I have two Brown Leghorn hens, and they are the biggest sissies in the world.
Lillian and The Philosopher - too delicate to leave the house.
They grew up in San Diego, where nightly lows never go south of 50 degrees. They loved their warm, sunny, always-summer backyard, and when I told them we were moving to Denver, in December, they retaliated by ceasing all egg production and initiating a disgusting molt.
I knew if their giant, frostbite-prone combs and skinny, featherless bodies would ever survive the negative lows of a Colorado winter, I'd have to be creative with their new coop.
Our new house had a pretty big garage, and in one section the previous owners had cut out a doggy door underneath a work bench. If I could contain the smell and dust, maybe somehow the hens could live there. A garage coop would boast the following features:
1. Warmer than outside. Feet, combs, and water will not freeze.
2. Easier for me to confiscate eggs when it's miserable outside.
3. No need for a roof or weather proofing.
4. Easy coop construction and maintenance.
5. Simple access to electricity so the chickens can watch TV.
Could this become a chicken coop?
First I removed the doggy door, framed a perimeter, installed a floor, and hung their food can.
Next I caulked and painted the inside. I wanted to completely seal off the coop from the rest of the garage so the birds wouldn't stink up the place. I sealed off the doggy door with a big piece of particle board. Later I cut a chicken-sized hole in the board so they can go outside. I hope the hole is too small for predators looking for a snack.
Above you can see their nest-box / perch combo. Space was tight, so I had to integrate them. Below is The Philosopher guarding an egg from me inside the box. I got it eventually.
Then I installed the front wall and cut out two giant holes for windows.
After that, I painted the front wall, fabricated and installed the windows, and put up some trim to make it look nice.
Look, I can still use the workbench, and I can store chicken supplies in the cabinets.
The windows were pretty fun to make. I started with some 2x3's, pre-painted them, then screwed them into squares. Then I screwed and glued a plexiglass sheet to each square. I was afraid the screws would crack the plexiglass, so between the screws' heads and the plexiglass I sandwiched those little sticky round furniture pads that are supposed to protect your floor. Then I caulked the edges of the plexiglass with clear silicone bathroom/kitchen caulk.
I used adhesive foam weather stripping (the kind used on doors) to form a seal between the windows and the front wall. Finally, I put hinges on the top and latches on the bottom.
To keep the birds warm on the occasional really cold night, I installed a 75 watt heat lamp. The nice thing about a garage coop is that you can just plug in whatever you want without running extension cords outside.
Who am I kidding? They insist the lamp stays on 24/7.
I installed a little DC computer fan into the doggy door. This keeps the pressure in the coop negative relative to the garage, so through any cracks and holes, air is always flowing from the garage into the coop and not the other way around. This keeps the garage from smelling like the zoo also keeps the coop ventilated. I included a temperature and humidity gauge to help me figure out when to use the lamp and the fan.
I installed some chicken nipples so the birds could drink water. Underneath the nipples is part of a plastic milk carton to keep water from soaking the coop. The Philosopher prefers nipples, but Lillian drinks mostly from the carton.
I have a giant bucket supplying water to the nipples, but instead of cutting a hole in the bottom of the bucket, I set up a siphon that draws water up from the bucket and down to the nipples. I just have to keep the bucket full. Surprisingly, it works pretty well. If it weren't for all the poop stalagmites I have to clean out from under the perch, these chickens could be self sufficient for a month.
The doggy door opens up to their run outside. They seriously won't go out if it's less than 50 degrees.