After a year of gentle prodding, I finally convinced my husband that keeping some chickens would be a sensible idea... And then I got my neighbors on board... They are actually very excited. Originally I was planning on 3 - 4 just for my husband and I, but then thought, well, should probably get a couple more to ensure the neighbors stay cool... and... just in case one turns up a cockerel. You know... basic chicken math.
So I did my research, I decided what breeds I wanted and how many I'd need of each etc... It was originally going to be 2 Australorps, 2 EEs and 2 SLWs. We went in to some feed stores to start pricing all of the start up accoutrements and then you know... discovered that one of the feed stores was expecting 2 of our 3 preferred breeds... and my husband saw just how inexpensive the maintenance stuff was... I was already designing a coop, so... it isn't like it wasn't a done deal. But naturally when we went to go get our chicks... we came home with a couple extra. The feed store where we got them from had gotten 25 Easter Eggers, 15 were reserved for one guy, another 6 for another lady, which left 4. With the Australorps out of the equation... We planned for 3 EEs, and 3 SLWs... but they insisted we take the 4th so she wasn't in her little brooder all by herself... and to my surprise, that's when my husband begged for a brown leghorn... so 8 it was.
So this was the original 3/4 bird design and how it was supposed to fit in our space. (mocked up in photoshop):
But... we ended up with 8 birds, so I just expanded the design to accommodate 3 feet per square bird. It cam out to something like 6' feet by 6'.
Then some contractors came knocking on my door to let me know that my friendly gas company was intending to dig up a lot of my back yard next year... which according to my design would demolish the coop and about a quarter of the run... DANG! Sure they promised to repair, rebuild, replace everything they tear up... but the less I have to deal with that the better. So... not to be discouraged, we just decided to flip the design and make them rebuild the Run... It is after all the most expendable, and most expensive part of our design... and shoot... with a backhoe, I am sure they can drop a healthy predator proof skirt all around where it needs to go.
We spent Memorial Day framing up the coop.
We salvaged as many 2x4s from our basement remodel as we could and spent around $100 on new wood. Mostly 4X4 posts, new plywood and a few more 2X4s. We even had some leftover shingles and materials the contractors left behind in 2002 when we had our house re-roofed on hand.
The following friday evening though, we were able to start building. This is what we accomplished that friday.
By Saturday, the structure was totally framed up:
We finished the roof the next day under threat of rain. It was an empty threat.
Over the next couple of weeks we finished the outer plywood walls, built the next boxes and the big front access door, slapped some paint on it, and started working on the windows.
The windows holes have quarter inch hardware cloth framed into place, The outer window flaps are quarter inch plexi built into a wooden frame, the side windows are held open by a chain but can be locked down if need be.
At this point, the chicks were about 5 weeks old, so we decided to focus our efforts on building the run.
Digging the trench to bury our fencing was a huge pain... Everywhere we put our shovel, there were rocks or big honkin' tree roots starting at about 6 inches deep... You may be able to see the pile of rocks we threw over the back fence into the easement... and that's after bringing some of them back over to lay on top of the fence once we got it in the trench. Some of the rocks were just too big to move... for example, the right post of the door on the run, is actually anchored directly to one of those rocks. It's possible that it's the bedrock because our property is situated on the south side of a hill... in either case, gigantic rock or bedrock... it's not going anywhere. If it took us a week with tools to dig the trench, I highly doubt a predator will have better luck, especially now that we have caged the top of the impenetrable barrier with the fence.
Those are spring loaded hinges on the door of the run, so that the door will always close behind us when we enter, and there will be a lock on the run, as there will be a locks on the main accesses to the coop.
While we finished up the rest of the coop, we let the chicks spend time in their run. They seemed to like all of the room. It's about 150 square feet of run for 8 chickens... Because we live on a hill, the coop and run are built on a slope, so it's over 6 feet tall in the front, and a little under 5 feet in the back. So it will be easy to get in there with a rake every now and again for cleaning, a.k.a. harvesting compost. The husband wants to build boxes for inside the coop for a salad bar, and I figure that's where I'll empty the unused water from their waterer when I go to fill it back up with fresh water...
Anyway... we are planning to bring in a little more top soil to raise the soil level to just underneath the bottom of the bottom rail in the front there... so, another 4 inches or so. We're also planning to move the raised bed that's currently in front of where the coop is. We'll bother with landscaping next year, after the gas company has it's way with our property, but we are planning for a combination flower/vegetable/herb bed. Even though it is shady, lettuce and herbs grow beautifully there. The husband has already suggested hanging flower boxes off of the top of the frame with Petunias, bleeding heart fuscia, and whatnot...
We sheeted the interior, painted it, installed the automatic Pullet Shut chicken door and moved them in. I could hardly sleep with them out there, worried about predators and all, but they made it through their first night just fine. And the Pullet Shut Automatic Chicken door worked like a charm.
Really all that's left to do now is to get something a little more official to hold those windows out, build the roost, sew the poop hammock up.
Oh, and the colors, in case anyone is interested in that detail:
Exterior: Valspar: Curry Green
Trim: Valspar: Aviary (green tinted off-white)
Interior: Behr: Navaho White (very warm white)
Some final shots:
As it turns out... One of our Wyandottes is a Cockerel... so in a few short weeks, we'll have 7 birds sharing this space.
Coop: 6'x6' footprint, 25 sq. ft. interior space
Run: 22' long, 8' wide tapering to 6' wide. For 150 sq. ft.
Approximate Cost: $975
Coop - about $275 mostly in Plexi, plywood, and hardware, thanks to being able to salvage a lot of 2X4s from our basement.
Run - About $400 most of this cost was the welded wire. But we have enough left over for the chicken tractors.
Chicken Door with solar panel - about $300 (after shipping)
Plans for the future include building a small tractor in which to pasture them in the yard... if we ever get out of this drought long enough to grow grass again.