Our [Cheap] Log Chicken Coop
2015 Chicken coop design contest
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This is my first post on this site so please be patient and hopefully I do this correctly! I thought I already posted about my coop but as I can't find it, I likely didn't succeed! Here is attempt number two!
My parents moved from the beach to a five acre hobby farm in 1998 and one of the first things my dad did was to order 100 day old ring-neck chicks and build a pen in our garage until they were teens and then he made a large outdoor run with a pre-built shed kit. This held up fairly well over the years. My dad was a complete newbie designing coops but here are some things he did that were our learning expereinces: Because pheseants are flightly, the top was fishing net while the rest was hardware cloth. He also used 2x4's as middle bracing; the run was about 100' long and about 15' wide with a middle bracing every copuple posts. It was large enough to stand in and walk around in which saved our backs and body! Finally, the most important part, it was dug 8" into the ground and was fairly secure from predators. Over the first 5 years the coop stood, we did have issues with racoons as they would sneak in from the fish net top. Eventually we put up electric mid way and on the top and we never had a problem again. We also switched the top material to chicken wire as we only had a small flock of hens. The coop weathered a LOT and the last ten years my boyfriend (now husband) patched it every year in the Spring and dreamed of burning it down. It was in really rough shape by the time my parents sold the farm and we bought it in 2013. In April 2014 I let my husband's dream come true - Levi gave away what was salvagable and he burnt the rest... with a big grin on his face! And then the rebuilding began!
The old coop (1998-2014)
OUR NEW COOP
My dad's original successes and mistakes were very important to us. My husband wanted a coop that he would rarely need to fix. We were on a tight budget, however, some things were too important to take shortcuts.
My new coop priorities were:
1) Protected space 24/7. My biggest chicken annoyance is when you have to lock them in and open them up each day. It is no secret that I don’t like mornings! However, to ensure safety there are precautions that must be taken…
*a – the sides have very durable hardware cloth which should be dug 8″ into the ground as typically predators only dig about 6″ before giving up and moving onto easier coops.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP I HAVE FOR NEW COOP/RUN BUILDERS. HERE ARE A FEW PHOTOS OF AN ATTEMPTED BURGLARY WE FOUND ONE MORNING. THE HOLE WAS ABOUT 3-4" IN DIAMETER, 6" DEEP, AND A FEW FEET LENGTHWISE TRYING TO GET IN. WE'VE BEEN MONITORING THE COOP SINCE OCTOBER AND IT HASN'T BEEN BACK SINCE.
*b – the top should be completely secure with some type of fencing or netting. We used 1.5″ diamiond shaped chicken wire as it is thin enough that the snow falls through, causing less damage .
*c – there is electric fencing wire half way up the run on the 2×6 and on the top of the run on the 2×6. If an animal manages to climb past the middle electric, the top one will get it! Not a fun experience and certainly not worth the pain as there are easier coops to raid!
2) Levi was adamant about building something solid so he used pressure treated round posts in the middle (instead of 2×4 supports) and 2×6 all around for the top and middle boards.
Exterior support posts are pressure treated with 2x6 supports above
3) There is a sliding door to the hen house, however, the only time I use it is to lock the peacock inside if I have to catch him. It is nice to have just in case.
Sliding door (using rope/latch on the inside)
4) There is a covered side area which seems to be the favorite for the hens to hang out in. They like to look through the hardware cloth door in anticipation to being fed scraps when I come down the hill! It is also nice for shade in the summer and protection from the elements in the winter.
The covered area, a favorite in the hot summer and the wet winter!
5) There are branches around the coop for the peacocks to sit on at various levels, there is a mirror in the hen house for entertainment, and there is a tire with sand in it for dust baths! The ducks also have two duck baths to play in (in the summer the hens stood in them as well to cool off)!
Natural branches for perching and a duck cool off area!
6) My last coop had nesting/laying boxes that had a perch in front but the box didn’t go all the way up so I found the peacock walked back and forth across the boxes, breaking eggs. The new coop factored in a Pinterest idea with nine buckets to lay in. This is nice as they can come out for cleaning, yet aren’t ideal sitting places so they are actually used properly! I LOVE them! It took awhile to get nine free buckets but finally did! We considered having a door to access them from the back (without going into the coop) but I decided I’d like to go in as if I’m not forced to go into the coop each day, I may miss something important – like a health issue.
We have all nine boxes/buckets now!
7) We added in a fenced off “baby” section for new chicks, expectant mothers, etc. So the chicks can be closely introduced to the other birds, yet are safe in their own section. There is less cleaning and I’m not in a rush to kick them in with the big birds! When I don’t have chicks I leave it open for the other hens or I store extra bags of feed in it.
We put the dog crate in the baby section for an expectant mother (in addition to the young chicks we bought as day olds)
8) The base is a live floor. There has been some controversy on which floor type is best. My last floor was wood and it eventually rotted out. It was hard to clean and even with only a dozen birds it stunk after a week. The cost of bedding was ridiculous when factored in. I am very careful with introducing new birds and try to source them from good places without disease. So far I’ve been lucky and have never had a disease in my coop…. so I wasn’t overly worried about that. I decided to try a live floor and so far it is working well! It doesn’t smell and I don’t feel bad if I spill water etc as it just soaks into the ground. It has gotten some poop/hay mixed into it but worst-case scenerio I can scrape it out and put some new dirt down. I hear leaves and peat moss are great to compost the chicken manure. I like that it is less mainenance and they like to dig/kick through it sometimes.
We've had the coop for 8 months and only just cleaned out some of the base floor
9) Perches (inside and out) are all hand peeled small logs/railing material or naturanl tree branches that are different enough that they don’t get blisters/marks on their feet from standing on the same thing all the time.
Perches, in and out made from natural wood, different sizes to prevent blisters
10) Easy maintenance. We used Sashco’s Autumn Aspen/Cascade stain for the exterior log work which is very environmentally friendly and lasts a long time. It also looks great as it is very light colored. I haven’t taken photos since it was stained but next spring I will take some of it in its glory! Typically it lasts 5-7 years and only then does it require an easy to apply clear coat.
The coop stained (the vertical cedar will be done Spring 2015 with a darker red/brown for contrast)
11) The coop has a red light 24/7 which can be moved to the baby coop for heat or left in the middle of the coop for laying production. I don’t care what people say, I want my girls to have heat in the winter so they are more comfortable!
The interior coop (Winter 2014)
Now what everybody wants to know...
MONEY SAVING TIPS
We went to a local log home company and got log siding for our coop. It looks AWESOME and it helps with insulation value. Often log home companies have these cheap slabs from cutting or notching the roof beams and bottom logs in homes. As they are a product waste, they are often free or cheap ($2/ft) and we just screwed them on! If you want more insulation, you can also chink/caulk between the logs but we didn't really require that as it doesn't get that cold here in the winter. Logs have a thermal mass that keeps things warm in the winter and cool in the summer! Doors are expensive so one of our doors was made with hardware cloth and the other three were recycled. One door was picked up from the junk pile at the hardware store for $5; even cheaper than making one! The windows were recycled that came out of a home refurbishment. Too old for a house but just right for a chicken coop! The metal roofing was also
recycled from a house project that the log home company did and offered us! We just had to fill the old screw holes with caulking. Electric wire is easy to find recycled/used from horse people. Sometimes you just need to untangle it! Branches are easy to collect so of course were free! Even the buckets were picked up free from a trucking company. The only thing we had to pay for was the 2x6 SPF boards, the hardware cloth/chicken wire, and the pressure treated posts. Even the lumber behind the log slabs was recycled. The most expensive part of the coop was the hardware cloth (that stuff isn't cheap!!!) but it was the most important part of the coop and it outlasted everything else on our 1998 coop! We did call around and find the best deal. When we told them how much we wanted we did get a bit of a discount, we also decided to make the coop a foot shorter so we would require one rolll less all around. My husband has to duck though as he is a bit taller than me!
The only thing I've modified since the coop was built was just last weekend we added more tree branches inside the coop. Some of my birds prefer to sit on the ground so the added perches were to encourage them to perch, if only off the ground a bit! I did also find another matching blue bucket.... I only had 8 to start but now we have all 9!
We are into the winter now and the ladies are spending more time inside than out. They LOVE the sheltered outdoor area and we have moved one feeder into that area to keep it dry. We still have two waters outside plus the two duck baths. The other water was moved inside under tha lamp so when it freezes outside the inside one is accessible. We also have the other feeder inside so the ladies don't forget to eat! We've been feeding the higher protien with oyster shells in it as I find they are pecking at the shells less than normal. We had so much rain this year that the river came up across one field and into the bottom of the run. You can imagine how excited the ducks were!!! It has since gone back down, of course with no damage to the coop.
It has been 8 months and so far I LOVE THE NEW COOP and the hens love it too! Levi says it will outlast our house! HAH! Currently we have about 60 birds which in a 1600sf coop is about 26 feet per bird to roam around in safely. I love that I can go away and they require almost no care (except egg collection) and that they are always safe. I will let them out but only if they are supervised as they can be killed by eagles in minutes. This Summer we had a cougar circle the coop and even then I wasn’t worried as breaking in is a lot more hassle than most predators care for. The least I can do for my hens is give them a safe place to live. I mean, I can’t imagine it is fun laying an egg each day!!! Haha
I love having chickens, espeically some of the heritage breeds, however, I am a busy person and don't want my days controlled by the chickens schedule. This coop idea is perfect for a hobby farmer or a chicken enthusiast that plans to have more than 20 hens and wants them safe and without hassle. I often farm sit for people and the amount of money I have been paid to let peoples hens in and out twice a day and fill up too-small waterers, etc. would be better spent going into the birds housing for safety and ease. I'm not lazy; I would rather spend my time doing other things outdoors, like being around the animals and inventing new fun ways to keep them entertained! For example, recently I got a horse slow feeding net and hung it with hay in the coop so they jump up to grab a piece of hay and running with it - our version of chicken football!
The coop/run: Before and After
For any questions or more helpful tips about our log coop, please contact me!
ADDITIONAL CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS
My very favorite view with the chicken coop and run outline in the early morning
(c) Millstone Acres Farm