I woke up at 4am to the sound of sirens and saw flashing lights out the window. No big deal I thought, just another drug bust or health call which is par for the course in my neighborhood. I was startled thought shortly after as I heard a loud pounding on sound and someone yelling into the house. Still tired and dazed my heart raced as I walked to the backdoor to repeated pounding on the door and a man yelling to get the attention of any inhabitants. As I came to the door, my eyes widened by the contrasting darkness with a vivid glow just outside the window as I opened the door to an assertive fireman. Holy Hell, my chicken coop was now a twenty foot flame with frantic firefighters running all around it. Last fall,
Stunned, in disbelief, I was glad to be safe and that relieved that the fire hadn't spread to the house- although it was within feet of doing so. I first worried about the fine I might face as chickens are not legalized in our city. As luck would have it, the kind fireman I spoke with and filed a report with shortly after had more empathy for the three chickens I lost than I would have thought, and shared his condolences instead of writing me a ticket.
Building my coop was my pride and joy that previous summer. It was a artful process to create and I was proud of it. Not only was I now disheartened, but I felt extremely embarrassed. How did this happen, and why was I careless. Inevitably it wasn't an act of arson as the firefighters had first suspected, but more likely the heat lamp was knocked over and made contact with some insulation I hadn't fully covered while upgrading the coop for the upcoming winter and incoming snow storm that night.
Still, a passion to persist in the face of being discouraged came from to wanting redemption for my mistake, and wanting to rebuild even though the thought of doing so brought mixed emotions. I put the word out for recycled materials as part of the value of my investment of my last coop was to build it at little to no cost. As luck would have it, a kind man replied to my craigslist add, and soon I hauled a load of wood into my garage for a winter project.
I based this new model on what I was given, yet still incorporated many images, ideas and characteristics from websites like backyardchickens.com to create a version I would not only be proud of, but would be low maintenance, efficient and comfortable.
Thus my energy and creative drive accumulated into "Redemption", what I aptly named the new coop.
Here are some of the characteristics I think are of value to note:
- Heatlamp necessary for the MT weather hangs from a chain. I would recommend to never rely on the clamps that the heatlamps come with.
-Interior is insulated and covered with cardboard for a smooth look that is a lot cheaper than sheetrock
-Separated side closet houses food and water slightly above level of the main floor. Easy access for the large containers that can keep the chickens fed and watered for more than two weeks at a time.
-Main floor consists of three wooden "leaves" that can slide out from the side groves. This creates very easy cleaning- I just pull the leaves back, all the poopy sawdust falls out underneath the coop and I then just refill the sawdust. Takes about three minutes and is super easy.
-Nesting box is elevated from the main floor. Each box is 12x12 by 9 inches high. This keeps the layers from standing up and hanging out in the nesting area.
-Above the run I placed an elevated garden where I will plant food for myself, which in turn means leftover greens for the chickens.
-A double hatch is placed in the run to allow an opening if I want to allow the chickens to free-range.
-The top hatch makes it convenient to place leftovers or additional food for the chickens directly into the coop.
-The hatch door has a sliding mechanism if i want the chickens to stay in or out of the main hutch. Most of the time it is just kept open for more ventilation.
-The heat lamp cord has a simple plug in that allows me to remotely turn it on (12.99 at an ACE hardware store). I switch out the heat bulb for a simple light to continue egg laying during shorter days of the year.
It has five young new inhabitants: Loma, Josie, Rufus, D'Al and Vital. Two are Aracaunas (at least they were labeled this way when I bought them), two are Sex-links, and one is a Rhode Island Red I believe.