My apologies for any missing pictures in the article, but they are in the attached PDF. We are limited to 20 pics...
So 2 years ago (2015) I purchased a new home with 2 acres. I decided to fence in the whole property to allow for the dog's room to roam, then decided with all that extra space I wanted to add chickens in 2016. My first coop was a small 3x4 foot print that housed 3 full sized Cream Creasted Legbars and 2 Seramas. These girls gave me eggs up till winter, and the little coop gave them protection but not a warm home that invited year round laying.
November of 2016 I started the planning phase, including ordering chicks to be delivered in the spring of 2017. I decided on what I wanted and what I needed - being MOBILE, enough space for 12 hens, year around HOME, and SOLAR. Then I researched, sketched, and planned almost 3 months till a surprise phone call from the post office at 6am made me kick the project into high gear.
Turns out I had clicked for January delivery instead of April. I had not even noticed! Well I quickly made a brooder and put the chicks in a glass greenhouse that I set up inside my garage. This kept them warm (thermometer read at least in the high 70's inside greenhouse) and gave them room till I could get the coop built. I will never go back to heat lamps after making the "Ohio brooder box". They self-regulate better! The 26 chicks that came in the mail were very happy with this temporary set up.
I started with the floor frame on my axle as my plans called for it to be moved like a trailer with my lawn tractor.
I would roll it in and out depending on the weather. The floor is 12 feet long by 6 feet wide (72 square feet) with 2x4 frame on 24” centers and 2x3’s on 12” centers between. This was covered with a particle board subfloor.
The walls are all load bearing at 44” tall. This measurement was so that I could use a full sheet of overlay from the bottom of the frame to the roof. Each wall is independent, so the corners are (basically) a 4x4. Doing this allowed for large open areas where I can mount doors or windows. Everything was built with screws then attached to the frame.
After inserting two 24” tall x 36” wide windows I began sheeting the outside of the coop. I ended up making two 4x4 doors during this phase because I felt like cleaning out would be easier with a 4x8 opening! One door will be used as my main access, the other is secured from the inside with barrel bolts since it is planned only for use during cleaning.
At this point I have made my rafters and use them as a template to cut my end sheeting. Due to the 6 width and peak, it took 3 sheets to do the ends. I just cut each sheet to 6 feet and ripped one shit to 24” width (the square one sticking up on the far end). If you tack up the sheeting with a couple screws then trace your rafter line you will get a tight fit.
This is a good point to mention that I did this whole coop myself. This was planned from the beginning as something I could do without help, so everything had to be easily handled by one person! More on this later.
After the ends where up, I installed the rafters on 24” centers and installed the decking starting at the back moving forward. The above picture shows when I was done for the night I just clamped a tarp over it. I had to use a circular saw to trim the decking down, this is because I had not decided how large of eve on the roof. I did end up with a 12” eve.
The roof decking was covered with tar paper, aluminum drip edging was added, and the metal roofing was laid over a wood lathe. I called around and found that I could have custom roofing made cheaper than shingles purchased! So I had white metal barn roofing cut. In hindsight I should have known the roofing before I started because the ridges will dictate your eve width. I have some overhang I do not like, but I can live with it and the important thing is that this type of roofing is durable and weighs less! At this point I can still lift one end and move it, but I am wishing for larger wheels.
At this point I decide I need to do something. On the pavement I can move it, but in the grass? What happens after sitting all winter? Hmmm, what to do? I decide to search for a second trailer axle and install it under the front.
Here is the coop after adding a trailer frame under the front. I found both the axle and trailer frame second hand for about $50 each. I wish during the planning stage I had used a farm running gear. I had looked at them but dismissed them as too expensive (usually $500 used unless you are lucky!). You can also see that I have base coated the coop a barn red. My theme is traditional red with white trim. I plan on using a wire brush to clean the trailer frame and painting it this summer. I will just have to keep the girls away from it till it drys.
At this point I have moved the flock into the coop. They LOVE looking out the windows! I have since added ½ inch hardware cloth to prevent predators from entering as I plan on automating the windows to open/close with temp.
But what started out as plenty of room quickly disappears as they grow…
Although the photo only shows a small section of the coop, all the birds are in this shot. I am amazed how clean the coop is staying! I added viewing roosts in front of the windows and a traditional tiered roost in the back of the coop.
But they prefer to roost anywhere. It took 4 bags of shavings to fill the floor bottom to about 4” deep, I have spares…
Shutters and planter boxes were then added, and I started trimming out the coop. Each was made by ripping privacy fence pickets to the size I needed. The cost for a 6 foot picket is a lot cheaper than trim board! And I like the results!
Each door holds an external nest box (sized for 3 hens at a time). These are “trough layout”, but have openings thru the doors into the boxes. From my previous coop I learned that the 5 hens try to lay in the same nest, and even when broody they try to share. I had originally wanted access from the outside, but decided on an insulated version to prevent winter egg freeze (I hope!). The box rides on the door frame which is strong enough since it is made from a privacy fence gate kits. I highly recommend these DIY gate kits as they make hanging a door correctly a breeze!
This is a picture of the second nest box. You can see the measurements written on the end 2x3 wood, and the length is about 36” which I used wood fence picket scraps.
I used 1 ½ inch thick pink insulation board and cut them to fill voids in the walls and floor.
Here is a picture of the sandwich construction. I used scrap siding for the interior walls and Masonite for the bed floor.
And here it is attached without the roof. You will notice I cut 2 entrance holes to this nest box, the other has 3 holes. To get the eggs I have to open one door which gives me access to both boxes. This is OK for me because I like to check the girls and I keep 3 water buckets hanging from the rafters (nipples on bottom) which I like to check too. I have plans on adding guttering to collect water too, but that is on the back burner right now. Currently feeding is inside, but will switch to exterior when they get moved to the back yard but there is one more thing to do before moving…
On the back wall I centered and drew the outline for my automated pop door.
The installation was slowed due to noisy hens… but really only took about an hour. I cannot tell you how much I really like the “Pullet-Shut” door. Cost was worth every penny! Since my whole coop is wired, this was a no brainer!
Tall grass was waiting for the hens on their first day out.
One other item I added to the coop was a stairs. This is made out of scrap fence pickets like so many other items and hinged to their “porch” with bolts. It took them a couple of days to learn the stairs, but now they have no problems.
Touching on the electronics, there really is only a few items you need to make your coop solar. First (of course) is the solar panel, charge controller, and a battery (or 4 in my case). The only other NEEDED item is the green part in the center of the picture above. This is a distribution module board. They cost under $20 (mine was $16.50 with shipping) and will make your life EASIER! Power OUT from the charge controller comes into the control box (cheap $2 tackle box) and the RED wire feed P1 and the BLACK wire feeds P2. Then the board splits the power to TWELVE circuits (misnomer) and then you just plug each item into the module as you add them. In my case I have the thermal control board that turns the fans off and on, the automatic door (self-controlled), and a timer for the lights.
A word on lights: depending on what you get you may have to add a fuse. What comes into the module board is what comes out. If I come up with a solution (or you have one) I will share.
A word of Solar: You will need to calculate how much power you expect to use (then double that!) before you purchase. Do NOT skimp on batteries. I have 35Ah total with 4 batteries in parallel. I wish I had purchased one 50Ah or larger, but that is an upgrade for later. When you buy your panel look for a kit that includes panel/charge controller/wire/mounts (and battery if possible!). Cost for mine was about $125 for 100watts. Before buying ask the seller to email you a copy of the instructions. It helps.
Final thoughts: I hope someone finds use for this write-up as I really enjoyed building and sharing my experience.
Since I had moved the coop into the back 2 acres I have had to add the electric poultry netting to keep them close to the coop. First few nights I would find them roosting in bushes or around the bee hives. Most of the dogs don’t bother them, but my beagle tries to get them so this netting keeps her out and the hens in. I like it, and the solar panel has no issues keeping it powered day and night.