New Hampshire Coop and RunSince I got so much inspiration for our chicken coop from the BYC forum and coop design pages, I figured I'd better share our coop with you in return! So here's the background. I grew up on a farm in the midwest and my mom always had chickens, so I'm not completely new to keeping chickens. However, my responsibilities as a kid were limited to gathering eggs, so this project was the first time in my adult life I'd had chickens. In 2010 we bought a house in rural NH with 2.5 acres, plenty of room for a few chickens. I did a lot of research on coop design and then sat down and doodled a lot of ideas. My husband (Brian) was up for making something from scratch so I showed him my doodles. We had many discussions and the plans changed many times before we settled on the final coop. As a result, I don't have any plans or diagrams I can share with you. Once we decided on the general layout, Brian just went at it with the power tools until the whole thing came together. But I have lots of photos!
We just wanted a small layer flock to produce eggs for ourselves. I ordered 8 chicks of assorted winter hardy breeds to arrive in early April and Brian got to work as soon as the ground thawed in late March. I figured the chicks would be in the brooder well into May so Brian would have time to build the coop. The plan was for a 6' x 6' square coop, raised up from the ground. That'd be enough room for 9 standard breed hens according to most sources I read. Our town zoning allows us to build any structure that's less than 8' x 8' without needing a permit, yay. We wanted an attached run that would have enough room for them to be comfortable if they were closed up in it all the time (as they will have to be in winter), but we planned on pasturing them in nice weather.
Brian started with the raised platform for the floor of the coop. We placed it next to the big pine tree on purpose because there's an electrical outlet there. The previous owners ran the conduit underground and placed the outlet at the base of the tree so they could decorate the tree with lights at Christmas. We figured it'd be handy to be able to run a power cord from the outlet into the coop. Legs of the base rest on concrete supports dug down into the ground that themselves rest on gravel and sand. We're hoping we dug down deep enough to avoid frost heaving in winter, but ask me again in a few months to see if we achieved our goal!
The base was stained with a sealer to make it more weather proof. Brian built the wall framing in the garage in pieces and then had to wait for a stretch of nice weather to take them outside and attach them to the base so we could get the siding up and roof on before it started snowing/raining again.
The next stage took place quickly once the weather was amenable. Brian put much of it together while I was at work one day! So I don't have a lot of photos of the assemply steps, but here are some different angles. He got the walls up, plywood on, tyvek over it, and roof in place and shingled in short order. Here you can see the east side, with the people-door and the exterior nest boxes.
Here you can also see the north side of the coop, with the two big clean-out doors.
And here you can see the south side of the coop, with the big window. We read an interesting old book on open-front chicken coops, and the extra ventilation sounded like a good idea. So we built it with a huge window in the front that got screened over, and in the winter we planned to cover it with plastic sheeting to keep out drafts. The west side of the coop is also shown, which is where we eventually put the pop door.
While all the construction was going on, the chicks were in their brooder box in our little garden shed. The shed has a couple of windows, and I remember driving home one night to see the red glow of the broodlamp shining out the windows in the dark. It had an eerie sort of look, so I tried to take a photo of it. Brian joked that we had the gates to another world in our shed, and the chicks were guarding it.
Then he put the siding on over the tyvek, and trim. We painted it to match the barn. 1/2" hardware cloth on the south window, pop door on the west side where the run would go.
We painted the inside of the coop, too. We wanted to be able to hose the whole thing out once or twice a year, so we used exterior latex on the inside. We also laid a sheet of linoleum down for the floor. I don't think I have a photo of that, but it was just whatever cheap linoleum we found at the hardware store, cut and glued in place. We rolled the edges up the walls slightly, to make it easier to sweep the bedding out when we clean.
Here's a photo from later, after we got the roost put up. We made a droppings board to hang beneath it, but it never worked the way we hoped and always seemed to be in the way, so we took it down. We just scoop out the worst of the poopy bedding on the floor regularly, and change the whole lot of it about once a month. One bale of shavings fills the whole coop nicely, so it's about $7/month for fresh bedding. the old stuff goes in the compost pile and eventually becomes awesome garden soil.
Doors on, then it was time to build the attached run. We live in a rural area so we have a lot of preadators to worry about. I've personally seen coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons and even a mink in my yard. And we have neighbors with dogs. So we wanted the run to be as tightly built as possible. We settled on a size and shape for the run and then Brian dug a foot down all the way around. He used the 1/2" hardware cloth all around, a foot into the ground and flared out at the bottom. He packed the soil back in and then used base boards to hold it all in place. He also built raised flower beds all around the base of the coop and run. They serve two purposes - they make it even harder for animals to dig under the wire, and they make it pretty in the growing season! The run includes all of the space under the coop. The girls love it under there in warmer weather, they lounge there and take dirt baths. We decided to put a roof on the run to keep it from turning into a mud pit in wet weather. We used transluscent plastic roofing, like for carports. It means the run is shaded from rain and direct sun, but still very bright in the daytime.
We moved the brood lamp into the coop as soon as it was done, because the girls were quickly out-growing their brooder box. After a few days confined to the coop so they'd learn it was 'home', we let them out into the run for a few hours each day (the weather was still fairly cold), but they quickly loved it so much that getting them to go back into the coop before dark was a real challenge! Here's Magrat, my dominique, on the ramp when she was still just a little squirt.
We put some apple branches from a tree we pruned inside the run as perches. They love those, too. Here's Nanny Ogg, my silver laced wyandotte, trying one out.
Here's all eight of them enjoying their run, back when the grass still grew in it! Were they really this tiny once?
The run got a door (with a pop door of its own) and the flower beds were finished and filled with dirt and flowers!
One other thing we added was an awning over the front window. The big window turned out to be great for ventilation, but the roof didn't stick out far enough to shade it from rain. To keep the bedding inside the coop from getting soaked every time it rained, I just sewed a small awning out of outdoor fabric and Brian rigged it up as you see here. In the foreground you can see some of the garden beds we'd begun digging by then, too.
The next step was to get some portable electric fencing to set up outside the run. We waited until the girls were a little bigger, so they wouldn't be so good at flying over it. By that time, the run was pretty much devoid of grass and they were very happy to be let out into the pen we set up with the fencing.
We still only let them out into the fenced pen when we are home and working outside. In the summer, they usually were out for several hours each day. At night they are locked safely back in the coop/run, and also if we are not at home or in the house for a long time. Our neighbors have chickens, too, and they've lost several to predators. We're trying our best to keep our girls safe while also giving them access to grass and bugs and fresh places to scratch.
I planted sunflowers on the south side of the coop, and it turned out to be the best idea. They grew up tall and shaded the coop and run from the sun in the hottest part of the summer.
More flowers around the coop.
Once the garden really took off, the girls were free to roam in it. The plants were big enough that their scratching wouldn't damage them, and they ate every Japanese beetle they found, yay! If only I could get them to eat the tomato hornworms, I would have it made. They were the best garden helpers, and they LOVED being in the garden. We dug the garden next to the coop on purpose, and set up the electric fencing around the whole thing. It worked out great.
We had our first snow a week or so ago (it was early snow, it's all melted again for now), so everything's changing for the girls. Nights are well below freezing, so we put plastic sheeting up over the front window of the coop and around some parts of the run. When we get another snowfall, we'll see if it keeps the worst of the accumulation out of the run. If not, we'll add more plastic in places. We want them to have a dry place still to run around in. The ground is going to be frozen soon, so we got them a bale of straw and spread that all over the run. They like scratching in it so far. We'll see if we need to add more as the winter goes by and they scratch it into nothing. The garden is mostly done, so we moved the fencing into a circle around the coop and let them out a little bit each day. We aren't working outside as much with the weather turning cold, so they are gradually being confined more and more. Once the ground is deep in snow, they'll have to be in the coop/run all the time, so we're trying to get them used to it.
Plastic on the run:
Magrat looks up at Brian and says, "Why did you make it so cold?"
Straw in the run:
Plastic on the south window:
Then I just took a couple more pictures this morning to show things I may not have gotten very good pictures of before when we were still building. Here's the apple branches they like to perch on:
And we put one other perch up on the south side, so they can sit in the sun in the winter, if they like.
Some extra interior photos.