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La Casita Del Pollo - An Adventure

  1. Roshon
    I convinced my wife to let me start raising chickens on our 11 acre wooded lot. I didn't have any formal plans more of a basic concept that evolved as I learned. What looked to be a simple investment of $300 for a prefab coop from Sam's Club for free range chickens turned into a major, multi-month project. First, it seems that most of the prefab coop manufacturer's lie about capacity and use the cheapest materials possible. I could have clearly built a more practical coop from scratch for the money, though it wouldn't have been as cute as the Chicken Chalet from Urban Chicken. It was serviceable and had some nice features, but the claim of 4-6 chickens might work for cornish game hens, but 6 Australorps weren't going to be happy in that little box, especially if they weren't going to be able to free range. Of course that changed to 3 Australorps and 3 Sicilian Buttercups before my wife and I left the feed store with our chicks.

    How Plans Change
    After attending a lecture with the Cooperative Extension, free ranging waa off the table. With the looming Avian Flu pandemic, the microbiologist giving the lecture stressed the need for a covered run to keep wild bird poop out of the run. I had the aluminum frames left over from two 10' x 10' gazebos which roofs had collapsed under snow, which I thought I just make into a chicken wire cage up until then. Now I need a roof, no tarp on the box is going to do with snow in the winter. I start thinking of starting with a shed roof, but he 10' span is problematic when you consider possible snow loads. so a steep gable roof it is. I/ve ever built one before, but how hard can it be (much harder and expensive than anticipated). The project has now increased in complexity and cost. I learned a lot and continue to learn what works and what doesn't as I've muddled through the project.

    In the Beginning There was a Box
    Let's start with the basic idea before everything got complicated by reality. The first photo shows the original store bought coop kit put together and aluminum frames set up by the garden. The frames are the key structural element of the run. They have a triangular cross brace across the foot of the vertical panels that have holes for 12" spikes to anchor the structure. This built in footing and dense clay allowed building this without a footing as the load is distributed over a large footprint. Add some solid dimensional lumber on the perimeter and this makes for a solid base as long as the uprights are plumb.

    Let's start with the basic idea before everything got complicated by reality. The first photo shows the original store bought coop kit put together and aluminum frames set up by the garden. The frames are the key structural element of the run. They have a triangular cross brace across the foot of the vertical panels that have holes for 12" spikes to anchor the structure. This built in footing and dense clay allowed building this without a footing as the load is distributed over a large footprint. Add some solid dimensional lumber on the perimeter and this makes for a solid base as long as the uprights are plumb.
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    The coop looks nice enough, has a outside access nesting box, poop tray for a floor, and attached "run", but much too small for confined hens. More of a rabbit hutch with a nesting box at this point. I did consider using it as a chicken tractor for awhile, but that seemed a pain and the girls would still be stuck in a small box. It will go through a few transformations before the end. The second photo shows the run moved to the back end of the coop. I removed the back wall and adding slide out "poop" trays for the floor of that section. Planned on using solid panels, with Reflectix insulation to winterize the "sun porch" when it gets cold. Of course, since this is an organically grown project more than a planned design, that changed. I found the double paned window in the third permutation put out with someone's trash and found it fit the end well, so the girls get a fancy tilt out window for their south facing window. I'm thinking acrylic "storm windows" for the remaining open screened areas so the girls get plenty of light in the winter.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Raising the Roof
    Now back to the run. 10' 2 x 6 pressure treated lumber all around the top to support the roof. All tied together with deck screws.
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    I went with a 2 x 4 roof rafters using plywood gussets made out of leftover PT plywood. I also used metal brackets to makes sure the whole run makes it to Oz in one piece if a big storm comes through. At $.058 each they seemed like cheap insurance and made hanging the rafters single handed possible. 2 x 3 rafter ties on all the inner rafters for strength and stability. I won't be surprised to see the Buttercups in the rafters at some point.
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    Next come the 1 x 4 purlins to support the Ondura roof panels. A bit rough, but I'm working without a helper and it's just a chicken run after all.
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    Finally, up go the Ondura panels. I decided on these with purlins on 24" centers as an attractive, low cost option to metal (preferred) or shingles on sheathing. While I was putting up the roof panels, I noticed that things were a bit shaky up there so I added the corner braces and it stiffened up nicely. You can also see the 10' PT 2 x 4's around the lower perimeter to attach the chick wire and the entry gate in the left corner
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    Wrapping the box
    Now it's time to wrap the box with 150 feet x 48" of 1" chicken wire. Grabbed it on sale at Lowes. Was going to use lattice screws, but realized I had a pneumatic staple gun, so a few hundred staples later, we're ready for the girls. I was happily surprised to find the staples worked well in the aluminum frame. II read that the wire should be buried to keep predators from digging under the wire and large stones on the perimeter help with discourage digging as well. Turns out I had about a cubic yard of river stone that came out of another project, so I was set. looks pretty good and with a bit of landscape fabric, should help keep the weeds down around the run. After covering the gable ends, there is just enough to gaps in the eves if needed. In the second picture, you can see where I stained the roof of the coop to match that of the run. Already had some leftover red stain. Most people seem to like it. Sort of like having a nested chicken coops.
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    The Girls Move In
    Now that we have a safe place for them, the girls make the move from their brooder box in the garage to the run. Two five gallon buckets and a few bits of hardware and they've got a no waste automatic feeder and waterer for under $20 bucks. Helps offset the $500 cost for the roof I wasn't planning on building. Discovered that I can tell the water level with the night vision on camera I set up. Found a bucket de-icer for the winter, so that's settled. Hang a branches for roosts and in they go The old tire is a dust bath that has food grade diatomaceous earth. I got the idea from another BYC member's coop. Funny thing was that I found that they weren't sleeping in the coop and huddled up in a corner every night. Locked them in the coop that night and now they head in at dusk.
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    That's Entertainment
    After reading about Chicken Toys on BYC, I discover that a compost pile is the number one chicken entertainment. Build the girls a 2 foot by 10 foot raised compost pile for them. Amazing how they love it. Doesn't matter what I throw on it, they're in it. Designed it so finished compost falls below it for easy collection. It is now piled high with weeds and kitchen scraps (not that those last long). I've added an easy access door above it so I can dump goodies without having to walk through the run.The ramp up is an old bit of wire shelving. I've since moved the ladder on the right next (from an old bunk bed) to it and they seem to like it. I also have an old log that I roll over occasionally to expose bugs, which the girls are crazy about. They also like to play "Queen of the log".

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    A New Floor
    After a few weeks, the grass that was, is no more. The ground is damp, so I buy a cubic yard of paver base (finely crushed local blue stone) and spread it two inches deep. The floor is much dryer and the girls love digging in it. The stone size varies from dust to 1/4" so it's a good source of grit as well as an easy to clean surface. Half the cost of the pea gravel you see in the garden pathway and well worth the price.
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    More mods to the coop.
    Found some stair rail spindles at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $2 each. Put them up in the sun porch and the girls love them. Especially in the morning to catch some morning rays. You can see the poop trays as well. The tray bottoms are galvanized steel. The rails for the trays are made of metal studs screwed in to 2 x 4s. Next you can see a couple dishpans, artificial turf and ceramic eggs I put in the nesting box area to try and give them the idea this is the place to lay. So far they've just decided they are a great place to roost at night. I found all six squeezed into one of them one night. At least it's all easy to clean.
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    Turning Night Into Day
    Picked up a couple 10 Watt LED lamps on Amazon. Put one on a timer to extend the girls day and try to keep them laying through the winter. The other has a motion detector to startle nighttime predators. They also provide some work light if I'm in the run at night. You can also see the wireless repeater I set up in the run for the pollo cam to the left of the timed light. I will be cleaning up all those wires eventually. Set up the garden swing for casual bird watching.
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    Streaming live video from La Casita del Pollo
    After making the rounds with three different security cams, I finally settled on an external dome camera from Hikvision. 4 megapixels, up to 1080p streaming, and a very wide angle. I set it at bird's eye view next to the entry door. Covers nearly the entire run with little distortion.

    After making the rounds with three different security cams, I finally settled on an external dome camera from Hikvision. 4 megapixels, up to 1080p streaming, and a very wide angle. I set it at bird's eye view next to the entry door. Covers nearly the entire run with little distortion.
    >>>>>>> CURRENT VERSION
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    The best way to watch the girls is using VLC Player (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/) and streaming the network location of rtsp://lacasitadelpollo.sytes.net (. Alternatively you can get to it at http://lacasitadelpollo.systes.net:8008, click on the Anonymous box and Login. You'll probably be prompted to download and install some plugin. Works well with IE, Safari (if you install VLC or Web Components from http://www.hikvision.com/europe/download_more.asp?id=1192) and Firefox. Google Chrome doesn't work with any video cam web stream I've found anymore because they disabled the plugin formats that all seem to use.

    Giving outside access to the nest box
    I had left the entire coop inside the run, so I had to walk in to check the nesting box, but finally decided that I'd move the coop to the corner and expose the box to the outside world. Since there is roof overhang, and the aluminum panels, I had to make a docking port around the nesting box. More room in the run and little intrusion into the garden path. Lots of staples, but I'll take it.
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    Added a "dump door" to the compost pile
    I just added a door in the run over the compost pile, so we can drop treats from the garden and kitchen on the pile without having to go through the run. I'm using a 1"x2" on a hinge as a prop stick to hold it open while tossing in the goodies.
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    That pretty much wraps it up for now. I plan on putting a door between the garden and run so the chickens can have some supervised free range time when the garden needs debugging and weeding. Other than than that I don't expect more than tweaks and debugging when weather changes.

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Comments

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  1. foxmfan1
    What a great coop!! You got some lucky ladies!!
  2. cstronks
    Masterful. You could certainly fit more birds into that area though.
  3. justdishy
    I really enjoyed your process, reminds me of me. Great recycling, incorporation of composting, and realization that these packaged coops are really insufficient. I spent almost the whole summer transitioning from a small tractor idea (which I did complete) to a whole enclosure/covered run/secure coop setup. Like the camera too.
  4. FloridaChick13
    I love the things we do for our chickens!! <3
  5. Loc20chick
    Great coop, I love your raised compost pile idea.
  6. Roshon
    I would love to let them run free on the property. Unfortunately, most of the Mid-Atlantic is considered at high risk for avian influenza because we are in a flyway for waterfowl, which are the primary carriers of the disease Here in Central Delaware we are at particularly high risk since we are between the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, both stop overs for Canada and Snow geese and now have a large year-round population of Canada geese. The poultry specialist with the Cooperative Extension stressed that keeping them in a covered enclosure is one of the most important steps to prevent exposure to avian influenza.
  7. Free Feather
    Keeping them in a covered run is not going to do much for avian influenza, just make your chickens less happy.
  8. Roshon
    I'd guess I spent over 40 hours on the entire project.

    Thank you.

    I did 99% of this single handed, so it took me much more time than it should. I believe I spent at least 40 hours on it all and continue to tinker with it. I was designing as I built, so I spent a fair bit of time trying different approaches and occasionally backing up a step. The hens drove a lot of changes as I tried to get them to roost were I wanted (a fruitless adventure as chickens make donkeys seem compliant). The quickest was the coop. It was a kit that went together in about an hour in it's first iteration. I easily spent much more time reconfiguring it so that the tiny run it came with could be used as coop space as a solarium with poop trays throughout for easy cleanup. Only problem is they much prefer to roost on the coop than in it.
  9. BuffOrps416
    It loos amazing! Good job on getting chicken coop pic of the week! I love the raised compost and easy access to it and the garden swing/ security camera for watching the chickens.

    How long did it take you to build it (run and coop)?
  10. arabbie1
    You have done a great job! You have a way with words that amused me. I'm so glad your wife vetoed the chicken run / cat house / feline flock guardian experiment for all involved. Tee Hee. Silly man. I do agree with Chipper Chicken about the hardware wire though. (The Devil Wire) I've come in with so many small cuts & slices from that stuff, but I believe my birds are safer for my misery. It's amazing what such a small, easy, relatively inexpensive project can balloon into. Really like your compost pile idea. All in all you have a mighty fine finished product.

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