After living at our five acre mini-farm for a couple of years, we decided to take the plunge and try a few chickens. Lots of reading BYC coop designs and head-scratching later, we decided to build the coop over the long holiday weekend (4th of July, 2013). We had a couple of requirements to bear in mind:
1) As cheap as possible
2) Room for 6 laying hens (more if possible)
3) Hawk-proof run, predator-proof house
4) Easy access for morning chores and egg collection
With those criteria in mind, we started building.
On hand, I had a huge pile (700+ pieces) of recovered 7' fence boards and 150 or so recovered fenceposts. A neighbor changed from wood to vinyl fencing, and gave us 3 dump trailers of old fencing. We recovered a good-sized pile of 2 x 4 lumber and metal roofing panels from a dog kennel left on the property by the previous owners. Finally, a buddy of mine gave me a pickup load of 5/8" plywood originally used as hurricane shutters.
Step one was to rough out the space for the run, and to set the poles for the house. The floor framing and nest box went in first:
The house and run are nestled between some slash pines and oaks, so it took most of the first day to chop and cut roots out of the way for the post holes. The next couple of days were spent building out the inside of the house; a pop door, ramp, and roosting perches were added. We also finished the side walls and roof framing. To facilitate cleaning, I built the North wall of the house as a single hinged door.
Sunday was spent finishing the framing for the run and starting to close everything in. Price was the major driver on our decision to skin the run in poultry netting, as hardware cloth is about 4x the price of chicken wire. The only daytime predator we need to worry about is hawks, as our dogs do a pretty good job of keeping other critters out of the yard. Raccoons are the biggest nocturnal predator, so we used hardware cloth to secure the ventilation openings on the house. We live in South Florida, so the need for ventilation trumps the need for insulation.
The house is 7' wide by 4' deep, and sits about 2' off the ground. The run is 10' x 22'. We're starting with three, but have room for five cut-down milk crates as nests. Ultimately, we could handle a dozen birds, but we're starting with six.
I had to buy:
(5) 2" x 4" x 10' boards
(3) 48" x 50' rolls of poultry netting
(2) rolls of hardware cloth
Various nails, staples, and screws
A couple of gate latches and hinges
A $2 quart of "oops" exterior paint for the nest box
I think the total cash outlay was less than $150.
As of Monday, I still have one more row of poultry netting to install, some more hardware cloth needs to go up, and I need to fabricate and install the people door to the run. Overall, we're pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially considering it was designed on the fly. A neighbor is growing some birds for us, and they should be ready in a week or two. I'll update this post with some pics of the new tenants as soon as they move in...
Update (1) 7/9/13: Six 1-month-old Buff Orpington pullets coming today!
Update (2) 8/2/13: D-day! Six 8-week-old buff Orpington pullets arrived this afternoon in the middle of a downpour. I think my perches are out of reach, so I built a quick 'n dirty perch 6" off of the floor of the house. I have lots of questions, like "Is it OK to take their feed up a couple of hours before sunset?" and "Will they be able to figure out the water source on their own?" (It's a 1-quart inverted-bottle type waterer). Anyway, here's my first photo of the young ladies:
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