MY CHALLENGE COOP
A story of ambition, perseverance and a rampant inner Martha....
Once upon a time -- as tales of toil and triumph often go -- there was a couple who, at last, moved from the city into the country where they envisioned and dreamed of growing their own vegetables and raising chickens in their September years. The following (long and very detailed) is what ensued and the endeavors from scratch to get a chicken coop built.
It all started with a simple suggestion from my husband: "Why don't you hatch some eggs and build a coop?" Alas, being the literal one that I am, I undertook Husband's suggestion as meaning in that order. I joined the September 2014 BYC Hatchalong and figured "Three weeks of incubation and four weeks of grow-out feathering, I can build a coop in that time!" The eggs kept their end of the bargain and soon we had "The Girls." Uh-oh. I'd better get cracking...
Thankfully, the BYC Coop section is a fount of inspiration. Carefully reading the submissions and our neighborhood's CC&R's I gleaned what was requisite for the coop and made a list. It had to:
1) Provide a safe environment for 8 chickens (10 is our max allowed)
2) Keep out and deter varmints (rats, raccoons, coyotes)
3) Provide adequate ventilation
4) Provide protection from the weather elements (heat in high desert summer, snow in the winter)
5) Be easy to maintain and clean
6) Have easy access
7) Not be an eyesore (fussy neighbors, you know)
8) Blend into the neighborhood
9) Be sturdy enough to last for years (at least my lifetime)
Then I made a list of the challenges to construct such a coop. Those challenges were:
1) It's going to be built by one person single-handedly (Yours Truly as DH had daytime engagements elsewhere)
2) The builder's last construction project was a bird feeder in 7th Grade Woodshop class some 45+ years ago (yes, I'm an senior)
3) The builder/engineer didn't have any real construction plans but lots of ideas, so freestyle building
4) Some physical hindrances:, as in I'm short (5' 2") and I don't bend very well anymore
5) All construction materials had to be transported in a Hyundai. (Yep, no trucks here!)
A lot of thought went into this project.....
First was selecting a building site. The abandoned vegetable yard had several railroad tie beds.
The coop will go between and underneath the two fruit trees, thus providing shade and coolness during the New Mexican summers and the run will be built in the space between the two planting beds. With the use of a lawn tractor and rope, the end ties were maneuvered to provide a space to put the coop. Then the ground was rototilled and leveled. This yard has lots of weeds!
About the only thing that really stuck from Woodshop class was "Measure twice, cut once" and I knew that the rest was going to be McGyver'ed.
The base of the coop was four 4x4 6-foot posts framed with standard 2x4's. The dimensions are 8' long, 4.5' wide, 6' high (before roof)
One-person construction necessitated doing two sides and then adjoining them using whatever means possible. (sawhorses, dead potted plant and existing fence provided ballast).
Then turned upright for moving into place.
The coop is going to be elevated to deter rodents from chewing through the floor, so built on the higher-level framework. It is measured to be wheelbarrow high for an easy sweepout.
As a further deterrent, the lower level (which will be enclosed to create a storage area) is placed on a galvanized screen to deter burrowing critters. Floor joists go in.
Then, to create a dry floor for storage and an overkill of burrowing deterrent, pavers go down.
Remember, all materials must fit into a Hyundai. That means 4x8 plywood panels won't fit. More floor joists to support smaller pieces of flooring wood.
Then the floor goes on! After that, floor tiles seemed the most expedient and easiest way to go....and they were on sale!
It looks like a chicken ballroom.....
Framing is modular and built in sections. LOTS of measuring, measuring, measuring. Each section slipped into place and was nailed down.
Pictured here are the east side (front door of coop done in three sections) and the back (south side) of coop. The south side is framed for a transom window at the bottom (which will be under the roost shelf), ventilation at the top, and a large hinged panel for easy access to clean the roost. (Later pictures will illustrate this better)
The east side's window is predator proofed. This may seem odd to be constructed this way until you realize that the coop windows open from the outside (How convenient is that?!) The large opening is the future double door (for wheelbarrow sweep-out). There is framing for ventilation at the top of the door. At the far end of the east side is a small non-working window for chickens' enjoyment in what is to be the roost area.
The west side (run side of coop) has two working windows (you can see the wire mesh therein) and framing for an automatic chicken door at the lower right-hand side.
Note the storage space has already come in handy!
The north side of the coop has three working windows located above the nest box area.
Sort of a non-traditional roof style, but I had to get creative as the vital tree limb was lower than calculated. The 2x8 and 2x4 beams are nailed to the framing and secured by T-brackets. It is a sturdy roof and easily held my hefty weight for shingling. Also discovered was I have a healthy fear of heights and did not enjoy being up there. Coop is 6.75' tall.
North side view with roof on
On the south side the roost platform was constructed and tiled.
It is designed to have a rolling shelf of PDZ that fits on top of it which will slide out of the backside panel for easy scooping of nightly roosting poops.
Trim edge of roof is attached. Subpaneling goes onto frame. It is cut in such a way that there are no seams inside the coop. (My inner Martha is showing, isn't it?)
North side West side
Drip edge and roof goes on..... ...and then windows, weather-proofing and vents
North side South side
Time for siding. But remember the Hyundai? Cannot fit panels into it. What to do? I know...Shingles! That'll be so cute!
But guess what? Nobody in Albuquerque carries shingles.
Spent A LOT of time making and fitting shingles...... The walls are now an inch thick.
South side West side (run side) North side
Then dyed to match our house's color scheme.... (What a difference a coat of stain or two makes!)
South side South side with roost panel door attached
Sliding PDZ poop tray viewed from outside Interior shot of sliding tray
Note: The roost and side panels it is attached to actually lift out. The panels on the ends of the roost fit on the outside of the tray and conceal the battery for the automatic chicken door located beneath the shelf. The removable roost has since been reconfigured to have two perches. As it turns out, it's really easy to scoop the roost without sliding the tray out.
The nest box is attached. It has 2.5 nests. The half-space is partitioned off by a solid wall from the inner coop and is used to store medicines. Love the easy access!
View of east side's front door and windows.
There is a removable doorjamb just inside the door to keep shavings in.
Ladder from roost Waterer under roost shelf Nest boxes (since curtained, but
blocked off here to prevent chicks from roosting therein)
Not pictured is the oystershell/grit dispenser to the far right of nest boxes)
Needless to say, the coop building took longer than expected. Winter set in before run construction and finishing touches. However, The Girls moved in and enjoyed their cozy space. The coop weathered the winter well.
Springtime and time to finish. This opus coop is starting to feel like the Winchester Mystery House.... Endless as details beget more projects. What did I get myself into? Alas, after a snowy breather it was time to muster on and git 'er done. I joined a few more hatch-alongs and have lots of chicks to contend with.
I don't bend, so had to enlist DH for this one chore of attaching wire mesh to keep critters out of storage area. A cute lattice overlay goes on top of this to hide the storage area. Doors are on the south side.
Modular run panels are built for a 16 x 5.5' run. Run has wire mesh flooring laid down.
Run pieces are 8-foot long per panel, so two panels equals 16 feet. Wire mesh is 4' wide, stapled onto panels.
Modular pieces set into place
Roof framing goes on. Lots more measuring. Threshold of door is 4.5' tall, much roomier under roof eaves.
Trim was put over where modular pieces joined, so no exposed wire edges.
Plywood. Roof paper and shingles Weather vane Chicken door solar panel mid-roof
Again, Hyundai size issues, so much paneling on roof. Again, my fear of heights. Got the papering and shingling done in a day and over with.
Our winds blow mainly from the west, so cap shingles are situated that way. The run reminds me of Lexington horse barns somehow.
Pavers installed around coop. Gate door installed at chicken door...more easy access
Front of run (more shingles...)
There is a 7-gallon waterer just inside the front door. The run's two roosts are removable. Lots of sand in the run.
Back of run has double door for easy access. There are matching doors on south side of coop for storage access.
Yes, there is an alleyway from coop to run to accommodate the tree. The chickens love it! It's great fun to watch them run down the ramp in the morning when the door opens.
Add in a couple more veggie beds, lots of gravel, a nifty irrigation system and a pretty white pipe fence and there was our envisioned dream! Yay!
Best of all.... Rewards! (Thanks to the ladies out back)
It was a long journey and, yes, a challenge. Thank you for reading this far. Hopefully, if you're thinking of building a coop, this has given you some ideas, tips and pointers. Please don't ask me what it cost to build as I didn't keep track (mainly because I tend to lose lots of receipts). It was quite a bit of patronage to the big box stores. I'm sure the folks at Home Depot and Lowe's think I'm a groupie....several employees to this day ask me about the coop. I learned a lot about construction what to do and what not to do and patience. I probably did a couple of unorthodox things construction-wise as I'm not building savvy, but still got to the end result I wanted. I got to meet a lot of my curious neighbors in the process, several who thought I was building from a kit. It was the talk of the neighborhood. Everyone loves the coop. The run is spacious and easy to move about in. I especially love the outside opening windows as our weather changes in an instant and it's super fast to close them up. Also the fact that I don't have to crawl inside the coop as the access is easy standing outside. Morning scooping chores of the roost are fast. The sand in the run really dessicates the chicken manure. Flies have not been a problem. The coop does stay warm in the winter and shaded cool in the summer. The handy storage area under the coop holds small metal cans for feed, a bag of PDZ and a bale or two of shavings and provides off-season storage of tomato trellises and irrigation hoses.
Things I might do differently if I had a go-back time machine:
1) Been more realistic about the amount of time it was going to take to build, especially working part-time. As it turned out, I added to the flock (hatch-aholic that I am) and ended up with chicks overstaying their welcome in the garage and back bedroom because construction of the run wasn't timely. (On the flipside, I'm glad to have the chickens. Had I built the coop first and then hatched it might've taken a looooooong time to complete. At least there was impetus to keep going....gotta get the chickens out of the house!)
2) Leveled the run area a bit better. There's a slight slope which makes for a roof-line dip and things a little off-kilter.
3) Paid a little more measuring attention to the run's door being plumb. But I was about out of gas at this point and started to squelch my inner Martha with "Hey, it's just a chicken coop! Relax!"
4) Built higher sides on the sliding tray to keep PDZ out of the drawer tracks.
and, of course,
BUILT IT BIGGER FOR MORE CHICKENS!!!!!