejoined the rest of the flock, a small 5x5 opening in the screen door allows the chicks access to the safe area, and keeps the older chickens out of their food and water. Nuts, bolts and washers will attach a metal fabric patch in place when we need the door solid again. We were able to give it a trial run when one of our older gals went broody. If space allows, I highly recommend adding this feature to your coop! I have been amazed at the differences in the chicks raised by a hen vs shipped day-old chicks. My broody hen is a very friendly gal, so I am still able to handle and tame them. Such a joy!
One of the final finishing touches was to put up the fascia to cover up the rafters and support beams in the roof to prevent bees, wasps, or other critters from getting up there. We just used regular fascia for a house. By this time, my DH felt like he had put in enough work that it warranted a nice finished look. We also finally replaced the tarp over the covered area with corrugated steel.
To help keep boredom at bay, I added a few things to keep the flock happy and busy. One was a “roosting structure”, which was just a 4x4 sunk into the ground with 2x4 “branches” mounted on closet brackets. My older hens don’t go up there much, but my younger and flightier ones love it, especially if the ground is wet or snow-covered. I added several upright logs for them to perch on.
I also enclosed a patch of grass in a frame using 1x6 boards placed the wide way up, and covered it with metal fabric. I added a brick support in the middle to hold up the mesh, as the chickens walk on it to eat the grass. I used non-chemically treated sod. However, you could also just seed the area and let it grow. As the grass grows up, they pick it off. Mine are up there picking away, daily. It’s a great alternative to free-ranging, when I can’t be home to supervise. I found that once the grass was well established, it grows with little fuss.
We now have a nice mixed flock of about 29, including 3 roosters and 13 chicks. The babies voices are just starting to change from peeps to clucks and they are almost completely feathered out. We are all having so much fun watching them grow and all their antics. About all I have left to do is to whitewash the inside walls. But winter is upon us again, and I think I will have to wait until spring for that job!
As much as I love my coop, and am so grateful for the work my entire family has put into humoring me in my new favorite hobby, there are definitely things I would do differently, if I had it to plan and do over. Or things I might hit the hubby up for, after he's recovered from this project... which might be a while.
1. Bigger Run. I would start with making the run bigger. It seemed like it would be big enough, but once you have 30 chickens in there, I feel like it's a little crowded. I think about 10-15 feet bigger in either (or both?!) direction(s) would be much roomier and give the lower pecking order chickens more room to be happy.
2. Better Shade. I would make the run face a different direction, or make it "wrap around" the coop. Right now, if you look at the picture with the door and big windows, that faces south. Which is great for providing extra sun/warmth in the winter. However, the shaded part of the run to the left, faces the setting sun. In the summer, the chickens have no where to escape the sun and heat. During the day, when the sun is in the southern sky, they can hide behind the coop (north side). But when the afternoon comes and the sun shines directly into the run from the west, there is no where to go. By extending the run further right, it would give them access to shade on the right (east) of the coop. Another option would be to add a corrugated steel shade along the north wall.
3. Taller run. I would have just started with a taller run. Being 5'3'', I figured a 6' run would be plenty tall. But the door is taller than that, requiring the little "added" section on top. Because our run is on a slope, as the door to the run opens, it bumps on the netting. It isn't bumping/dragging because the netting is sagging, it's just... not tall enough. I would make the whole thing at least a foot taller than the top of the door. Lol... in the mean time, I get sprinkled every time I open the door and there is any moisture on the mesh.
4. Boards along bottom of run. Having boards along the bottom of the run, right at ground level, would keep the wire mesh from buckling or bending. It would also make it much easier to secure plastic wrap over the run for winterizing.
5. Deeper-set poop boards. As noted in the poop board section, I was about 2" short in the space set-back from the edge, resulting in splats down the front...
6. Clean-out door location. As noted in the clean-out door section, it doesn't have a way to be held up or locked open when cleaning. Putting it on the wall next to the pop-door would allow it to be flipped and held open.
7. Larger storage area. We were restricted in our coop size based on local ordinances. So adding a couple feet in either direction wasn't an option. And I wanted the chickens to have plenty of coop space, so I kept the storage space as compact as possible. But having the ability to store extra bags of feed, pine shavings, Sweet PDZ, extra waterers that can't be used during the winter, and that sort of thing, would be so nice. For now, I have an area in our basement that I just keep all that in.
8. Water access. During the summer, I run a lead-free hose down to the coop, to use to clean and fill the waterers, right at the coop. In the winter, I have to lug jugs of water down to the coop. Thanks to our hill, I have, on multiple occasions, accomplished this by accidental skiing, as opposed to walking, which is neither pretty nor fun. (I have been told it's entertaining to watch, though). However, this little wrinkle is not so easily ironed out, due to frost lines and freezing. And the fact that our jobs and home are here, where this weather is. So... I guess I'll just have to deal with this one.
Our flock has proven to be better than TV at our house.
When it's too quiet in the house, I know where I can find my kids or hubby - outside, hanging with the chickens or watching some Chicken TV!
Thanks for looking! And good luck with your chicken-raising adventures!
If you have any questions about measurements or dimensions, feel free to ask! I will answer to the best of my ability.
Wanted to give an updated report on the plastic mesh bird netting over the run and how it is doing over the winter, with the snow and ice. My thought for this type of run cover was that if I could go out and knock off anything that was clinging to it before it stuck, we'd be in good shape. Typical MN - expect the unexpected. We got snow, freezing rain, sleet, more snow, more freezing rain all in one day and then sub-zero temps for over a week immediately following that - and that was just the beginning of December. Yikes. It all fell so suddenly, and then the deep freeze just glued it on.
I started to panic when I went out to the coop and saw the huge chunks of snow and ice hanging off of the mesh. But so far it has held up well. All those wires we strung have helped to keep it from completely collapsing. It's hanging low in the center (by about a foot?), but I think if the temps would just get up high enough the frozen globs would melt and fall off.
I think next summer we will add a few more wire lines, in each direction, to provide greater support. They are definitely keeping that mesh suspended right now!
I have to say, though, that the ice looks absolutely beautiful when the setting sun hits it just right. It's like a crystal chandelier, glittering in the air. So far, so good... Nothing is coming loose or falling...
Before: With snow and ice
After: Snow and ice melted within a couple weeks. Doesn't seem to be any worse for the wear. The holes were from where the mesh was snagged with a shovel when one of my beloved children went out to "help" me. I think this mesh would have survived completely intact, had we not tried to intervene.
So - Final vote: This is a great option for coverage in the winter!
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