The 'South City' Coop

The Finished Coop and Run

Below is a picture of the finished coop. It looks pretty good if I do say so myself. This is my first coop and my first major building project. If I can do it then it can't be that difficult.
The coop exterior.

The coop interior. Lots of natural light, and plenty of ventilation from open windows, rear-wall vents, soffit vents and ridge vent.

Soffit ventilation

Plywood panels on the ceiling direct air blowing in from the soffits over the tops of the heads of the roosting chickens. A ridge vent lets air escape out of the top of the roof. Vents on the rear wall allow fresh air in but are blocked from any wind or direct breezes. Windows can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions.

Here is the first section on run in place.

The Plan

We live in the heart of the city and don't have a very large backyard. Most of the backyard is occupied by the 2 1/2 car garage so the only viable option was to place the coop and the run along the backside of the garage. This placement is beneficial as it should shelter the coop from wind gusts and receive a lot of shade during the hot St. Louis summers thanks to a large maple tree. It also allows us to see the coop and run from our kitchen windows.
Besides having to fit in a small space, the coop also has to be attractive to keep the neighbors and my significant other happy.

The garage wall where I will place the coop is 22 feet long. The coop itself will be 6' long, 3' deep and 6' tall (minus the peak). The nest boxes extend out another 14 inches. The run will be 14' long, 3' deep and 40" tall, plus the space under the coop.

I started planning by first scribbling some plans on paper, but my significant other was unable to make heads or tails of them so I needed something easier to understand. I turned to Google Sketchup. It's a free program and once I figured it out it was pretty simple to use. I rendered the coop and run and then was able to move the camera around and zoom in and out. We tried out several different options, different roof lines, etc. before we settled on a final design.


The Materials and Cost

The entire coop and run project cost less than $500 to build. They are constructed mostly out of 2x4s and plywood siding. The siding was the major expense ($35 a sheet) as well as the hardware cloth ($60 a roll). I don't know why this stuff is so pricy. Most of the other items, like screws and hinges and what-not I had around the house from other projects.

Here a fairly accurate list of materials that I used.

Coop materials

  • 4 - 4'x8' sheets of 19/32" T1-11 siding (by carefully planning my cuts I had more than enough for the entire exterior including the nest box and two ramps)
  • 1 - 4'x8' sheet of 3/8" plywood for drawer bottom, poop trays, nest box divider, etc.
  • 1 - 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood for roof (needs to be thick enough that roofing nails don't stick through)
  • 24 - 2"x4"x8' (some of these were cut down to 2"x2" or 1"x4" using a table saw)
  • 10 - 1"x2"x8' for window sashs and removable screen frames
  • 1 - bundle of asphalt singles
  • 4' of ridge vent
  • 16' of drip edge
  • Roofing nails
  • Assorted hinges, latches and handles
  • Assorted screws and nails
  • Paint and primer
  • Hardware cloth for windows (see Run materials)
  • Plexiglas for windows
  • 1/4 round moulding for windows
  • 1 - tube of Liquid Nails construction adhesive
  • 1 - tube of white painter's caulk
Run materials (per section)
  • 10 - 2"x4"x8'
  • 1 roll of 3' x 25' hardware cloth
  • 2 - sheets of corregated roofing
  • 8 - 1"x2"x8' for removable screen frames
  • Assorted hinges, latches and handles
  • Assorted screws, washers and nails
Tools used
  • Power miter/cross-cut saw (cutting lumber to length)
  • Table saw (cutting panels and milling 2x4s down to smaller dimensions)
  • Jigsaw (for cutting window openings)
  • Power finish nailer (nailing frames together, tacking pieces together while glue dried)
  • Power drill with screw bit (everything is screwed together. Lots of screws)
  • Hammer
  • Chisels (for hinges and fine-tuning opening)
  • Hand plane (for doors)
  • Tape measure
  • Framing square
  • Level
  • Tin snips (for trimming hardware cloth)
  • Caulking gun

The Build Process

The Coop
Progress as of 9/28/11 - Windows are done!
After what seemed like a zillion little miter cuts, the windows are finally complete and installed. At this point, I can call the coop pretty much finished. It's been a long process but I'm happy with the results.

Progress as of 9/25/11 - All Done Except the Windows!
It has been a long couple of days working on the coop. The roof is on, everything is squared up and level. The doors have been planed down to open and close properly and the handles and latches installed. And it has electricity! One indoor light, one outdoor light, and 6 outlets.
Here is the east-side with its window and the pop door.

The front. The windows are still in my basement.

The west-side with the nest box.

Progress as of 9/21/11
The coop has been disassembled and brought outside for the final bits of construction. It all came apart and fit through the basement door without any issues.

Once I got the coop reassembled outside, I started framing the peaked roof. Unfortunately, I didn't get too far before it started raining again.

It is barely visible in this picture, but the coop and run have a foundation constructed of 16" x 8" brick pavers which have been planted 8" in the ground.

Here is a better picture of the foundation as it was being put it.

From these pictures you can begin to see just how small of a space I have to work with. I am standing on my back porch taking this picture. It is 6 steps from the porch to the egg box. The fence in the background is the property line, beyond that is the neighbor's garage.

Progress as of 9/19/11
The coop is ready to be moved outside. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating this weekend so the move will have to wait for things to dry out a bit.

So, lacking much else to do, I finished out the first of the 4 windows. It is constructed out of a 1x2 frame with plexiglas inserts then trimmed with 1/4 round moulding. Cutting all those miter joints for the molding is taking longer than I expected. The window is hinged at the top so it can be opened and when open will provide some protection from the rain.

I trimmed out the interior of the windows as well. This will be the West-facing window.

And the East-facing window, which I just added. It had to be smaller due to the motor for the coop door being in the way. But at least the girls will be able to see the sun coming up in the morning.

The East-facing window from the outside. You can also see that the first portion of the run is also coming along. Scroll down for more progress on that.

Progress as of 9/15/11
It's been slow going the past few days with work and all. I managed to finish building the frames for the window sashes and the removable panels on the lower portion of the coop but that's about it.

Progress as of 9/11/11
I have given up on trying to find some reclaimed windows for the coop. The ReStore only had vinyl windows and they were all too large and the salvage shop was selling theirs as if they were priceless antiques at $50.00 each. So I decided I'm just going to make my own.

I cut the window openings and backed them with hardware cloth. Then framed around the openings. I will build the sashes next out of some 1x2 lumber, plexiglass, and 1/4 round moulding. I will probably hinge them from the top so when they are open they still provide some protection from the rain.

These large openings should provide plenty of ventilation and cross breezes during the hot summer as well as lots of natural light to maximize egg production.

With the windows in, this is really starting to remind me of a larger version of a pie safe that my grandmother had in her kitchen. Maybe I'll call it "the chicken safe"

You can see in this photo that I also started work on the removable screen frames for the bottom, left side part of the coop.

I need these to be easily removable so I can clean in there as needed. They are still fitting a bit too snugly.

I've finished the first sash frame. I need to go to the hardware store for the plexiglass and 1/4 round moulding.


Progress as of 9/10/11
Most of the 'cabinet' stucture is complete. The two doors on the front will eventually have windows as well as windows on the sides (see plans above). I am having trouble finding some reclaimed windows that people aren't asking a fortune for. I also need to plane down the edges so everything closes properly but I'll wait until it is setup outside before I make those adjustments. I also need to build the peaked roof. But since there isn't enough height in the basement to do that, I may need to build it on the floor and then put it all together when I get the coop outside.

Linus, our dog, is the general contractor on the project. As you can see he is taking his 4th coffee break of the morning and charging me double for his time. The area under the coop with have removable hardware cloth panels and that area will be accessible from the run.

The left-side of coop has the pop door with chicken ramp.

The two doors on the coop open up fully to give me access to everything inside. Since the coop is only 3 feet deep there is really no need to ever climb into the coop. I can reach everything by standing outside in the 'poop-free' zone.
I am still priming the inside with 2 coats of primer and then a final coat of exterior paint. This should protect the wood enough to allow me to hose out the entire coop a couple of times a year and scrub it down with bleach.
All of the interior pieces come out easily so they can be cleaned as needed.

There are two nest boxes on the right-hand side of the coop. They are approximately 14 inches square. I painted them a dark gray color to make them more private. I will close them off until the hens reach laying age, then line them with straw.

The nest boxes are accessible from the outside for easy egg retrieval. They are also removable if I need to take them off for cleaning. I placed some foam weatherstripping along the top edge of the box to keep the wind and weather out when the lid is closed.

Below the roost are three removable poop trays. I lined the bottoms of the trays with a rubberized carpet runner material that I found at the hardware store. I plan to line the trays with paper and some pine shavings and then every couple of days just dump them into the compost bin, hose off the trays if needed, let dry, and then place them back in the coop with fresh paper and shavings.

The roost is a 2X4 laid with the wide side up. I used the table saw to remove the edges and round them over. I covered the roost in the same rubberized material I used in the poop trays. I figured that this should help the chicken grip the roost and be a little nicer on their feet as it has a bit of cushion to it. It is also waterproof so I can take it out and hose it off when needed. We'll see how well it works.

I put two vents behind the roosts. That back wall actually sits against the garage so there shouldn't be any wind blowing in from that side. I hope that the vents will provide a little fresh air at that level but not be too drafty.

The chickens reach the roost by climbing the ladder, walking along the poop tray shelf and then jumping up to the roost. The ladder is held in place using a couple of eye bolts and a couple of hooks.

The coop is equipped with an automatic pop door that will be connected to an X10 controller which will open and close the door on a schedule. Being computerized, the X10 controller allows me to time this to actual sunrise and sunset (open 1 hour after sunrise, close 1 hour after sunset, etc) and also allows me to manually control the door from anywhere in the world (most likely my bed) using my iPhone.

The door is also self-locking using a mechanism that I designed out of 1/8 plywood, some oak trim for the "teeth" and to hold the eye bolts and then some nuts, bolts and washers to hang the pieces. Gravity pulls it all down and locked once tension is off the cord.

There is a video of the door in action here:

You can see the motor for the door in this picture. It is positioned slightly below the roost so chickens shouldn't get entangled in it. I may put a box cover over it to protect it from poop and overly curious chickens.
Here is a link to the motor that I am using. It is designed specifically for this purpose.

The bottom of the coop is comprised of a large drawer about 5 inches deep that I will fill with pine shavings. I plan to use the deep litter method and only plan to change the litter in this drawer a few times a year. The drawer slides completely out and I can carry the entire thing to the compost bin when I (or the neighbors) decide it needs to be changed. I plan to line the bottom of the drawer with the same rubberized material I used in the poop trays. With the drawer completely removed, I can stand inside the coop if I ever need to do some work in there. It also gives me complete access to the area under the coop.

The start
It all started with a simple box frame. The front and back panels are 6' wide and a little over 6' tall. The front panel has a horizontal support at 18". The back panel has a horizontal support at 18" and another at 40".
The side panels are 32" wide, each has a horizontal support at 18" and another at 40".

The Run

Progress as of 9/19/11
The run is also under construction. The first section is pretty much complete. I need to build the second, identical section now.

Since the chicks are quickly out-growing their cardboard box I took this first portion of the run and converted it into a stage 2 brooder. The chicks love it. Check out my brooder page for more pics.

Progress as of 9/15/11

I've primed the first section of the run and started working on the removable panels for the front. The hardware cloth is installed on the backside.

Progress as of 9/13/11
I started building the first section of the run last night. The second section will be identical to the first. Each section is 7' long, 3' deep and 40" tall. I'll bolt the two sections together and to the coop using carriage bolts so I can separate them and move them if needed.

The back will have hardware cloth permanently attached with screws and washers.

The front will have removable panels with hardware cloth similar to the panels on the bottom of the coop. These need to be removable so I can get in there and rake as needed.

The top has a sloping clear corrugated roofing and then will be covered with slats. This slatted surface will form a potting bench were we can keep our herbs and smaller potted plants. The clear roofing protects the run from rain and water from the plants but will still let in filtered sunlight.

I need to prime and paint everything and move it outside before I permanently attach the rest of the roofing supports, roofing and slats. Right now the 4 sides of the box are held together with a few screws so I can collapse it and take it out the basement door.

The clear roofing is installed with a slight slope for water run off. The edge extends beyond the edge of the run so the runoff doesn't end up inside the run.