Building my coop was an adventure! (And it still continues to be...)
I'm not ever officially done- in fact, I do some sort of addition to it every year. Always fixing or improving the design of something or other. Isn't that life?
I'm located in central Maine, where temperatures can range near 100 F during summer and down to -30 F in the winter. We often get over four feet of accumulated snow, which can get quite heavy and difficult to deal with.
Looking back to when I first started out, everyone advised to plan- plan for the future in what you might need.
I wanted to build a coop for both weather extremes, that I could do as little maintenance on as possible to keep my hens happy and healthy.
So, we started with some basic planning. We wanted a spot which would get some sun and some shade. We located a good spot on our property, between an existing old shed (which was once a one-room school house) and our garage.
Building season in Maine starts in the very early springtime, just after the snow is gone, and before the leaves appear on the trees. We were done by July this way, when our chicks had become dusty, stinky feather monsters we could get them outside.
This original coop was built for six hens.
It measured about 5 1/2 ' x 4'
We framed the coop we wanted with 2x4's. The posts on the ground are pressure treated 4x4's.
(Initially, we thought the coop would be movable. Hahaha! No way. By the time the weight of the lumber was all up, nothing was moving that thing. So it stays in one spot, which has worked out just fine.)
We got some scrap linoleum from Home Depot and used that down on the floor- in retrospect, I would have cut it more generously to fit over all the edges to make cleanup a little easier. Instead, I lined it like you would a kitchen floor- it stops right at the wood molding.
Now, we wanted to access the nest boxes from the outside. This was very important to me since I wanted low maintenance. We framed the nest box, the pop door, and a large area for clean-out doors which were just the right height to put a wheelbarrow underneath. We built it tall. Probably taller than we should have, since the top ranking hens roost at the very top, and from the ground standing a human cannot grab them without a ladder.
Next, the siding went up.
At the time, we had no pickup truck, just a Jeep- which made getting building supplies very tricky. So plywood was not an option for our siding. At the store, we found some rough hewn 1x8's on sale, and cut them all to size to fit in the back of the Jeep. (This pretty much decided our dimensions for us.)
We put a silicon gel weatherization apoxy in between each plank, and drilled them in.
My husband purchased an impact drill just for this project, which he still finds worth its weight in gold. (I think the older drill appears in this shot, but you will soon see the other replacing it)
Next, we wanted to put up the doors. The clean-out doors were first. I wanted them to be very large so that I could literally empty the entire coop with one sweep from a large barn broom- a push broom some call it. We had saved some old hinges and latches from a kitchen renovation, so those got used here. I actually kind of like them- they're very retro 70's. And using them gave us a little bit of extra space.
The doors themselves are made of scrap plywood (which was extremely difficult to bring back for the 45 minute ride from Home Depot, but we managed)
The nesting boxes (we made 2 of them) are also made from scrap plywood and used kitchen hinges. Each box is 12" x 12" deep. They are divided down the middle by plywood. The top lifts up. This was a mistake, because the movable area of asphalt paper leaked when it rained at first. After much engineering problem solving, we used a bicycle tire- cut to size- all along the flap opening underneath the hinges to prevent any more leaks.
We also constructed windows out of plexiglass and wood framing, which open and shut with those cabinet hinges. The triangular eaves have screening, a small 1/4 inch gap, and plexiglass, to provide ventilation but block any serious wind.
We were extremely fortunate that a neighbor was putting up metal roofing on her garage, and had some scraps she offered to us. The color was brown, but hey, it was free metal roofing, so we snatched it right up.
Then came the puzzle of the pop door.
We used a standard cabinet shut latch to make sure the pop door closed tight. It is made only of scrap wood, and it was located inside the fencing area of the run.
So the next problem was, how do we open and close it from outside the fence?
We used a hinge and a dowel to create almost an attic door style extender to the pop door, which I can use almost like an attic pole to open and close it standing just outside the fence.
(Before fencing and pole shutter)
Note the brown metal roofing, the screened in eaves for vents, and the open and shut windows.
An extra plank with some scrap wood, attached with brat nails made a good ramp, though the young pullets were at first very nervous going up and down the ramp.
We fenced all around the area- which was tricky because as you can see, there is a tree growing in one section- but we managed.
You can just barely see my pole device- yes, it is attached with duct tape- but it works really well to open and shut the door from outside the fence.
I had my husband roof over a little bit of the run with some plastic roofing. That first winter was a doozy- record cold temperatures and snowfall amounts!
The hardest part was digging the channel for electrical wires. We threaded a weather proof electrical line from our garage to the coop, to a heated waterer. This is located under the coop where the chickens tend to congregate during the winter. We also put plastic all around the fencing. The plastic helps keep out the snowdrifts and also helps block the wind, while still letting some sunlight in.
It was very little room, but they all made it through that first winter.
The second year, we added a small extension to the coop to give them more room, plus one extra nest box (though they still all continue to use one- the favorite one that they all fight over)
We also extended the amount of covered run, because they really needed more space in the winter. I hung a feeder from a chain (instead of leaving it on a block, where they would often knock it over). We also added an outdoor perch up on the framing.
They seem to have a better set up this year, as it is a bit easier to manage, even on the really cold days.
I know we'll be planning some more improvements for this coming spring, so I call it my "Work in Progress" coop.
Thanks for reading, and if you are planning to build your own coop I wish you much luck!
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