in february 2011 my daughter ordered 5 bantam chicks from ideal poultry, and they added 14 RIR males to the shipment for warmth. after a month or so, my daughter gave two of the bantams to a friend. one of the RIRs turned out to be a pullet, so we kept her and gave the males to her boss at the pet store. then two of the bantams turned out to be cockerels, and once they started to crow we gave them to her boss too (we live in a suburban neighborhood)
so that left us with one cochin bantam and one RIR pullet, housed in my garden shed, with all my stuff moved outside and covered with a tarp. eventually i bought an A-frame chicken tractor and that was fine for the summer. since mid-july we have been getting an egg a day from the RIR (maybe it's actually a "production red"). the bantam started laying also an egg a day, but stopped when hurricane irene came through and has not laid as of this writing in december 2011.
in late october 2011 my wife suggested we build something bigger and with a lot more room than the A-frame, so i dismantled an over-engineered swingset that was in my yard when we bought the house ten years ago and used its pieces for the skeleton of a new coop. not being much of a carpenter or handyman, i pretty much "wung" it, to coin a term. i had a vision in my head, but the thing just kind of evolved from weekend to weekend and so there's a lot of little things here and there that i would do differently next time. the pictures below reveal a chronology from start to almost-finished as of december 11 2011.
we're going to order five or six more female chicks for january or february delivery, probably two barred rocks, two black stars, and two of something else, maybe campines because the hens seem so pretty. we'll make a brooder out of the A-frame and keep it in the garage with a brooder light. when the new pullets will be old enough, we'll move them to the outdoor coop and that will pretty much be it for us until we move back to VA in a couple of years and get a bigger place in the country.
we let the birds rove the backyard under our supervision for a few hours on weekends, and sometimes when i am not travelling during the week, but other than that, they are in the enclosure.
most of this new coop's features were suggestions from people on this forum, and i thank you all for the great advice as well as stuff i learned just from reading other peoples' posts. and many of the best ideas came from my wife. here's a run-down of some features:
* coop floor is 8x4, covered with linoleum
* half of the interior is roosting area, the other half is nest-boxes and open floor (kitty-litter containers were my wife's idea)
* salvaged window which swings upwards when needed for extra ventilation, hung from chains, with the opening behind it covered with HW cloth (wife's idea)
* soda-bottle solar light (wife's idea) this will provide substantial inside light in the summer when i will put reflective film on the window to keep the summer sun out.
* under the window an upwards-swinging door which hangs from the same chains the window can hang from. this door is for cleaning out the deep litter when necessary (wife's idea)
* left-side front door on hinges for access to nest-boxes and cleanout when necessary
* removeable "lip" boards just inside each door to keep wood shavings from escaping and getting in the way of the doors closing
* clerestory vents along the top of the front and rear, covered with HW cloth
* shingled roof
* automatic pop-door opener on a timer, powered by battery charged by solar panel (the door itself is a plastic cutting-board)
* 8x4 run under coop with 24" of headroom. opens into the 8X4 completely-enclosed external run of human height. HW cloth up to 24", the rest is chicken wire. roof of enclosure is sloped to visually match the coop roof, also to enable covering with a clear tarp and allow snow to slide off toward the back. i have a 16x10' tarp made out of translucent poly that i bought for square-foot garden covering, it's very tough. i stapled it to 2x3s on either end, so i can throw it over the enclosure and make a little greenhouse-type place to keep the birds outside, but out of the snow, also will help to keep the enclosure floor from being muddy.
* in the enclosure, there are removeable roosting boards at 24" and 48"
* hanging feeder underneath, heated metal fount underneath
* wine-bottle corks stuck on the sharp exposed ends of the roofing nails along the outside eaves for protection of my bald head (wife's idea)