This last April my boyfriend and I received 6 tiny chicks in the mail, and with much prior research and planning, we started work on our backyard coop. All Spring and Summer long we worked almost non-stop on creating "Fort Cluckins", our fairly massive medium-sized coop and run located in Fort Collins, Colorado!
Our biggest inspirations came from https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-palace , https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/wichita-cabin-coop , and the aesthetic pleasing look of https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/navychicks-page .
Our coop is located on the back end of our half acre backyard. We are lucky to have all that land completely surrounded by 6 ft privacy fence, but we still occasionally get wildlife in the yard so predator-proofing was a big factor for us, as well as ease of use/access and happiness of the hens.
We took some photos along the way of the building process, so here I'll try to explain everything we did! We didn't really have a design or floor plan; just some sketches and discussions about all the features I was wanting, and looking at the coop designs above and saying what I liked and didn't like about each one. We've never built anything before (my boyfriend is handy and tool-driven but still new to structure building) and while it's not perfect, we like how it came out and it serves its purpose well and looks nice too!
We ended up finding someone on Cragslist offering services of his John Deere tractor with post-hole digging auger (which we needed for building a part of our fence as well) and had him dig all the holes for the posts. All the posts used are 4x4" pressure treated wood that went into the ground a few feet and were cemented in. We went through a lot of bags of cement, about 2 per post. These things aren't going anywhere!
All posts in the ground! The posts are 4ft apart, since we were using 4ft Hardware cloth on the run it would allow us to use one large strand of cloth per section between posts. Since our run/coop had a sloping roof, the posts seen on the left side are 8 feet tall and the ones on the right are 10 feet, both buried in the ground ~2 feet for a finishing height of 6 feet and 8 feet on each side.
Putting on the roof beams. All posts were cut off on the slope at the top to fit the beams. Like I said, we just kinda winged it! I trusted my boyfriend with figuring out most of the architectural designs. I'm sure there were much easier ways to do what we did but we did what we knew!
The start of the coop! We liked the idea of having the coop off the ground, allowing an area underneath for the hens to go for shade in the Summer and extra protection in the Winter (And may I say it's a very popular area during the Summer!). The coop floor is 6x4', the outer section there is held up by heavy duty shelving brackets. Here you can see the trenches we started digging along the posts so that the hardware cloth could go into the ground.
The finished bottom of the coop. We covered the bottom beams in pressure treated plywood, nailed it down, then found a big section of laminate flooring at our local Re-Store for a couple bucks, cut it to fit, and glued it down with laminate glue. We chose a solid sheet of laminate for ease of cleaning, since using tiles seemed like the bedding and poop would get stuck in between the tiles.
Added beam supports from the front of the coop up to the roof beams.
Starting the fencing. The fencing used on the coop is 1/2" hardware cloth; extremely sturdy, holes too small for predators to fit through or grab, and impossible to bend or break by predators. Each panel of fence is nailed into the beams and goes 7-8" into the ground to deter any digging predators.
View from behind the coop.
Adding fencing above where the run door will be.
Added more beams for the roof. We really mucked up the roof and added even MORE beams after this to cover the seams of the plywood we used for the roof; hindsight is 20/20! It ended up a bit messy but does the job!
Adding the plywood to the roof. More beams were added to cover the seams between plywood sheets.
Finished roof. First we put down metal sheeting around the edges for runoff and then used roofing material and tarred the roof. Pretty messy looking, but zero leaks and all water runs off the overhanging edges.
Starting on the details of the coop. This is the frame for the pop door, with a track on the inside for the door to slide up and down but can't be pushed or pulled in or out of the wall.
Adding details to the coop, building out the nesting boxes.
View of the nesting boxes from the inside.
Painting the siding for the coop! Bought recycled "GreenSheen" brand paint at the local ReStore for a fantastic price, and it's good knowing our chickens wouldn't be breathing in VOC's and all that nasty paint stuff.
Putting on the siding and testing the pop door!
Started adding some blue boards to the outside of each post to cover up the nails and edges of the hardware cloth. Purely aesthetic reasons, but also so the edging of the hardware cloth wasn't exposed to the elements and predators.
Working on the pop door from inside the coop. Most walls are insulated with stiff foam insulation cut to size and then covered with cut finished wood panels. All walls inside are finished this way, with no insulation showing so the chickens wouldn't eat it. We debated on insulation pros and cons, but ended up adding some just to help. Here in Colorado we get hot Summers and cold Winters and the insulation should help with both. Some walls have no insulation at all so it's not stifling or overwhelming, just a little help to keep the girls comfortable!
Finally the coop was finished "enough" for the chickens to live in it! This is their first time inside. The nesting boxes weren't finished yet so were boarded off.
The coop stood in a state of "close to done but not completely" for months all Summer as the chickens grew to fine young hens. We were pretty burnt out by the end of it; the coop ended up costing a lot more than we thought in both money and energy. But finally, after a few weekends of "we should REALLY finish the coop before Winter...", we finally finished it and I was able to get more pictures of the entire finished coop! So here it is in its current glory.
View of the coop and run from the direction of the house.
Side of the run and coop. This side shows the nesting boxes, which are also tarred and covered in the same material as the roof.
Closeup of the Nesting Boxes and window above that can open/close. Also note ventilation holes above that are always open, as well as the vent on the roof. All windows and ventilation holes are also covered with 1/2" hardware cloth. There's a hook and eye for the window to keep it open most of the year. We've since added locks to the windows that bolt them closed for the Winter.
Opening the top of the nesting boxes, easy access to eggs inside. All doors including the nesting box top have latches and are 'locked' with carabiners so no animal can get inside.
Backside of the coop facing the fence. Large access door for cleaning, this is really a must!
Large access door open to see inside. Door is used for cleaning and any other inside maintenace since it's large enough for a person to easily get inside.
View of inside the coop from the back. Here you can see the string that opens the pop door straight ahead and goes to the outside of the coop so we can open and close the chicken door every night and morning without going inside the coop or run. Also seen are the roost and the beam that the food and water hangs from on steel cables. We decided before building the coop that we wanted to use the Deep Litter Method, so the nesting boxes and pop door opening are almost a foot above the actual bottom of the coop to allow for the DLM.
View of the nesting boxes from the inside. Panels at the bottom are removable for easy cleaning of the boxes.
Other side of the coop, looking at the entrance to the run. Small food/water access door and hinged window. Here you can also see the string coming out of the wall that open/closes the chicken door, allowing us to do so without going inside the run or coop.
Opening the food/water access door, easy to remove food and water from here to refill or clean.
View of the coop from the side/back by the fence. We open the large run door during the day so the chickens can free-range in the backyard.
View of the bottom of the run door. The wooden beam across the bottom goes about 6" into the ground to deter digging predators. It was built out of scrap lumber from the build and bolted together and put into a deep trench we dug just below the door. With this in place there is no place on the entire perimeter of the run and coop that would allow a predator inside without digging almost a foot into the ground.
View of the front of the coop from inside the run, also the girls showing off the ramp and chicken door into the coop! The entire run is roofed and thus dry in rain and snow, which was important to us. Also the entire run can be walked in by humans without having to duck your head at all, so it's really nice and not cramped to be inside. The run door has spring hinges on it so it closes behind you when you walk in.
So that's it! We're very happy with the entire project. So far there have been very few problems, and there are some things I'd like to add:
1. I'm realizing that we really need a poop board under the roost. The roost overhangs the waterer just a tad so if a chicken roosts in just the right spot, poop ends up in the water which makes me have to clean/empty it often.
2. Because this was an amateur project, it's not like the coop is airtight and perfect. We got mice in the coop this Autumn and they were destroying the insulation in the walls. We'd open the pop door in the morning and piles of nibbled insulation fell out of the wall! We eventually caught all the mice and no longer have a problem (thank you ketch-all traps!), but next Summer we're probably going to open up the wall and assess the mouse damage. So I'm not sure if the insulation was worth it, even though the mouse problem is solved it was a huge stress factor for a while to find insulation all over the coop and being pecked at by the chickens!
3. Would've liked to come up with a water heating idea beforehand in preparation for Winter. We ended up using the cinder block and lightbulb quick-fix, but after a few freezes where I was walking through snow with cups of water for the chickens to drink!
4. We forgot to raise the food/water access door to accomodate for DLM so that was a silly mistake on our part but not too big of a deal. So far no issues with the bedding getting in the way, it tends to stay low around that area anyway. I do wish we made that door slightly bigger though, since the waterer we ended up getting just barely fits through!