Everyone will have different priorities when they set out to create their coop. The woodworking craftsman will want to show off their skills, some homeowners will want a coop that fits 'goes' with their home, the person who bought their chicks on an impulse and are surprised at the rate that they are growing will just want it done NOW.
My priorities are
- cheap cheap cheep!
- suitable for our COLD (as low as -30F and lower) climate
- easy (My father, who passed away a couple years ago, was the carpenter in our family)
- camouflage (we're in the gray legal area I believe, so it had better look like a shed)
- suitable for 3-4 full size layers
As $ is one of my first priorities, I decided to re-purpose two wooden cabinets that were left by the previous owner of our home. They were sturdy and the same height.
So I didn't have plans so much as I had a vision. I put my oldest son inside the two cabinets and asked him to pretend he was a chicken.
As he squawked away, I imaged a door in front of him, A wall behind him, perhaps a window cutout on one side, and a single sloping roof.
I imagined that my dad would have agreed with the plan. Simple straightforward and common sense.
I took out the shelves I would not be using with my dad's old "knockometer" (aka vintage sledgehammer), popped off and cut the siding to create a window, and attatched a bunch of two by fours to the top. This was the moment that the work began to slow down. I realized that the cabinets weren't quite square (90 degree angles were more like 92 or 85) and not quite level.
It was then that I heard my dad's voice speak to me. "Scott, the chickens aren't going to know that it's not level".
And he was right, they wouldn't care, it doesn't matter. I should let go of my perfectionist ways So I went back to work and added a pop door.
I added a door on the right hand side, as you can see below, it's a door to nowhere so far
The hole is smaller than the door so that it will prevent drafts. You'll likely see other designs that have the nestboxes outside the coop; but remember that I have camouflage and the weather as factors that make this the better choice.
Because I don't want a flat roof, I added some 2x4's to raise the backside up about a foot.
I also added an opening for ventilation. The roof will overhang enough so that water won't get in. You'll also notice that I replaced the backside with plywood.
I was at this point that I started thinking about the roof, the inside, and realized that this thing is getting heavy (more on that later).
Notice the metal brackets (called hurricane ties) that hold the rafters in place. A more capable craftsman would have added notches into the wood, I thought the $ was worth it because I don't want the roof falling off.
People will debate the merits of insulation, but I had some extra lying around and I did mention -30F already didn't I?
You can now see the hole that will provide access to the egg door.
And the nest boxes . . .
used to be a side table that was also left by the previous owners of our home. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Here's the inside before painting. I painted everything, and added the very important poop boards.
Now it was time to move it into the backyard and I realized that it must weigh something like 100+lbs. I considered disassembling it, but then I thought about what my dad would do. We shared an interest in ancient history and I felt as though he suggested I take that approach.
So with the help of two dowels, the coop was easily moved by just myself and my son (yes the same who previously impersonated a chicken). I gave it the push, and he moved the dowels as needed. Easy peesy, althouth those two steps going down sure were exciting!
Here it is in its temporary location. The roof was taken off because it wouldn't have fit through the door to the backyard. You'll notice the trelace just might make a good run. So I added a door, and some netting and it was done!
The roof was much easier than I thought it would be. I had to put down some special black fabric vapor barrier, then followed the directions of the nice people at home depot for putting down the shingles.
Please notice that the door is a 'dutch' door. I can open the top and they won't run out. I'm also going to try out the deep litter method, and that will make it a breeze.
Speaking of cold breezes,
This is my heated water dish. I swap out the plastic container rather than having to clean the green one. You know, or will soon learn, that chickens are MESSY. Which is why it's up off the ground. There 2x3 on top isn't a flush fit, which makes it wobble if a chicken tries to step up or roost there. To stop the whole thing from getting pulled out, is a stick placed vertically behind that 2x3, just like a lock.
Here's my treat tray
I can slide it up and out, then fill it
with new scraps. I got it at the local thrift store, it's some kind of over sized soap dish. I also have three pvc feeders (do a search and you'll see lots of examples) for feed, oyster shells, and grit.
The first tenants
seem pleased with the coop so far. Though I had to use scratch to teach them to walk up a ramp and they had to be placed on the roosts for the first few nights.
What I would do differently
- I was worried that the ramp would be too steep, but instead it was the turnaround to the roost was the more difficult part of getting up to the roost. I ended up both lowering the nest boxes slightly, and adding a return ramp to the other side of the coop to get to the roost.
- This coop will suit us for now, but once my other three kids are bigger, our demands on eggs is going to go through the roof, so I'll be selling this one and making a bigger one in a few years.
- I did add hardware cloth to the bottom of the coop floor, but only after it was in place, I should have done that when it was lighter.
- I'll probably end up added another window on the other side at some point. Light is so important.
What I love about it
- The dutch doors and deep litter method are awesome
- It really does look like a shed to someone peeking in over the fence
- My costs were only about $200, with plywood and roofing materials taking the biggest bite out of that amount
- There's good ventilation, and even when it was very cold out, there were several degrees difference between inside and out, ie it holds its temperature well
- I also love this recipe of ours even more with fresh eggs. Try it out!
- The first picture on this page sums it up best, and as it was so well put in another BYC member's page, "We're raising children, not chickens."