In the first year of our marriage, Dear Husband received this hen-scratch conception in a love letter that proposed we build a coop sometime next year. He got it done much sooner than I had anticipated!
Our house and property (home built in 1949) included two garden sheds that were used as potting/planting sheds by the original owners. Building a coop from the ground up can be expensive! So we decided to up-cycle one of these old garden sheds.
The shed was built of solid oak, metal roof over old wood and shingle roof, and lined down the walls with old shingles and covered in wooden siding. It also featured large windows with horizontally tilting panes for light and ventilation. Apart from having a concrete floor with no drainage, we knew that it could be the perfect chicken coop! I spent some hours looking it over, and came up with this plan:
Now, since we worked around a preexisting structure, our plans may not prove helpful to you if you're trying to build a coop from scratch. But keep on reading, because I'll share some tips for building a fully enclosed run as well as the interior furniture layout. As you can see, what my husband ended up doing, differed from my preconception, but for the better.
Build larger than you think you will need. Chicken Math is a real thing. Chickens get sick. You get bit with the broody bug and want baby chicks. You want to introduce a new bird. You want to quarantine a bullied bird or aggressive rooster.
Build at least 2 pens/2 runs or have a micro pen/micro run for separating up to 2 birds for small flocks. No matter the size of your flock you will always want this luxury.
We started with an old garden shed sitting on the edge of our narrow property.
The interior was pretty yucky, with greasy coffee tins full of nails, roofing metal, cut chunks of siding, and other odds and ends. The OSB laying on the floor was the start of our project. I was not happy that husband chose OSB, however, despite the horror stories I had heard, I was impressed with the finished result. Just wait and see!
The OSB went up with careful cuts around the roofing supports. And while husband was at work the next day, I primed with Kilz stain blocking, water blocking primer for maximum paint-ability and water protection. One coat of primer. One coat of paint.
The partition was erected and husband and father-in-law can be seen working on the door frames.
The door frames are touching in the center as opposed to my preconception where food and water could be refilled from outside of the pens.
And during the workday, I primed the frames, and painted the walls a lovely Tiffany blue. I chose this color as a complimentary color for my breed of choice, Salmon Favarolles and Black Sumatras.
Isn't it amazing what a little paint can do!!
Because of the uneven walls of the old shed, it was very difficult for husband to achieve a completely level surface with the OSB. He caulked some of the cracks, but we were working with faulty walls to begin with. This frustrated him to no end, but I remind him that it was only an old shed and the chickens won't care.
Next, up went the hex netting. We used poultry netting for the interior as it serves only to separate birds. Redbrand fencing was used on the run. Hardware cloth was much more expensive per square foot.
We also ran electricity from the house to the coop, and installed two lights on either end of the coop. Two plug-ins allow for additional appliances, such as a fan or water heaters come winter time.
The lights are helpful for checking on the birds at night, however, if left on for a minute too long, the birds will all come down from their roosts!! A flashlight is still the best way to check on them.
For the run, numerous 8 ft. treated posts were used and sunk down 2 ft., leaving 6 ft. exposed. It was laborious digging large rocks out in several places, but the hole could not be moved an inch!! The posts could not vary from 6 ft. as the width of the Redbrand fencing was 6 ft and had to overlap the roofing supports.
Wide boards were sunk and secured to prevent predators from digging through too quickly. This also helps prevent washout and earth shifting during heavy rains and after chickens dig.
Old carpet is the BEST thing to keep chickens from digging and prevent predators from digging through. If you ever find strip of old carpet, you can line the outside of your run, or washout areas. But fill in the area you line with dirt first. The carpet will hold the earth in place and even allow plants and mosses to take root in itself. (But watch-out for strings. Tattered carpet may release strings that you will not want your chickens to eat.)
In this photo, you can see two Redbrand fencing 6 ft. sections being tacked onto one 12 ft. 2x4. Center posts were used to bear the weight and prevent sagging, as well as to connect the 2x4s.
The areas we couldn't reach to tack down, I secured with heavy duty zip-ties.
Installation of this fencing was fairly easy around the sides. No harder than throwing up poultry netting. However, I noted that small chicks can squeeze through the holes and so we will finish the base with hex netting to prevent little ones from popping through the run. It's well enough to hold adult birds in and possums/coons/hawks out!
As much as I wanted some fancy shmancy sliding doors like the one I had on my old coop, husband threw up two flip hinge doors with scraps of OSB. Since the run was so predator-proof we weren't too concerned about the safety of these doors. However, they are not very convenient for opening and closing at dawn and dusk.
I primed and painted them for weather protection. Husband also installed a rubber stop in the gap between the door and the cutout to prevent drafts and rodents from peeping in.
And now! - BEHOLD! The completed runs!! - Which cost over $500 in materials....
This second run is half the size of the other and intended to be the backup area for sick, new, old, broody, or up and coming chicks.
Below is a lovely interior shot taken the day the chicks were transferred from the brooder box in the basement to their mansion. The painted hutch shown was found free on the side of the road and up-cycled into a nesting box apartment when we discovered it would not work in our home.
The left partition has a suspended roost. Both roosts are built at a height preferred by Game-fowl.
I avoided ladders to the roosts as they are always covered in poop and my birds rarely used them unless they were ill and weak.
The suspended roost offers the advantage of preventing a bird from being pushed off the end by her flock-mates.
Always make your roosts the highest pieces of coop furniture. Otherwise, the birds will roost on objects that stand taller. (The nesting box shown can be roost-proofed using angled plywood - typically 45 degrees is sufficient - or poultry wire. It was not completed at the time this photo was taken.)
Tip 3.1: Make sure that your roosts stand out far enough from the walls that poop doesn't smear down the walls. Sumatras being long-tail fowl, I wanted the roost to stand out far enough as to not break tail feathers should they sleep with their bums to the wire.
Tip 3.2: Use the flat size of a 2x4 for a roost. Round perches leave chickens more susceptible to frost bite, rats nibbling off toes, and sore feet.
The large windows provide ample light, and the open slats provide great ventilation.
Hanging nipple waterers are a dream come true, followed close second by hanging feeders.
We read about nipple water leaks, so husband caulked the outside of the nipples after installing them. The benefit of the chains and clips used to suspend both feeders and waterers is that both may be raised or lowered for the age and size of the chickens. The chains were also cheaper than cables.
- Notice that two clips and ends of the the chain were used on each waterer. Water is HEAVY. This assists me in raising and lowering the bucket very well, as the weight of the bucket can be hanging on one clip while I move the other clip up a link or two. The double clip suspension also prevents the bucket from spinning too much and keeps it more balanced to prevent the possibility of leaky nipples. It also lessens the distortion of the plastic bucket as it would be if all of the weight was held by a single suspension in the middle of the bucket handle.
We hung the waterers closest to the power outlet so that we would have an easier time installing aquarium heaters in the winter time to keep the water from freezing. Consider things like this when planning the layout of your roosts, feeders, and waterers. (I may buy extra bucket lids and cut holes in the tops to run the power cords to the water heaters through.)
Tip 6: Don't plan on putting anything underneath the roosts, or stacking roosts. It will get caked in droppings. Make the area under your roost easy to access for cleaning. As a rule, I make all roosts the same height so that there are less fights at bedtime.
Sand and Shavings are the two best beddings to use. The chickens will eat some shavings, as well as sand, but it's difficult to prevent them from eating something if they have a mind to. With great ventilation as I have here, I am not worried about fumes from shavings. My concern with using sand was moisture being trapped against the concrete and breeding fungus and packing down to where it would be difficult to clean. The shavings also provide a softer landing from the high roosts to prevent bumble-foot. I fluff the bedding weekly to make sure they are evenly distributed.
Tip 7.1: You will want to use large flake Pine shavings instead of fine shavings. Fine shavings are dusty. We obtain the shavings at Tractor Supply Company for around $6 per bag. 1 bag easily filled each pen.
Update: Showing completed nesting boxes, completed with netting above to prevent birds from roosting on the top of the hutch.
Back to the exterior:
Open windows for fresh air in the Summer. The windows close so tightly that there are no drafts between the panes. To prevent fronts from the North from leaking in, we can keep the North windows closed and open a window on the south side to still provide some ventilation during the winter months. Most of the rain blows from west to east where we live, so the coop is also fairly moisture tight.
Below, the birds have settled into their palace. (The nesting box is still incomplete.)
*Also note how we wired above the frames. Our birds (Sumatras) are great fliers.
Look at all that daylight coming in!! Should keep the bacteria and mold under control! No dark dank places in this coop!
On extra hot days, the big doors can be opened for extra air-flow.
As shady as our property is, we're thankful for sunny spots. And the Chicks are too. Chickens love to sunbathe!
The Great Golden Hen watches over the coop from above.
A few essential cleaning items. The first aid kit will hang in this corner, and a grain tin for keeping the feed away from mice/rats will be added. Easy instructions come with the nipples. Use a heavy gauge nipple, or even a horizontal one for better freeze protection in cold climates. They're pricey, but worth every penny. It's amazing how much less work and mess a hanging nipple waterer is! Why did I do it any other way all those years??
Bird toys can make great boredom busters for chicks in the brooder. I installed Tiny's favorite toy in the coop for her to continue playing with. She likes to ring the bell. The chicks on the other side have a mirror, and Raphael uses it daily to look at himself.
Two lights were installed on either end of the coop for additional lighting, and crank handles (found at Lowes) were installed on the gears to the windows for easy opening and closing.
The Completed Garden Shed turned Coop. (See run roost installed on the center post for enrichment. Roosters like high places.)
Thanks so much for dropping by and touring our coop! As you can see, hanging feeders and waterers don't completely thwart juvenile birds from sitting on them! But they're still the best option, hands down.
Make coop upkeep easier on you and better for your birds!! Don't skimp on providing easy to manage feeders and waterers. So that I don't damage the nipples, I carry a smaller bucket of water from the house spigot down to the coop and pour it into the hanging waterers. A half-ful 5 gallon bucket lasts almost 2 weeks! So I only do this once a week!
The nicer your coop, the more time you will spend with your chickens! Welcome to my She-shed!
Sometimes Paint IS Practical! I used an exterior gloss paint on the walls for easy wiping down during the annual/semi-annual coop cleanup! Something worth doing, is worth doing right the first time!! No one likes rotting OSB, so locking out moisture was a priority also. Coops will need maintenance and repair from time to time, but you want to lessen the amount of work you must continually put into up-keeping a nice coop.
Keeping food and water sources outside will encourage birds to live outdoors, whereas, indoor food and water may encourage them to hangout in the coop more! However, I chose indoor for easy winterization, rodent, moisture control.
Having two runs with open air flowing between can allow for diseases to spread between birds kept in either pen. However, it also allows you to separate a bird with less likelihood of the flock shunning her. They will still be able to see her from day to day and interact behind the wire. Consider your reasons if dividing a pen or run this way. If you want to build a chicken hospital, you may want it to be on the backside of your coop, out of view of the flock.
If dividing a run as we did, build your door between the runs!! For some reason, husband didn't want to do this for me, so when closing the birds up at night I have to make two trips for each door.
Thanks again for dropping by!! Positive feedback on our hard work is appreciated! Husband will appreciate some additional applause for his talent! We love our birds!