Here is our Chicken story.
Our kids, John, Maddy and Cole have been interested in having chickens for several years now. I have been the hold out, not wanting the extra work. A conversation with a friend, Bob Ellison, changed my mind. He is as analytical as I am and made a strong case for the fun, convenience and low cost of the project. I am determined to make the project as inconspicuous as possible so I decided to incorporate the coop into an existing storage area. I have around ¾ of an acre fenced in for the dog and kids which I hope to allow the chickens to free range in. I’m not sure if it’s enough space but am hopeful it will work.
INSERT PICTURES OF KIDS, CASTLE AND YARD HERE
I am a contractor, so the coop construction was not a big problem for us. I built a playhouse for the kids years ago and added a section several years later to combine tractor storage and play house. Collectively we call this structure “the Castle”. Unfortunately, I got a bigger tractor that won’t fit and so the storage part is used mainly for junk. Seems like the best place to start. I salvaged some of the lumber from a monkey bar set that seemed past its prime (the kids weren’t real happy) and had a lot of the rest laying around the basement and garage. Leftover shingles from the house for the roof and some unused plywood shelving for the roof and nesting boxes. The siding on the nest boxes and rear of the coop is salvaged from a friend’s collapsed barn. The roof of the nest boxes is a cut down door from the same barn. We did not have to buy any materials for the project so the overall cost was zero for us on this coop. I did buy some nice vinyl coated chicken wire for the pen but that was less than $25.
You might think that I would have a full set of plans for a project like this but, as with the original Castle structures, I just made what I had fit and went mostly by feel and eye. I am providing a layout sketch of the floor plan here for your reference:
INSERT PLANS HERE
The shed has a dirt floor but I didn’t want that in the coop for the obvious reasons. Mainly to keep the coop dry, be able to clean, insulate and predator proof it. So I built the floor out of 2x6 material ripped in half. I used more salvaged barn boards for the floor but had left over resilient tile to make the cleaning easier. The walls and roof were also built with the same issues in mind out of salvaged lumber.
The design is intended to allow the chickens to spend most of their time in the coop and run area along with some free grazing time in the yard. We wanted to minimize the workload so I added some design features that I stole from magazines and the web along with my own tweaks The nest boxes are my favorite feature. These make egg collection a breeze. Other work reducing notable features are the feeder which stores 50 pounds of feed, automatic waterers in the coop and run, roost area with easy clean floor, clay pot heater and lights on timer. Soon to be MacGuyvered is the automatic coop door closer from an electric timer and a gear motor salvaged from a garage door opener. I am still thinking up a solution to cover the feed automatically at night.
INSERT PICTURES OF THE FEATURES HERE
We live in an area that is somewhere between the suburbs and very rural so we have many predators to worry about. Hawks, foxes, coons, opossums, ground hogs, snakes, owls, feral cats and dogs are all problems here. Because of this, I decided to wire fence the sides and top of the run. I also ran the fence horizontal on the ground 12” into the run to discourage diggers. I like light structures so I made the frame work for the fence out of 2x4 material ripped in half. The space between the two castles already existed and is about 6o sq.ft. I thought of making it bigger, but chose this because it looked better in the yard. I am hoping they will be free ranging while we are home most of the time anyway.
INSERT RUN PICTURES HERE
I am happy with most of the result, but if I had to do another coop I would make two changes. First, I would elevate the coop more than the 12” I did here. I could have given some more dry and shaded run area underneath this way. In the rain or hot sun, I can’t see the hens staying in the coop all day. Second, I would have built a separate structure for the coop. It is a tough call because we now have chickens with very little impact on the look of our yard but I’m not sure that the space I gave them will be adequate to make them productive layers. We’ll have to see what happens.
We still need to see how the coop performs during the winter (it gets pretty cold here). All in all I am happy with the way it came out. I hope the hens like it. We are still raising the chicks inside. We have 3 Rhode Island Reds, 3 white Leghorns and 2 Arauncanas. I am considering finding two or three ready to lay pullets maybe wyandottes or barred rocks. If anyone knows where to get them near Philadelphia, let me know
INSERT CHICK PICTURES HERE
This has been a great family project. The kids had their hands dirty on every phase of the construction. They actually were very helpful with the labor and ideas. They are very proud of the product of their efforts. If nothing else comes out of this experience, I am happy that they get that good feeling and satisfaction that comes when you create something useful from the sweat of your brow and work of your own hands. We have also started our first vegetable garden in years to continue this sense of work and accomplishment for them. Thanks for looking at our project. Any ideas or suggestions will be appreciated and considered.
John (Dad), John Quinn, Maddy and Cole