The "Camp" Coop
The first coop we bought for our chickens was a a fancy little A-frame that we thought would look nice in our yard. The description of the coop clearly stated that it was large enough for three, possibly four, medium-sized hens. As I have done in so many other instances totally unrelated to chickens, I disregarded knowledge and caved in to emotion. Surely, such an attractive little coop could be made to work. We had three medium-sized chickens. The problem was we also had three heavy-breed chickens. By the time the chickens were getting ready to lay, it was obvious that our current set-up would never do. The chickens were falling out of the roosting area, they were having to sleep in the nest, and the weather was beginning to warm up. It would soon be stifling in the small sleeping area. I became concerned about their health--and mine. After all, we are raising the chickens because we want healthy food from healthy animals. There was only one thing to do--get a larger coop. Happy chickens lay eggs, and we wanted happy chickens!
Enter my son-in-law Henry. I am not going to carry on about all of the talents Henry has. I'll focus on this one--he is a master carpenter who works with wood as a way of relieving all of the stresses his real job lays upon him. He saw the need for a new coop, and he offered to build it--bless him! In one weekend he built the coop I have pictured below. On Saturday morning we sat together to draw up a plan, and by Sunday evening it was complete. The girls have been living in it since March 2011, and it has just been a godsend for them and for us.
The coop measures 4x6 and sort of resembles the camps many folks have along the waterways of Louisiana. A friend of ours (sarcastically, I think) refers to it as the "Chicken Hilton"-- or is it Hyatt? Henry's design affords excellent protection from predators (see me crossing my fingers)-- as of September 2011 we haven't had any losses, nor have there been signs of any attempted break-ins. The 2-foot elevation off the ground, gives our girls a place underneath to get out of the rain, and a place to keep their food dry in downpours. This house is large enough to accomodate lots more than 6 chickens in case we would want to expand our flock at some point; the 4 front doors give us many "modular" options as shown in the photos below.
The inside walls are painted white and we used an oil-based floor paint to make for easy weekly cleanup when we remove and replace all of the bedding.
We sited the coop between two star magnolia trees.
This left little room for a ramp, so we asked the girls to hop on a concrete block
to get into the coop. They easily complied.
Big Mama Thornton is using one of two nest boxes. The coop has space for four boxes,
but two are enough for our six chickens.
We are using the two extra nest box spaces as areas to hold water and food.
This comes in handy if we are late letting them out in the morning.
The clean-out doors are in back of the coop. By designing the coop with the raised part
in the back, Harvey (6'2") is able to clean the coop without having to bend over.
The nest boxes are built inside the coop rather than jutting outside the front of the coop.
There are six ventilation holes on each side of the coop, in addition to the large screened area in front--lots of fresh air.
At first we didn't know if the hens could jump up to the roost, so we put a small portable roost under the large green roost you see at the top of the picture.
The small roost wasn't needed and was soon removed.
The tops of the nest boxes are covered with tin (edges carefully placed so the chickens do not cut themselves) so the chickens are not able to sit on top.
The roosting bar is partially blocking the view of the curtains I made for the nest boxes.
There was a bit too much light in the coop, so I cut a piece of fabric into strips and stapled it to the front of the boxes.
The chickens' litter is cleaned daily. I don't think any chickens ever had it so good.
Their coop is becoming known around the neighborhood as the Chicken Hilton.
Laura is coming to check for an empty nest.
The morning is a busy time--hens coming and going.
Rhoda is taking advantage of her perch to check out the neighborhood.
Generally, the hens lay six eggs a day. Six eggs for six chickens.
If happy chickens lay eggs, our chickens are definitely happy with their new coop.