Dusk, usually about 7:30 i see my rooster is in there first (the only black/white one) but its a bit after 7:30 so he wasn't alone
Well first of all i didn't know i was getting chickens until the day i got them, i had wanted chickens but the wife was against it til she saw "their tiny little bodies" and she folded (now whe can't get enough of the chickens and has joined this site too!!!). With that said i didn't have much time or money to make a beautiful coop and only a few weeks til it had to be done and with a 2 year old it was hard to find time to work on it. so basically i know its not pretty but it is super functional and efficient for maintenance of the coop and building costs. i reused alot of "cull" lumber from home depot, old basement windows, cut up pallets for lumber, free house paint,and anything else i already had.
first the outside: i started out by taking apart my sons swingset that had seen its better day (yes im building him another) and started with the kids play house, it was 4'X4' and the paneling on it was junk/rotted but the structure was good, i added 2' pressure treated legs to it which i had and then added andother 4'X4' to it so its 4'X8' now. all of the wood boards on the sides are cut from pallets and the 3 windows that pop up on the back top of the coop were originally my basement windows. the shingled side of the roof was on the original playhouse and i used "smoked" sheet plastic roofing on the new side so they will have plenty of light in the coop but also be able to go in the shade under the shingled side. there are access doors on the front on either end for maintenance. there is also a door in what i call the utilities closet which currently has house power and originally was going to have networking but since wireless worked good for the camera (i'll come back to that) im not going to bother with that. then there is the nesting boxes lid on the front. the coop door the chickens use to go into the run works well it is aluminum c channel from home depot and a piece of heavy sheet aluminum as a door, its both strong and light. the coop door is operated by an automatic coop door opener which is controlled by a lamp timer. when the coop door closes it goes lower then you can reach from the outside so racoons can't simply sneak a paw under and lift the door up (they would have to get into the run first though). and lastly there is a door that the coop door is attached to on the end of the coop where the tray slides out. also there is tons of closeable ventilation to keep them cool in summer and keep the floor shavings dry.
the inside: when i designed the inside i did some research and found a common theme of people having to do daily chores for the chickens and i thought that if i could design the inside good enough then daily chores would not be necessary (getting eggs isn't a chore, its a pleasure) and i wouldn't get "bored" with them and feel like i could still have a life and sleep in and such. so as listed on the paragraph above i installed an auto coop door which is amazing, it opens at 6am and closes at 9pm (all depends on what i set it for different times of the year) which is all controled by a simple lamp timer, love that feature! then i designed a large 5 gallon capacity waterer that used chicken nipples because people usually have to change the water daily due to the chickens contaminating the water. i live in nh and so winter/freezing was a big factor in the design. i bought a big 5 gallon water jug usually used for sports teams and such at home depot for $20, its insulated and has a large capacity, then drilled two holes in the bottom to fit two 3/4" pvc pipes through, plumbed a loop (see picture) and added a drain for maintenance (attaches to a standard garden hose for draining). before i had attached the loop i had drilled holes and added the watering nipples. i got the watering nipples from amazon.com, they have yellow ones that "clip" on the pipe and they say no sealant needed but i did for peace of mind and i got 5 for about $15. here is where winter/freezing becomes a concern, i had plumbed a loop so i could use a small aquarium pump and cycle the water through the pipes and im useing a bird bath water heater that is safe to put right against plastic and its thermostatically controller so it won't kill the electric bill. and since i have to pay to heat the water that was why i started with the insulated water jug, i plan on adding a hard type insulation to the pipes that the chickens can't peck. the beauty of this waterer is that it can't get messied up by the chickens, has a huge capacity, will not freeze, and lasts my 13 chickens well over a week if needed. then the feeder, its just a 5 gallon bucket i drilled holes in all around the bottom and up one side, i added an oil pan i bolted to the bottom of the bucket as a catch for the food falling out and the holes up the side i covered with plastic from a 2 liter mt. dew bottle as a sight gauge for how full it is (wish i had used a clear 2 liter bottle but green works good enough) , this is a simple design and great because the chickens don't pull food out onto the floor and waste it and it holds 35lbs of food! then i built a large poop tray for the whole floor that slides out one side of the coop for super easy cleaning, its a piece of waffle board with linolium flooring attached and it slides on 4 pieces of 1/2" pvc conduit to keep it elevated a bit and keep it dry underneath. also i used the monkey bars from the swingset as their perch inside the coop.
the camera: this is the one i have found to peak the interest of most people (that and chicken nipple waterer), its an IP camera i bought off amazon.com for $67 made by loftek, it will pan and tilt and has night vision, its an amazing addition to the coop, why u ask? well everynight we turn on either a laptop or just look on our smart phones and count the amount of chickens in the coop to make sure all 13 made it inside before the door closed and only once one got locked out. another good use is i can see how much feed they have and thanks to the large thermometer i can see the temp in the coop, since i set it up properly on my router i can check up on them anywhere i have cell phone signal/wifi. this is a huge plus!
the chicken run: the chicken run is a dog kennel i bought off craigslist, it has a nice door and is about 12'X12' and 6' tall so i can go in easily. i roofed a little more than a quarter of it so they have a space to come out in the winter w/o me having to shovel. the rest of the roof is 2"X4" welded wire. around the base i attached chicken wire and laid it across the ground 2' from the base of the fence and buried it. i know that weasels can dig down very far, my hope is that they dig and hit wire, they would have to back up 2' to get a spot w/o wire and i hope they don't figure that out. i basically left no spaces any bigger than what the chain link fencing is, so far nothing has tried.
so to sum it up, large quantity feeder, large quantity waterer, high ventilation for a dry floor and a removeable floor keep cleaning to a minimum, secure chicken run, easy access nesting box, ip camera to view them anytime, recycled materials, and add a few chickens and you got an easy to maintain, low maintenance coop with happy chickens and you don't have to really worry about predators! i can go well over a week with the feeder and waterer without any danger of running out and don't need to get up early or rush home at night to close the coop door. if anyone has any questions i'll try my best to answer, thanks Tom
Well the role of this coop has changed...what i mean is that since my wife and I are crazy chicken people (we see how people stare...) we kinda kept adding chickens and then decided to turn one of the barn stalls into a chicken coop. why didn't we just build the coop in the barn in the first place you ask? well thats because we thought at the time that we had zoning issues but we don't... so the role of this coop has changed to use as a temporary home for trouble makers, meat chickens, and new birds that need to stay seperated. i still look at this coop as a great design useing "recycled materials" and its great to have a seperate place if we decide to breed for eggs to hatch and so on... if you want to see my new coop follow this link:
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