Hi, this may page documenting the creation of our family's coop.
There are so many different kinds of coops out there, but for me the Wichita Cabin Coop style is just it.
Nice bit of space in the run, big hen house above the run, you can stand up in it, and it's about the size of a shed.
I saw most people make a 5x10, but I wanted to go a little bit larger so I went down to Home Depot and got 3 pieces of 2 in. x 12 in. x 12 ft. pressure treated lumber.
I poured over the internet looking at coops with the following criteria:
- Big enough for 4 chickens, but you never know, one day might want to add a few more in there.
- Fits in with the rest of the garden
- Fun DIY project
- Easy to clean
- Configurable so that we can go away every now and then
Climatic location: Malvern, PA, USA
Aspect: Half under tree, sunshine for half the day, ground gradually slopes away in all directions.
Dimensions of coop: 6x4
Size of run: 12x6
Number of chickens that will be housed: 4
Size of chickens that will be housed: Normal sizes; New Hampshire Red, Buff Orpington, Black Copper Maran, Super Blue Egg layer)
Water: Only in run, horizontal nipple in 4G bucket with snap on lid
Feed: Only in run, Street elbow PVC in 5G bucket with leaktight "GAMMA" screw on lid.
Nesting Boxes: 3 on same level 12" off coop floor, egg roller type.
Coop Ventilation: 2x3ft window on front, 2x3ft window on side, 1.5x2ft window at back, 1x1ft window into run, 2x6ft open wedge at top into run.
Any free ranging planned?: Yes. 1 acre fenced on all side, no cover on ranging area, driveway entrance is open.
Unfinished work to be done to coop or run?: Poop board, coop door litter stopper board, egg roller nesting boxes, back wall with light fitting.
Expansion plans?: If these 4 chickens go well. In a year we would like to add an Olive Egger, Barred Plymouth Rock, and an Ayam Cemani. With 4 it is 18sq ft of run per chicken, with 7 would be 10sq ft per chicken.
2 in. x 12 in. x 12 ft. Pressure Treated Lumber $22.97 X 3 = $67.11
2 in. x 4 in. x 14 ft. Pressure Treated Lumber $9.27 X 3 = $18.54
Kreg 2 in. Pocket Screws $4.97
Staples, box of 1,250 $2.98
23/32 in. 4 ft. x 8 ft. T&G Premium Subflooring $21.28 x 4 = $85.12
30lb tar paper $18.00
Plastic Round Cap 1" Roofing Nails $25.98
1 1/4" Galvanised Steel Roofing Nails $10.47
GAF Timberline HD Weathered Wood Lifetime Shingles (33.3 sq. ft. per Bundle) $32 x 3 = $96
10 ft. Aluminum Gutter $6.80 x 2 = $13.60
Caulk (Had some lying around) $0
5 in. Brown Aluminum Gutter End with Outlet $7.98
HD Brown Aluminum Left/Right End Cap $1.54 x 2 = $3.08
Aluminium rivets $5.48
5 in. Aluminum Fascia Brackets (4-Pack) $9.43
3 ft. Snap-In Gutter Guard $1.97 x 3 = $
"Egg Roller" Nesting Box
3/8 in. x 3/4 in. x 6 ft. Tube Pipe Insulation Kit = $1.92
6 X Standard Nesting Pad = $15.72 + $12.81 shipping = $28.53
Staple gun (borrowed from a colleague)
2" hole saw drill bit
Reciprocating Saw (For breaking pallettes)
Crowbar (For breaking pallettes)
Rubber Hammer (For knocking piece of wood about)
Things I Learned from this Project
Stop putting your tools in obscure places
Buy a big long metal ruler for drawing lines to follow with the circular saw
I need a tool belt next time somebody asks what I want for Christmas and I don't have an answer
Composting goes hand in hand with keeping chickens, need to consider the composting location before breaking ground.
Chickens do something called "Caecal Poop" every 8-10 poops.
You will be adding more chickens, it's an inevitable fact, figure out how your coop is going to adapt during the merge (dog box in the run, division of the run, panic room access, multiple feed stations etc.)
Factor in a storage area, I added one later.
Factor in an outdoor ranging area for days when you don't want the chickens to disappear over to your neighbours garden for 2 hours.
A good coop should only require one regular action: Moving poop from under roost to compost. Everything else should take care of itself. Let me know if there is a way to automate that.
Base June 11
Used a combination of pocket hole screws on the inside and straight screws on the outside.
All 2" kreg screws. 2 1/4" were no good because they just poked out.
Foundations June 18
Leveled the ground and dropped the 12x6 frame in place.
Dug a trench around the outsides 1 foot deep.
Cut some old chicken wire I had in the garage to 15 inches and stapled it onto the bottom of the frame like an apron.
Buried 12 inches of the wire underground and filled the soil back in.
Framing June 25 (Chicks due to hatch on June 27)
Did the 4 corners first using clamps, spirit level and measuring 1 ft behind and in front of the uprights.
Then filled in the rest.
Couldn't find the 14ft front and back pieces on Craigslist or in the Home Depot 70% bin so reluctantly paid full price for those.
At least that allowed me to spend ages examining the two pieces I was buying for perfect straightness.
Framed out the front door. Looks nasty in the picture, but all pallette pieces will be covered with nicer 2x4s to hide.
A couple of supports on the second row, and used pallette wood again for the to be hidden floor of the hen house.
Hen house 1" higher at the rear for hosing out during cleaning.
Roof July 2 (Chicks arrived on June 28)
Left to right: Buff Orpington, Super Blue Egg Layer, New Hampshire Red, Black Copper Maran
Needed to get the roof on as a priority so that I could stop taking everything inside when it rained.
Had a 3 day weekend so went at it.
Rented a Home Depot truck for $19 and bought 4 pieces of interlocking OSB and a few other things on the list.
A lot of the money went into the roof could of saved a lot of money here by just nailing on a few pieces of transparent corrugated plastic.
Getting the OSB nailed down was a nice moment in the process.
The chicks were starting to perch on the top of their brooder, so we got a watermelon box from the back of Walmart for their stage 2 brooder.
The Home Depot building paper is great the way it has lines because I didn't have to "snap a line" for the shingles.
You're supposed to use the plastic cap nails to hold the tar paper in place, but I just stapled it down. I wanted to reduce so many nails going into the OSB.
The nails in the shingles later held it place more permanently.
The galvanised steel nails should be used to hold the shingles in place, but I had the plastic cap nails and used those up first.
I was so busy worrying about putting the back drip edge underthe tar paper that I failed to learn that you put the front drip edge over the tar paper AND the top row of shingles. I don't think it's that big of a deal.
If I did the job again, I would buy a larger front drip edge and cover the top row of shingles with it.
Making a gutter was new to me so it was 90% research on the internet, and when I went to make it, I was surprised it only took about an hour.
I bought 3 3ft snap in gutter guards and then found 6 of them in the garage, doh! They only cost $2 each though and you can use them on all gutters of the house in future.
With the roof all shingled and done I could take my time and work in the shade of the coop. PA summers are so hot!
First up framed the coop pop door as the upright comes in contact with the floor.
Then cut up the left over OSB and some other lying around plywood with the same thickness and laid the floor. I had to add an extra floor joist to support the random pieces. It's all extra strength to support the floor though.
A guy in Amish country was giving a way windows, so I picked up a 32inch wide sash window and split it in two.
It's a little bit too big, so the nesting boxes will have to be 14 3/4" high instead of my planned 16" high. Also width between nesting boxes and window will only be 2", so no room for fancy trimming in between.
One thing I didn't compromise on is the height that the nesting boxes start at. I want them to be 6" higher than the coop floor to birds have to jump into them and can't kick debris into them. Also leaves the deep litter method option open.
Checking the window fits before moving onto other things.
Note the use of crappy wood everywhere.
Making ventilation holes. Purple spray is how they mark the 70% off wood in Home Depot.
Chicks successfully moved to their new WATERMELON BOX with log and hanging coconut hemisphere serving vessel.
A nice breeze came through late in the day, the chicks chilled out under the hen house floor while I worked on the pop door guide rails. It's good to get things like that in now before the wall are on so I can access from all sides.
Stained, trimmed and hung the door. The window looked white, but it obviously isn't. I'll give it a lick of paint later so it matches up. Plan is to prop it open, and add hardware cloth behind to protect the ladies.
The screws that came with the "HEAVY DUTY HINGES" were skinny and 1 inch long. Switched those out for 2 1/2 inch long thick screws.
Got some panelling from Home Depot. Got them to cut it down the middle so I didn't have to hire a truck.
4 foot of it almost reached the ceiling, will have to fill that in with another piece.
After the first coat of stain. Next need to fill in the top, stain, stain all again, add hardware cloth, trim both entrances in white mitre'd 1x2s. I'll leave the edge trim until after the run door is hung to be safe.
Right siding on with gaps for the window and nesting box.
The hen house door took on a much darker colour with the same stain. The siding will need more coat(s) to match up.
Planning on moving the WATERMELON BOX with log and hanging coconut hemisphere serving vessel into the run tomorrow, and spending the day predator proofing it. That'll free up the garage space, and give me more room to work on parts of the hen house.
Run July 30
Framed out the "run to pasture" pop door. Decided to drill a funnel shaped hole in 2 pieces of pallette wood so that when you pull on the rope the pop door slams up against the "stopper" piece. Could have the disadvantage of losing some entrance height after the rope goes over the hook on the outside. I'm sure the inch lost will be fine though. Could always remove the stopper on the inside, or switch to a cleat on the outside.
Makes a perfect door for the kids to interact with the birds while giving the birds a rest from being chased around the garden.
Added the door onto the run.
Bought one spring hinge by accident so hung the door with just 2 hinges. Feels really solid so I'll just leave it at 2 hinges. The run door is much lighter than the coop door. In future I'm considering adding 2 more hinges and splitting the door in 2 to make a dutch style door. Right now it would be useful for letting the boys look in at the chicks in the run, but in future I could just let the chicks range and we could see the that way.
Hen House August 06
Side window and coop floor in.
Roosting bar with home made brackets for easy lift out.
Working on all the smaller pieces like this before doing the final job of putting the back wall on.
Board slots in on a hidden wooden rail to prevent bedding falling out when opening the door to inspect poops.
Framed out the back window/vent
This is a special moment for me. I replaced the brooder waterer and feeder with more permanent $5 buckets. One with a horizontal nipple, the other with a 2 inch street elbow. All hens took to the waterer immediately, but "Red" couldn't work out the feeder. The other hens were all feeding away for 2 days and Red was pecking around nearby and not using it. I tried lots of times holding her head in there but she didn't realise that it was food. Finally the penny dropped and she started pecking away, what a relief. I only worried about egg yield, not getting attached to these birds okay?
Framed the internal window, pop door, and made a rustic ladder out of fallen branches in the garden.
Gave the little window a cover to keep drafts out in winter. Stays open for now.
After reading about vertical space on BYC, added a really high roost. Took the chickens about a week to work out how to get up to it.
Back window is a double opener. Glass opens and closes to keep out drafts on very windy nights, grill fully opens for reaching in on the odd occasion.
Roll Away Nesting Box August 13
The roll away nesting box required a separate design of their own.
I couldn't find anything exactly like we need on the internet, which is 3 nesting boxes with the laying platform sloping towards the coop. Egg rolls into hole at coop end, drops and rolls back under away from coop for collection. With a 3 part door: Top opens to view all nesting boxes from above, 3 magnetic doors open into egg collection area to make it fun for the kids, and a base "stopper" door held on with liberty statuary double roller catches. Whole nesting box dismantles for individual sections to be hosed down.
Dan from work game some of his leftover astro-turf. Thanks Dan I owe you a dozen eggs this winter.
Start of boxes from inside. Cut some 1 1/4" wide pieces out of scrap for the nesting box dividers to slot into.
Used hinges underneath, and statuary bronze double roller catches on the sides for the long bottom opening egg stopper board.
It opens and hinges down for spraying the coop out with a hose from the inside.
Bottom ramp that the astro turf sits on.
Testing an egg being laid, rolling towards, coop, then dropping, rolling under and away towards the collector.
One nesting mat per laying station.
The outside before any handles were added.
Wanted to open from the sides with 3 small doors so the kids could get to the eggs.
Would have been much easier to make one big door and handle.
Hen's eye view of nesting box. Since been painted dark inside.
Sloping Poop Board August 20
Food and water can be taken care of to the point that they can be refilled and left for months.
If you leave poop to build up then hen house bedding needs to be changed every week.
I don't fancy changing bedding every week so enter the Sloping Poop Board
It looks like chickens save up their poops and do them all on the roost. Since installing the Sloping Poop Board I hardly every see poop elsewhere and I don't need to change the bedding at all. Will probably replace it at some point to get rid of the moulted feathers.
Board is at an angle so chickens can't loiter on it, use as a roost and poop on the floor.
Sometimes they dance on the edge, but only as a stepping stone to the roost.
Poop rolls down the slope, or I help the sticky ones along into the hole.
Poop falls through the hole into the cup.
Cup is thrown into the compost.
3 Tier Composting August 29
Thanks to my best friend Duncan and his 3 tier composting advice.
I spent last Autumn collecting all the leaves from the yard and ended up with an 8ft square, 4ft high compost bin full of leaves.
A big chicken wire box full of carbon with no Nitrogen to break it down.
After 9 months there was a little bit of heat in it, but I've learned that's no way to compost.
With chicken poop, weeds, raw kitchen scraps, tea bags, paper etc, "black gold" can be made for the raised beds.
Instead of buying new potting compost every year to grow vegetables, it can be made with the falling leaves and chicken poop. Both items that need to be disposed of somehow.
On Duncan's advice we made a version of his 3 tier composting system.
Researching the 3 tier compost system and other composting systems at a nearby educational farm.
All made out of palettes.
Slats on the front can be added/removed depending on the depth of the compost.
Low sides so the chickens can jump in and forage. That's encouraged because the aeration is excellent for the compost.
Raw compost spends 1 month in bin#1, then is turned over into bin#2. One month later bin #2 is turned into bin #3. One month later bin #3 is used as fertiliser for the vegetables.
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