OR The Poor Man's Wichita Cabin Coop
I found the most excellent Wichita Cabin Coop here and thought it had the right size and features that I wanted for my coop. But, I could tell that I could not compare in terms of carpentry skill with its maker, and I also wanted to keep cost to a minimum. Since we're in Northern California (Petaluma, the former "Egg Basket of the World"!) and not Kansas, I figured I could cut a few corners on ruggedness and weatherproofing, as well. I've never built anything bigger than a bird feeder before, and it didn't turn out so great. But I took on the challenge anyway and it worked out pretty well, despite many amateurish mistakes. Much thanks to baldessariclan for his posting of his coop, which I copied as closely as I could, while adding a few of my own modifications. Hopefully my experience will give some ideas to people and show that a total amateur can build a halfway decent coop and run.
Broke ground in late February, taking advantage of the planter bed walls for predator prevention.
Chicken wire under the coop just in case! Got some garden edge brick things pretty cheap off Craigslist for the foundation.
All set to begin actual construction. Bricks are all more or less level. More or less...
That construction didn't start until April 30, due to rain and time constraints. The chicks were already three weeks old! Used the cheapest stud 2X4s I could get at Home Depot, and 2X6s for the base. Sanded, then two coats of stain. I didn't even think about whether it was "outdoor stain" or not, so, hope that works out. 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep. 6 feet high in front, 5 feet high in back.
More framing done. Lots of clamps are useful when you're working alone. I did get some tips from my father in-law on that account. NOTE FOR NEWBIES: Consider the size of pre-cut lumber when designing. For me, the boards came in 8 and 12 foot lengths. Worked out okay, since my base is 10X6 feet, and the roof is 12X8 feet, but you could save some money or avert problems by keeping that in mind (like a real carpenter would do).
Toe-screwed in the bottom of the actual coop/henhouse. Oh, didn't notice until halfway through that I bought "interior use" screws, so hopefully these won't melt or whatever too soon. I chose screws over nails because we rent this house, and will mostly likely have to move the whole structure at some point. But screws are more forgiving for blunders like I made, I think they're stronger, and, I don't own a nail gun.
A little more work done: the floor and back wall of the henhouse, and the nesting box which is blocked off to the chickens so they won't sleep in there and get used to sleeping on the roost until egg laying time. Had a few rain showers and lots of hot sun during construction, hence the tarp.
Closer look at the nest box. I copied the plans at www.thegardencoop.com because they had step by step instructions with photos, and I thought I could do it. Thanks to them, also, for that and for other tips and advice I gathered from their site. I kind of wish I just bought their plans, but oh well!
The inside wall of the henhouse. To keep things simple (and because I don't own a jigsaw) I just cut two corners out of the plywood shape that I cut. One for a door on the left, and one for a window on the right. I did install that cross beam behind it to attach to, and also to mount hooks for the feeder and waterer. By this time, I'm mounting and then staining the wood, because I'm running out of time fast. The chicks are 7 weeks old, and could have moved out already!
The inside of the henhouse. I didn't show it before, but there are several crossbeams under the floor for support. By the way, I got half inch plywood, definitely go with 3/4 or thicker if you can, as it was a little tricky not splitting or cracking it at times. I think it will work all right, but a little thicker would be better.
The door to the henhouse, a 4'X4' piece of plywood, with 1x4 boards glued and screwed onto from the back. Strangely, the doorway itself was not perfectly square, but I cut the plywood to fit, and it seems to work.
Inside of the door. Not exactly clear, but I attached 1X2 inch furring boards inside to stop the door and to prevent drafts. Had to fill in a few gaps here and there, as well, but then, I have no idea what I'm doing. But it's a door and it closes, dang it.
The ramp/ladder to the henhouse: just a 1X10 board with more 1x2 furring strips screwed to it. I copied Wichita Cabin Coops hook and eye attachment approach, although he did his a little better so the ramp juts right up to the door. The chickens have yet to slip through the gap though, so I think we're all right there.
Since it doesn't get that cold where I live (freezes maybe five nights a winter, always warms up the next day) and the door to the henhouse is protected from predators, I chose to do a vinyl flap door. I found sheets of vinyl matting at the local hardware store that are perforated and can be bought in around 2 foot by 2 foot sections. Used a carpet knife to cut slits, leaving it uncut at the top couple of inches, and then thumbtacks to attach. Hopefully will keep mosquitoes and big drafts out. I tacked two flaps up to start, and they found their way in. I dropped one flap, and will soon drop the other. It's still summer so I figure I'll leave one flap up for a while.
I had a piece of plexiglass laying around and used that for the window. Had to do some jiggering around with furring strips and plywood to get the hinges attached, and to get a seal. But, should let light in, and on hot days can be opened for increased ventilation.
Window opened. Stapled gunned window screen on the inside to keep out bugs. Hopefully the chickens won't rip that stuff out. Note also the ventilation holes which I just drilled with a big circular bit, also screened from the inside.
More finished inside of henhouse. The roost is a 2X2 that I grinded the corners off of (with a small power grinder) but I guess a natural branch would be best if you could find it. The roost is attached by an elaborate structure of scraps I had and screwed together, but it is sturdy yet removable for cleaning/replacement. The floor is covered with 38-cents-a-piece vinyl flooring tiles for easier cleaning. That board corner thing you see turns to keep the bedding away from the flap door. The coop became a bit of a playhouse for my boys at this point, so, yes, that is Toby the steam tram you see in the corner.
Time to move them in! Feeder and waterer in place. I chose the bucket/nipple watering system, which I purchased from www.thegardencoop.com. Highly recommend that, as the water stays fresh and clean for a long time without changing. I bought the whole deal, but you could make your own by buying just the nipples and get your own bucket. By the way, I used 1/2 inch plastic coated hardware cloth to cover all the openings. It's kind of expensive, but much better than normal chicken wire. It's attached by ten thousand screws and fender washers, which also adds a lot to the cost. Not sure if you can do it right much cheaper, but I did see someone drilled holes in pennies instead of using fender washers. NOTE TO NEWBIES: consider the width of your hardware cloth or wire when doing your framing. Think about where it will be attached to be predator proof and if there will be enough extra to securely attach your screws and washers (or pennies).
It's basically done! Haven't finished the roof yet, but, get those freaking chickens out of the house! Sadly, the loss of a playhouse.
The final touch: I took a design that I did for our homemade blackberry jam and had a stencil made, then painted stain through that to decorate the door. The chicken was for Petaluma, and the giant blackberry for the jam. But, now that we have chickens and they'll most likely be snacking on fallen blackberries, it worked out pretty well.
They're in, and loving it! Made quick work of all those weeds, too. The first night, I went out after dark and they were all huddled in the doorway of the henhouse, one of them sticking out. I pushed them in farther but they were reluctant. Not that cold, so no big deal. By the next night they were farther in, and the third night I could tell they slept in the bedding. A few nights more and they started using the roost.
Following are some more detail shots in case they are of interest to anyone.
For the roof, I used 3 4X8 sheets of OSB plywood, covered by 30 pound roofers felt, covered by mineral something roofing roll. Also put in a metal drip edge, although I'd never even heard of a such a thing before. I hope it's water tight! It should be.
Here's a few more before and after pictures, and some of the collapsible chicken tractor I built, which I intend to post in the tractor section at some point.
One day old! Do not lick the chicks.
That's baby Henrietta Ming-Ming.
Sleep like the dead.
After a couple of weeks, we let them hang out in the yard for a little while when it was warm.
Needed a tractor fast, since the coop wasn't done!
They grow so fast it's astounding. Here's Peach and Henrietta again.
And Gladys, the Alpha. We're still worried about her being a rooster, although she has yet to crow, and shows no signs of long pointy saddle feathers yet!
Silver laced Wyandotte, Buff Orpington, and Golden Laced Wyandotte.
Well that gets us pretty much up to date! We're expecting our first eggs in August, so I'll post again if there is anything that might be useful to someone else on that front, or whatever else pops up. I'm planning on trying some chicken escape proofing in our yard, so I might have something to share on that. And I'll post my tractor plans at some point as well. Thanks so much for existing, Backyardchickens.com, I couldn't have done it without you! And thanks again to baldessariclan for the inspiration.
Cluck on, people!
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