Motel Chix

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We got our first chicks on February 26, 2014. We didn't start our coop until late March, and the chickens moved out there on April 1. I couldn't handle the dust in the house anymore! The coop wasn't even finished when they moved out!

We had an issue with a tree that Ken didn't want to take out. It's his apricot tree. So these hastily scrawled plans were what we came up with - the run offset instead of coming straight off the coop. The coop was 6'x8'. Due to a mis-communication when we finalized the plans, it also ended up being 8' tall at the front and 6' tall at the back. Note to self: Next build do not put the measurements down on paper in two different spots!

8 year old grandson Evan and Grampa working on the framing. It was COLD out there!

Son Kenny had a rare day off and came to help set the rafters. Man, it looked tall when I was standing on the ground, but I wanted to be able to walk in it without crouching.

Siding starting to go on. The area between the roof and the walls has been left open for ventilation, with screening to keep out wasps and bats. (Yes, bats!)

*The hole is cut for the people door and Ken's cutting the hole for the south window.

And the door is in. Works great, but I do wish we'd made it a little wider to accommodate pushing a wheelbarrow inside if we need to. We primed and painted the inside white.

The window is in.

The chickens enjoying a rare sunny day in their temporary run - a dog exercise pen. Yes, they were living in the coop before it was finished.

The big vent is in above the window on the east side. The pop door is cut and the frame is in place. We scored a locking doggie dog at the Habitat for Humanity store for only $15.00 and we are still happy with it's function! The pop door didn't actually go in until a few days after a very heavy April 3rd snowstorm.

The vent is in on the west side. It can be opened or closed depending on the wind and blowing snow direction. There is another on on the North side.

Inside the coop looking south. The bare plywood area under the window on the south side was cut out for the roll out nest boxes. The other area of plywood was the original spot for pop door but we didn't like how high it was so we went with the doggie door placed under the spot we planned for it.

Temporary roost board. That was also changed.....higher as the chickens grew so it would end up above the nests with a poop board underneath, and the heat lamp lasted a whole 2 days before I took it out. They weren't using it anyway, despite temperatures in the 20s and snow that hit us 2 days after they went outside on April 1 and kept coming until June 6.

Finished everything but the pop door, the exterior painting and the run but, um. we ended up with a slight delay. The chickens were living out here then.

Painting finished but we still needed to build the "tunnel" to get them from the coop to the run. At this point they are still using the ex-pen.

We decided that we liked the look of the hoop coops and that was what we wanted to do for the run. But with our ridiculous winds, we needed it solidly anchored. So we used metal fence posts pounded deeply into the ground, 4 on each side to support 3 cattle panels. And the chickens were still using that darn old ex-pen until we finished!

The cattle panels are arched and anchored to the fenceposts with wire.

We topped the cattle panels with chicken wire to keep out wild birds and overhead predators. Molly the ever curious English Setter was enjoying a balmy day while she supervised Ken wiring the chicken wire to the frame of cattle panels.

The door frame is pressure treated lumber. We kept its use to bare minimum but there were spots where nothing else would do.

And Ken's little homemade people door works great! The lattice was some we had left over from another project and we liked the way it looked. Notice that the people door in the coop has two latches - one on the top and one on the bottom. We did the same thing for the door into the run.

Ken building the "tunnel" into the run, which is offset from the coop, with leftover lumber and siding. It has two closed sides and the top is closed....a great windbreak and secure against critters getting to the pop door opening.

Landscape fabric worked great to add some shade to the run!

We added 2 roost poles in the outside run, which they appreciate. We ran hardware cloth up about 2 feet over the cattle panels and chicken wire, then folded it at the bottom and ran it out about another 2 feet as an apron. We literally sewed it with wire through the chicken wire and to the cattle panel crosspieces, then pinned it to the ground with landscape fabric pins, intended to put rock over it eventually. But the grass grew up beautifully through it and it isn't even visible now. We can mow right over it. We also ran the same configuration of hardware cloth up the sides of the coop, secured with large washers and screws. It worked great - Molly tried to dig under it and broke and bloodied a toenail. She hasn't bothered the chickens since,not even when they are running around in the yard.

Almost finished. And here it is the end of June.

As a finishing touch we made a little fence of white vinyl lattice. We live in town and our setup is visible from the street, so we didn't want our coop and run to be an eyesore. You can also see that we added a mobile home vent fan above the door - it can either be opened and running or just opened for passive ventilation without the fan going. The coop is hardwired for power, has two outlets and a light for me to do my chores when it's starts getting dark early.

We also put a short piece of lattice at the south side and planted a grape vine on either side. The landscape fabric is on a metal strap and operates like a window shade. In this picture the center panel is rolled up a little bit.

Motel Chix....we'll keep the light on for ya.

Winter was creeping up, and we knew we needed to do something to keep the run warm enough for the chickens to spend as much time outside of the coop as possible. Our solution was to cover the entire run in clear plastic - think greenhouse!

Step one was to take down my little lattice fence. Then we put more vinyl lattice over the cattle panels. It draped over the curve beautifully and stayed in place until we could get it attached. When we had put the chicken wire on the panels, there were a lot of wire pokey-outy things (technical term) sticking up where the attachments were made. We knew that in our high Wyoming winds and with a snow load, those bits of wire would shred the plastic in less time than it took us to unroll the package! So the lattice acts as a spacer. Worked great and looks so nice we left it up after the season! The lattice was attached to the framework of the cattle panels with zip ties, cut short and with the pokey-outies from them toward the inside of the run.

The inside of the run with the lattice on. We attached it to the back panel of welded wire as well.

I think this part will be trickier to explain than it was to actually do. We used metal lath (visible in the picture below of the door treatment) which had pre-drilled holes in it. Each strip was about 4 feet long, just about the width of each panel. We made a sandwich....we rolled the plastic around the lath like a window shade and marked it with a sharpie over each pre-drill hole. Then we ran a bit of Gorilla Tape (LOVE that stuff!) over both sides of the plastic. Ken punched a hole through all of the layers and added a large washer on each side. The entire assembly was held temporarily with zip ties that we used wrong end through so they wouldn't seize, and then I held the lath in place while Ken pulled out the loose zip ties, turned them, and ran them through the plastic, tape, lath, and inner roll of plastic and secured it to the crosspieces in the cattle panels.

We didn't make as many turns with the plastic over the lath where we screwed it to the door frame because we weren't sure we were going to leave it. We did, and we're glad we did since that door is on the north side and that's our worst winter weather side. At the top of the run we left open space for ventilation on both the north and south sides.

Ken is securing the plastic to the front of the door. You might be able to see that there is a gap above the door with no plastic covering. That was deliberate for ventilation. Of course, we folded it back and attached the ends of it to the fencing.

And then my fence was put back. Oh, happy day!

As we finished, the sun was going down and it began to snow, so it looks very dark in there at the time this photo was taken. You can see that we left another opening at the top on the south side, directly across from the one above the door. Ventilation is just as critical in a winter run as it is in the coop!

This is the inside of the run on a sunny day. To the left you will notice a pen within the run. That's where we brooded our chicks. Yep, outside, in the run, temps in the teens and twenties!

This setup withstood 60 mph winds, which are not unusual here, and the snow. I think the lattice not only acted like a spacer against the wire bits, it also left an air gap when the snow fell. The day this picture was taken, I simply went out with a push broom, went inside the run and tapped the top of the run. The snow literally slid off, down the curved sides.

Then spring returned, and we knew we needed to expand the run to accommodate our growing flock. Fortunately that was easy as could be, since we planned for that possibility when we first put up the run. The south end of the run was simply a big piece of wire-welded fence covered with chicken wire and a hardware cloth skirt and apron. We just cut the wire ties holding the end piece to the ends of the cattle panels, added two more fence posts, arched another cattle panel into place, and reattached the end piece.

The south end of the run removed. Silly chickens didn't even realize it! In fact, Ken suggested we get them out to forage while we worked, and as soon as I clapped my hands and said, "Let's go outside!" they headed for the door all the way on the opposite end! Silly chickens!

The end panel came off just as we designed it to do - the chicken wire, the hardware cloth skirt and the apron are still attached. We just took it off and laid it down until we needed it again.

Ken wiring the new cattle panel to the old. We covered it with chicken wire, attached hardware cloth skirt and apron, and put the end back on. Easy!

The chickens seem very happy with their new addition. I just need one more teeeeny piece of lattice to extend the fence and it's all done! We did put a tarp on top of the run for shade instead of the landscape fabric. While it did a great job shading and repelling water, it wasn't so good at reflecting the heat. So the new tarp has a reflective side.

So now that we've come full circle through the seasons with the coop and run, what would I do differently? You know, I honestly don't know. I might have planned the coop a little better to take advantage of the space we had available and made it a little bigger. (Does anyone ever say "I wish I'd built a smaller coop?") And if I knew we'd end up keeping a rooster, which we had no plans to do, I'd have placed it a little further than 15 feet from the bedroom window. But Scout is a huge story in this great chicken adventure, so he's staying!

But frankly, this setup is so easy to clean, maintain, and work in that I have no qualms about letting my grandkids (9 and 10 years old) take full charge of the chickens when we are out of town. I think the simplicity of Motel Chix is it's strength, and it doesn't hurt that it isn't hard to look at, either!
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I have kinda become known as a "natural chicken keeper", applying common sense to raising chickens.

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One of the best articles on cooping that I have read. Thank you, Blooie!
Love this coop and the hoop run!


Thank you both! It's turned out to be a setup so simple that my grandkids, 8 year old Katie and 9 year old Evan, can care for the coop and the chickens when we are gone and do a super job! I really need to get the photos of how we winterized the run up here.
Purpletie, I'm so sorry I didm't notice your comment and question before now. Thank you - the cattle panels are holding up beautifully, even with the snow and high winds we've had 8 inches of the white stuff in one storm. But we covered the panels with more white vinyl lattice and attached greenhouse type plastic all the way around and over, and it's exceeded our expectations.
I just looked at your build and I'd say that it turned out really great. The cattle panels is a real good idea, and very strong too.
Making them into a hoop was a very clever idea.
Me and Ken both know that building a project like this is a lot of work, but sure worth it in the end. Good Job Ken!
Enjoy it
Thank you kindly! It's working far better than either of us dreamed! Before this project started neither of us had a clue about building - Ken's a professional electrician but carpentry-wise we both missed the boat. Between the two of us, we couldn't stack a straight sandwich! But we learned, and we are very proud of what we accomplished!
Really love your coop Blooie, especially the cattle panel idea. I am going to copy you, I need a second run and this fits the bill! Do I see an auto pop door on the coop?
Thanks. Nope, it's just a locking doggie door! We put a hook and eye at the top of it and just leave it open year round, but I can unhook it and drop it down if I need to for any reason. It's working really well for us and because it's inside the tunnel and the run is now covered with plastic, there is no direct wind into the coop. We are seriously thinking of adding one more cattle panel to the south side to make it a little longer. That's part of the beauty of this design - it's relatively flexible. Just open up the end, add another two fence posts and the new cattle panel, then put the end back on.
What a beautiful job the two of you did. I love that you can expand the run so easily and it keeps the worst of the weather off the birds. The hoop design is great, rain will just run off and the evil white stuff too (I will not write that 4 letter word-ugh!)
Thank you, drumstick diva. Funny, when we first got our chicks we had ordered one of those pre-fab coops because neither of us were sure of our ability to build on our own. But we read a couple of reviews and Ken was able to cancel that order. We built more than a coop and run - we built confidence!
I love cattle panels and use them for a lot. Besides fencing for our ponies, they've been used as a drag for the pastures (breaks up both pony/horse and chicken manure), "new" hay rings (traded the expensive ones I had for 2 months worth of hay!) and then the temporary sheds when we moved. Here on our new property, they have been used on new temporary sheds - which will become permanent sometime this winter. Don't think I'd seen this write up before I made chicken tractors with them. I love how your lattice and plastic idea worked - may incorporate that into ours - we'll see. Thanx for sharing!! (Happy that Scout had a good early life as well!)

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