My Chicken Coop 1

By woodmort, Jan 11, 2012 | |
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  1. woodmort
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    I built this 12 by 12 (outside dimensions) coop for about $200 back in 1985 when I got back into chickens after a 30-year hiatus and after living on this property for 24 yrs (there was a cobbled up horse shelter which was home to a horse my kids had when preteens on that spot previously). There was no plan except in my head and using previous experience building a garage, lakeside cottage and machine shed. It is located about 50 yards downhill from the house just off a grove of deciduous trees that shade it in summer but allow sunlight in winter. It is built on a "foundation" of 8 6 X 6 piers set in cement to level it to the hill. I had access to a bunch of old cinder blocks which I laid up around the base but they aren't holding up the building, just preventing critters from living under it. The side you see has two windows I saved when we had our house remodeled--there is a third one on the other side. I found one problem with this arrangement: while the windows let in a lot of air and light, they are so close to the floor that they get broken about once a year either from roosters battling, chasing hens or both. As a result two years ago I replaced the glass with plexiglas--more expensive but cheaper in the long run. The other, small window was purchased--there is a second in the back. All windows are covered on the outside by quarter-inch hardware cloth. Ventilation is done through the vents in the top and under the eaves as well as leaving the upper part of the windows open.
    The interior consists of two rooms--the one closest to the photographer is completely enclosed--that have insulated walls and ceiling. This side which is 8 X 12 feet has the nests and roosts and outside access--see the right hand corner. The original intention was to have this side be for the chickens while the other side--which has no ceiling but insulated walls--was for storage. Later, when I began raising replacement chicks the other side became a brooder room--I'd brood chicks, sell off the adults and move the chicks into the "adult" side. Now, however, the brooder side has been divided to leave me just enough room to keep birds away from the feed storage. I added roosts and a bank of nests to accommodate more chickens. (My original intention was for a dozen to 20 birds but now I'm caring for over 40--aka chicken math.) While the birds might need more room, they seem to get by on this since they are allowed out most of the time.
    I "blend" my different aged birds by allowing them to become accustom to seeing each other through the door, then, when I feel the younger chicks are ready (at about 8 weeks), I remove the door while still feeding and watering on both sides. This gives the chicks a "refuge" if they are harassed. For a few days I confine all birds to the coop so the chicks will know where to go at night. At that time I open the hatch and it is free range time. Later in the year I'd stop feeding on the chick side so all the food and water is in one place since it is easier to care for them--especially in winter--if this is all in one place.
    As you can see from the photo the roof needs replacing--something I'm having done this summer at a cost of three times what I spent to build the whole thing--and the building is in need of paint--something to be remedied in the next week or two. (Finished, see below)
    I had to replace the doors this spring because mice had chewed a one inch hole under one which allow a weasel access to the interior. He managed to reduce my 18 chickens (15 hens and 3 roosters) to 3 hens before I trapped him. Live and learn--I now have attached sheet metal to the bottom of the new door. The door is nothing more than a full sheet of 3/4-inch plywood sawed down the center and reinforced. I used the right hand side for every day entry but open both when I clean the interior. The left hand side is locked into place with sliding bolts on top and bottom.
    The house has electricity via an underground conduit to the house--it's in its own circuit--but no running water. I have a drinking water certified hose to the house that is used from spring until fall. Consequently hauling water to the coop in the winter is a pain since the nearest tap is inside my greenhouse that is 50 yards away. Aside from that it is fairly easy to work and care for the birds especially since I use a four-wheeler to move feed to the coop from the house and haul the "used" food away.
    The building sits on the south west corner of the chicken yard that is not visible from the photo aside from a thin corridor along the side where the birds go out and I enter to open/close the hatch. It was added only about ten years ago--previously I either let the chickens wander or set up temporary fencing. The yard itself is a fenced in 120 by 60-foot pasture. I keep the birds there for about 5 months of the year--May until October--to keep them out of the gardens and fruit areas. Once we have a frost and the garden is harvested the gate is left open and the birds are given the run of the place to gleaning up weed seeds and bugs. They are routinely closed in at night--if we go away they are confined for the duration and the gal that takes care of our cats also feeds/waters them and collects eggs.
    In case you're wondering about the pipe arrangement on the gate: While the fencing is 6 feet high, the gates were only 4 and my neighbor's pit bull figured out he could jump them and get to the chickens. After I saw him vault over it I attached another two feet of fencing using pvc pipe clamped on to the upper part of the gate. That worked--fortunately the dog has passed on. The fencing itself is welded wire, livestock fence with graduated openings from about 2 X 3 inches at the bottom to 4 X 6 at the top. Since the lower openings can allow pullet to squeeze through I fastened lengths of 2-foot regular chicken netting around the base--you can see it in the foreground. Also some of the older hens found they could jump up, land on the horizontal reinforcement stretchers and go out that way so I added netting there too. (Although they certain could, I've never had a chicken fly oveer the fence but then I've always kept heavy birds.) As such the chickens and those who like to eat chickens stay somewhat separated--at least the chickens stay in and the larger predators stay out. I hired the fencing done by a company that did cattle/horse/sheep fencing and really had no idea what kind if fence to use. They did an excellent job with posts and stretching the fence but, while the type fencing works, it isn't the best idea. If I were to do it again I'd definitely use a smaller mesh.
    I clean the coop once a year, generally in the early spring. Ideally I'd like to get the manure out and have a little snow fall on it to leach stuff into the soil before rototilling it in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The trick is to do it early but not too early. I firmly believe the heat generated from the composting of the manure provides some warmth to the hens--we can get to between 10 and 20 below. I cover the cleaned floor with 5 to 6 inches of pine shavings--use about 3 bales for the whole inside area. The bird are allowed out almost every day except while the snow is on the ground--they don't care much to go out and I don't care much to visit them twice a day to open and close the hatch--so the manure isn't a problem. I do spread about a bale of shavings around in midwinter to give the birds a cleaner floor and something to dig and play in. During the warm months I have found that since they can access their droppings they keep the flies down to the point where we don't notice a problem.
    I have 8 nesting boxes for approximately 32 hens, The boxes are lined with oat straw that I change as needed. There is 40 feet of roost made from small ash saplings that I harvested--those in the adult part were put up when I built the coop. I have an arrangement for them that allows them to swing up and out of the way when I clean under the roost--I don't use a "poop" board and see no reason for them. Poop happens and gravity takes care of depositing it. I have a big scoop shovel to clean the floor--which is one-inch exterior treated plywood overlaying treated 2 by 8's.
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    After​

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