Sandy's Chicken CoupOnce upon a time . . .
There was this woman who wanted some chickens. Now she had some chickens, ducks and geese years ago, about thirty or so, but she moved away one day and found herself in a "protected" community. No, not Beverly Hills, but one with covenants none the less. Over the course of time, the rules relaxed, the covenants went away and with an empty nest she asked her DH if she could have - just a few chicks. Wouldn't be much work and we could get a small coup for a mere pittance.
So off to the Amish they went and bought a little coup. Of course it wouldn't fit in his truck, so they had to disassemble the coop and DH took it home and put it back together again and the woman filled it with eight sprightly young hens. Or so she thought, until one morning DH said he heard some screaming in the back yard, and it turned out to be the young rooster learning to crow.
Immediately after getting the first chicks settled in their new home, the woman quickly learned that she had other wildlife living close by. Foxes and racoons she had seen before, but up in the trees above the coop, she started seeing some beautiful birds with light brown feathers. While they were stately in appearance, things changed when the woman noticed them diving down into the yard, and soon there was one dead chicken.
So the woman said to DH, not to worry, we'll just build a little covered run for the girls, of course we'll need to dig a trench and bury the wire. Won't be too much trouble - and not much expense. So DH did just that.
About six months passed, and the woman started hinting that perhaps there were a few more chickens waiting for her care. Just a couple, or a few, because she had learned that there were some awfully beautiful chicks out there, and do you know some even lay easter eggs! So the DH agreed, but told the woman - just a few.
So off the woman went to check out the spring clutch at the farm store. Of course when she got there she couldn't decide. Did she want the rosies, or buffs, and we just have to have some easter eggs. So the woman told the proprietor, we'll have just a few - of each.
When the DH came home from work that day, the woman told him, "come see, new chicks, but just a few -- of each." And DH found himself the proud owner of eight more chicks, now sixteen in all. "Where will we put them all, he said to the woman," to which she retorted, "no problem they will all fit very nicely in the coop."
By summer the woman and the DH began to get worried, the coop was getting crowded, and the chicks were growing, and the bigger hens were not very nice to the new little ones. The woman told the DH, we must get new housing for these girls, we can't keep them any longer in these crowded quarters.
So off again to the Amish they went, but everywhere they looked, the coops just weren't right. The woman wanted a little of this and a little of that, and "can't you just build something, it will be so much cheaper and just a few weeks of work. And it will be so much fun!"
So the DH agreed to build a bigger coop for the woman's birthday present. He took a vacation from work and put his mind to planning. Now the DH is an IT guy, you'd probably call him a nerd, though he has built a small building or two for his DW over the years, he is not a carpenter and usually likes to work from a plan. But alas the plan was only in the woman's head, so little by little, inch by inch, he extracted the plan and started to build.
DW had decided on a 12'x16' building separated into two rooms, a 6x12 entry room for working and storage, and a 10x12 room for the main chicken area, with roosts and nesting boxes. The coop would be located at the tree line, approximately 150 feet from the main house and about 75' from the potting shed (the small building shown in the picture below).
6/20/2010: The first step was clearing a path for the new building. Of course trees needed to be trimmed and cut down, and at 50 to 100' high, the DH hired some tree toppers to do that chore.
Next was excavating the site, which of course necessitated moving tons of earth from one end of the site to the other. Since the site was inaccessible to machinery without tearing up the yard, the woman told the DH, "we'll just do it with shovels". A week later after digging for days, the site was nicely excavated, nearly flat and ready for work on a foundation.
7/5/10: The foundation soon followed, the DH started by lining the site, making sure everything was plumb and square. It took some time and the woman often thought, "must he be so precise, its just a chicken coop" she would say.
Next the DH used cardboard forms to pour nine concrete piers. These needed to be beneath the frost line, so 32" into the earth, nine times, with only a manual post hole digger. While he did complain a bit, the woman told her DH, you're building muscle and getting so much healthier.
The woman and DH mixed and poured concrete, nearly 1,400 lbs in all.
Before the concrete dried, DH sunk bolts into each of the nine concrete piers and after they cured, attached brackets for the skids to come later.
Next came the skids, three 12', 4x6 timbers, which were fastened to the pier brackets.
7/7/10: Quickly following the skids came the floor joist framing with mud sills, which were built on top of the skids. The dreaded level that the woman so loathed, and seemed to always be slowing DH's progress, is seen in the picture below.
The floor joists were attached to the headers with the standard metal joist hangers.
After consulting with the woman's father, DH decided it best to add some bridging between the joists, to minimize the risk of creaking under foot when walking across the floor. Of course how much does a chicken weigh, but to be safe he took the extra time.
Next came the plywood decking for the floor, six 4x8 pieces in all.
"Before we secure the decking", the woman exclaimed, "we just must have electric and water for the chicks". Its only a short distance to the source (150 feet) and it won't be much trouble digging a trench - we might even be able to rent a machine.
So the DH agreed, but bit off more than he could chew, when he brought home the machine from you know where. The angry beast lived up to its name, as it nearly killed them both. It is called a Ditch "Witch" you know.
7/11/10: After a full week of labor the pipe was laid in the trench. 4" rigid pipe containing water line, #10 UF with ground, and camera wire.
Oh, almost forgot, just after the trench was laid open, the DW had a bright idea! "Why don't we have a camera or two, so I can keep an eye on the girls from the house." Since the DH didn't want to chance forgetting anything that the woman might add, he added a yellow rope with which to pull another "something" or two through the pipe if needed later.
With the wire run from house to the coop floor, and the pipe buried, the DH resumed construction on framing the coop. Actually, there was a brief week's respite while DH and DW led their middle school vacation bible school class - what a welcome rest!
First up were the walls. DH decided to be proper, the chickens should have an 8' ceiling - chickens don't grow that tall, do they?
7/28/10: After the walls were framed out for windows and doors, 5" pitch roof trusses were added, including a 12" overhang on front and both sides.
The coop is nestled into the rear of the property near the tree line that backs up to the protected reservoir property. You can see the framing progressing from the main house. What? you want to know what the other cute little building is - oh that was the result of another of the DW's requests some time ago for a potting shed.
Here's a view from the new coop site.
Roof paper, facia boards and drip mold are added as DH gets ready to get the building under roof.
8/7/10: Son-in-law to the rescue. DH and son-in-law spend quality time together installing the shingles and finishing the roof. DW and her daughter kept the work progressing by delivering food and drink to the workers on the roof, while the grandkids inspected their work.
4x8 sheets of Hardy pre-primed siding were added just before the roof went up with openings made for the doors and windows to follow.
The last step for the roof was the installation of a functional cupola and ridge vent.
8/22/10: With the building under roof and windows and doors installed, DH turns his attention to the installation of soffits on both sides of the coop, while DW began applying exterior paint to the siding.
After the side soffits come more soffit material added to give a finishing touch to the front gable end.
The DW really wanted a distinctive gable end on the front of the coop, so they opted for this fish scale siding that had to be cut perfectly for fit to the rake and to provide symmetry with the previous rows of siding up to the top ridge. This step really tried DH's patience and took a loooong time to finish, but DW was very pleased with the results.
Along the front of the coop and wrapping around each side is a 1 foot wide x 1 foot deep gravel bed with drain tile to keep water out of the coop.
9/6/10: The stoop in front of the door is a five foot long, 5" thick slate rock weighing approximately 700 lbs. DH and DW almost killed the tractor getting this large rock down to the site.
The outside after windows and doors are trimmed out, stoop in place and mulch added for ground cover. Also notice that lights and an outside receptacle have been installed and wired, along with some decorative touches at the front door by DW until landscaping can be added next spring.
DH moves the workspace inside the Coop, while three of the girls look on from a bench outside the coop.
DH finishing a linoleum floor around one of two doors - this one was retrieved from the swap shop at no cost by his DW. This was quite a find! Trim was screwed through the linoleum floor to fasten it to the plywood subfloor, so the linoleum can be more easily replaced when it gets beat up. BTW, the linoleum was a most impressive find by DW. Again the swap shop came through when a man dropped off a full 5' x 50' roll of commercial grade linoleum and DW grabbed it up. Actually, it took all the strength DH and the man had to just push it up into DH's truck.
An interior screen door and half wall were installed to separate the storage and work area from the chicken's area. The top half of the wall is covered with chicken wire to keep the girls on their side of the coop.
As soon as the interior wall was up, DW could wait no longer, so DH delivered plenty of hay and wood chips for the floor in the chicken area and the girls were brought inside.
The girls immediately went to their new roost and seemed to enjoy looking out the double window into the woods. Did I hear Lucy (the black chicken in the middle) say, "nah na nah na" as she looked out at a fox?
Next morning they started laying in their brand new (ancient antique) nesting boxes.
DH also purchased an automatic door so he would not have to walk down to the coop and let the chickens out each morning before work. It also provides peace of mind for DW when they are away from home after dark as the girls can put themselves to bed. The door has worked flawlessly thusfar.
10/11/10: While DH installed R13 insulation on all exterior walls, DW began caulking around windows, doors and other areas in need - all to keep the girls warm and comfy.
Installation of interior walls followed the wiring and insulation.
Once electricity had been supplied, DW "encouraged" her DH to work a bit longer each evening and DH and DW found out what the girls were up to after they went to bed. Notice the rafter birds?
Interior touches include lighting and receptacles, large window sills and a shelf installed on the top of the half walls. A sink is waiting to be plumbed and counter top round out the left side of the entry room.
On the right side of the entry room is another counter top and cabinet. DW found both counter tops and the cabinet in very good shape at the swap shop - hurray, more free stuff! DH cut the countertops to size and built the frames and legs from 2x4 lumber and then fastened a 1x4 to the front to improve appearance. You can see the roosts in the chicken room on the other side of the half wall in this picture.
The 6' wide x 4' tall double window in the back of the coop is shown here after DH completed the installation of interior walls and trimmed out the window.
So there you have it, a few things left to do include finishing trim and caulking around three exterior windows, painting the front door and getting the linoleum floor down in the entry room. Plumbing will be completed in the spring as will landscaping the site and renovating the outside run with proper fencing to include a 16' x 8' roof overhang for rainy (and snowy) days.
The girls are finally safe and sound in their new home - and getting ready for bed.
More work the following year . . . added chicken run and porch for the girls.
Ladies loving their pumpkins in the fall . . .
And fall gives way to a chicken's most dreaded season . . . but they make the most of their winter wonderland, by staying warm and decorating for the holidays!
They even take a moment outside to greet a visiting snowman!
And though the weather outside is frightful, they love getting out in the sun on their warm comfy porch.
And as winter gives way to spring, the girls will leave you for now but wanted to say one last goodnight to all the backyard chicken readers and thank everyone for reading about their coop.