The Glorious Free Coop And How I Made It

  1. pillageTHENburn
    The story of my custom coop and how I built it for free*!
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    Two key things to know about me before I explain how I built this chicken coop for (almost) free:

    1) I tend to be a dreamer and my wife tends to be a realist. We are a good balance for each other, I make unrealistic whimsical plans and she helps me bring them down to reality.

    2) I'm also a scrounger. I'm not quite a "hoarder" but "Pack-Rat" doesn't quite cover it either; I prefer Scrounger. I have a knack for finding useful discarded things and finding value in things that in their own context appear to be trash.


    *I say "free" but it cost me lots of time and work and about $7 in one specific material (read on to see what I mean).

















    The Beginning
    When we decided to get chickens the logical first step was to design and build a chicken coop. The original quick sketch ended up being the "plans" and inspiration without much deliberation.


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    Obviously not easy to build, but I like challenges. To really pour on the pressure we went and bought 5 baby chicks (that day) and housed them in our downstairs shower. Now I had 5 fluffy, peeping, growing, time bombs that would need to move out of the shower in just a few weeks no matter what.

    Pencil: Free?
    Paper: Free (a notepad left on my windshield by a windshield repair company)
    Running Total: $0.00











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    After we decided on the square footage I decided to mock up the basic dimensions in Google Sketchup. I've built things this way before and I like it a lot because I can design with highly accurate measurements and I can see what it's going to look like in the end. I can fly around it and really see if the dimensions/proportions look good.

    I ended up with an angle of 82˚ on the peak of the roof. This helped it look “cartoony”.

    A gifted laptop: Free
    Google Sketchup: Free
    Running Total: $0.00












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    After the basic measurements it was time to actually start working. I apologize for the less than awesome cell phone pictures throughout.

    Long pieces are from a friend’s old deck.
    The rest are from pallets and shipping crates.


    Chop saw = Christmas Present: Free
    Lumber: Free
    Running Total: $0.00

















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    Helpers are important. By the way I am not the person who put duct tape on that hammer. I found the hammer in a field, already taped. I found that sheetrock ruler in a dumpster behind a cabinet shop, some of the markings were worn off where it was obviously used a LOT – to them it was trash, to me it was a nice, 5 foot, free, aluminum straight edge! (told you I was a scrounger).









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    Safety first! Notice I drilled pocket holes in the outside faces of the frames. This way the siding will hide all the screws.













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    This is a terrible, blurry shot of the subsequent framing. Most of this was a “plan as I go” project. I knew what I wanted in the end and I knew the basic dimensions but figuring out exactly how to get it there was something I sort of took one step at a time. A lot of what I did depended on the materials I had on hand too.

    I added the two vertical supports to the back and front to add strength for the nesting boxes









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    Close up of pocket holes.















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    I cut the holes for the nesting boxes with rounded corners. I just used a hole saw in each corner then connected them with a jigsaw.










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    The OSB siding was all scrounged from a local construction site dumpster. Since I didn't need full panels the scraps they threw away were perfect.

    OSB: Free
    Running Total: $0.00







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    The curved roofline was one of the most important aspects of the "look" of the coop. I wasn't sure how to go about it, I did some Googling but didn't come up with anything really helpful so I devised my own method. I wanted the curve itself to be a section of a circle with an even, unchanging arc.

    There are some pretty good ways to draw curves like this, the most common one I saw was to put two nails in your board at the high "peaks" of your curve then set a strip of flexible molding across the two points and bend it downward. You would trace the molding to get your curve. The problem I had with this method was that the curve wasn't perfectly even, it had a sharper bend in the middle than it did near the peaks (this might be a product of my flexible strip).













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    Either way I wanted a smoother curve. So in Sketchup I calculated the radius of the circle that would create the curve I wanted, then I took a piece of rope and measured it out (ended up being about a 14 foot radius). I set it up in my living room and had my wife hold one end while I swept the other end across my 2x4 with a pencil at the end. Perfect curve! It was basically a giant compass.











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    After I made the curved cut I took the top part of the 2x4 and placed it below the bottom part. This gave me a "curved" 2x4 that still had the same width of a 2x4. In the following pictures you see I used plenty of glue, clamped it all together counter sank the screws.


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    I notched the gables to hold the new curved roof peak.






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    I made a small gap above the walls on both sides for ventilation. Retrospectively I'm not sure why but I decided to cover the vents with chicken wire. It looks nice I suppose. I attached the chicken wire from the outside so that the edges would be covered by the siding later. All chicken wire for this project came from construction dumpsters where they are doing stucco. Often I would find the ends of entire rolls (10-20 feet!).

    Chicken wire: Free
    Running Total: $0.00



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    To achieve the curved roof-line I couldn't just skin the roof with plywood or OSB because the "plane" of the roof is actually a compound curve (and hence not really a plane anymore).






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    So I used slats from a shipping crate! This worked perfectly, it's also something I was pretty certain I would have to do from the beginning (see my Google Sketchup rendering).








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    After I got them all attached I trimmed up the ends.

    Slats: Free
    Running Total: $0.00










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    Nesting boxes... This is probably the part I spent the most time researching. There are all sorts of opinions out there about the size, shape and number of nesting boxes needed. I ended up going with small (shortish) boxes to prevent the chicken ladies from having enough room to stand up and get too curious about how their eggs taste. There's an approximately 3" lip at the door to each box. We only had 5 chicks so I decided that three boxes was enough. Now that we have 8 chickens I have realized that three nesting boxes might be two too many. Most of the time they all lay in the same box, and we consistently find two ladies in one box!





    Now is a good time to take an intermission and look at my adorable daughters. They LOVE taking care of the chickens, they got their first taste of "farm life" helping out that my parent's house. My parents have a small gaggle of geese, a nice flock of chickens and an emu. (By the way, my amazing wife MADE those dresses! It's okay to be jealous, she's awesome.)

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    At this point in time it was starting to get cold outside and my wife wanted to park in the garage again. I had to figure out how to move a 200 pound coop alone... The answer? A wagon!

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    It was just the right height to get the legs off the ground a few inches, I jacked the coop up one end at a time and put it on blocks, rolled the wagon under then let it off the blocks. Then I rolled it around the side of the house to the back yard.





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    By the way, the wagon was free too. It belonged to a friend but one wheel was broken and needed to be welded. She was going to take it to the dump and said if I wanted to fix it I could have it.

    Transportation costs: Free
    Running Total: $0.00






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    I added some more OSB on the gables and marked out where my windows would go. This end will have the chicken door on the right side and another small window to the left of that.














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    This is the "Man door" side. I decided to make things easier for myself I would make the entire wall open up, this would give me easy access to their food and water but also it gave me a REALLY easy way to clean out the coop.













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    My two monkeys enjoying the "chicken fort".


















    When I started writing this I assumed I could save an unpublished draft, since I can't seem to figure out how to do that I must apologize and leave this partially finished. I will add the rest of the images and description soon! I'm sorry about that!









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Comments

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  1. EarlyBird777
    Fantastic Coop.... love the "cartoony" colors and style... lots of hours I am sure... LOVE IT!!!
  2. parisbarbiedaisyandluna
  3. FuzzyMugz
    Your coop is just wonderful. I hate to ask -- but I'm not very knowledgeable about carpentry -- what was that hinge-y, brace-y looking thing that you drew on the green background and showed adjacent to the picture of the just roofed house? I couldn't tell what it was for, or if it was absolutely necessary? Anyway, I just LOVE this coop -- Congratulations! Your little ones will love it.
  4. lizm1221
    I LOVE your roofline, that is just amazing!!!! And way to go on your scrounging, well done!
  5. RavenWood
    That is fantastic! Love the curved roofline and what a brilliant way to accomplish it!
  6. Stumpy
    It's wonderful! Thanks for sharing so much detail. I wish my husband believed in scrounging. So far I'm on my own in that department ;-).

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