The Hen Den

By broodybird · Jun 3, 2014 · ·
  1. broodybird

    Technically speaking, this isn't a coop. It's a run. We're still in the process of designing the coop, but that's coming in the next couple of weeks (months?). The girls have a temporary coop until the big one gets completed.

    The run is 16' x 6.' We have three hens now, but doing some serious chicken math already. Once of my "girls" may be a boy, and that will open up a whole new line of arithmetic for me. So....

    After studying all the things-I-wished-I'd-done-differently-when-I-built-my-coop articles (lots of really good ones here at BC!), I knew what I didn't want. And at the top of that list was a structure I couldn't conveniently WALK INTO without having to stoop over or bang my head. Easier to clean was my goal. So much to hubby's gentle bantering, this turned out much larger than he thought it would be. But in the end, it's really NOT that big -- if ya think about it, by the time you add in feeders and waterers and whatnot, you run out of space pretty quickly! And I wanted my girls to be comfortable, as they will be confined to the run much of the time. I do plan to free range, but only for a couple hours a day.

    We live in Southern California and it gets insanely HOT in the summer. We don't really have to worry about fierce winters, but the summer heat will easily wreak havoc on my flock. We also don't have a very large yard. But we got lucky; the retaining wall you see here holds back a pretty steep slope, and just above grows a large old oak tree. The wall, being masonry, will provide some cool relief and the oak tree some good shade. Perfect location!

    We also have every single predator living in our area that would love to make snacks of my chickens. Raccoons, rattlers, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, foxes, owls, hawks.... you name it. This had to be secure.

    We started by digging out about six inches and laying hardware cloth down. Then we put CMUs (concrete masonry units) on top of the cloth at the edges, and hubby secured them into the ground with rebar. Once they were all in place, we backfilled the area with dirt.

    Next he attached 2x6s on top of the CMUs to create a sort of "working foundation," to which he attached his entire frame, using all 2x4s. We worked upward, using the retaining wall as the back wall of the run, and created a lean-to design, making sure that the shortest height of the run, which is at the wall side, is still tall enough for me to stand without bashing my head on the roof joists (6'). He used a hammer drill to attach the lumber to the top of the wall.


    Neither of us really have any construction knowledge, but this wasn't rocket science. We relied on a lot of Simpson brackets, a good drill gun, a hammer drill, galvanized screws (I prefer screws over nails, much easier to remove and replace)... and a little common sense [​IMG]Hubby has a day job, so we could only work on it on the weekends, and it took us 5 weekends - and a lot of back rubs! - to wrap this up.


    I painted the framing as we moved along. The toughest part was working in sync -- I had a specific design in mind for the Hen Den, and that meant he had to tell me which board was going where before he cut it so I could be sure to pull out the right color paint.

    Hardware cloth was attached all along the inside of the framing.


    I put all the finishing touches on, like the planted mint boxes (to reduce flies and stink) and the white picket fence.

    I don't know the exact total cost, but somewhere close to $1000. The hardware cloth was $45 a roll (we used five rolls) and we went through forty 2x4s and six 2x6s. There were a few extra runs to Home Depot in between, so I lost track, but this is a good close number.


    This turned out super sturdy. We literally - yes, I said LITERALLY! - get winds of 100mph rolling down our street, so this had to be strong enough to hold up to strong winds. The sheet metal roof, I'm sure, will make quite a racket when the winds kick up, but this puppy isn't going anywhere!

    A little cute decor to pimp the crib....



    Our Inspector General approved....


    I lined the inside with pine shavings and straw (it's a covered run) and some DE mixed in. The girls, now fully feathered, were very happy to get out of the brooder and into their new home. Only a little confused, but they took to it right away -- dust bathing within a few minutes of moving in!

    Here are Eula (Welsummer) and Gracie (a Buff Orpington)...


    And Louise... (Louise is a Speckled Sussex. She may be a he, but we aren't sure yet)...


    And we're done!


    Btw, the paint I used was all Home Depot's Behr Ultra. The "ultra" is the one with primer - stupid expensive at $40 a gal, but so-very-well worth it. Covers in one coat (except for a few problem 2x4 that were still wet) and it sticks. Colors I used were:

    Avocado - for the retaining wall, door frame and shelves
    Lemongrass - for the frames and roof joists
    Firecracker Red - for the door


    The girls have a temporary pre-fab coop right now, which we've put it inside the run (not pictured here). We're going to begin construction on the "real' coop in a few weeks and we will be attaching it to this run, so there will be some modifying. But it will be minor. The coop will be 6'x8' and I'll be sure to post up when it's all done.

    YAY! [​IMG]

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Recent User Reviews

  1. mrs_organized_chaos
    "Nice run"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 15, 2018
    Can not wait to see how the coop will look once it has been complete, especially after the care that was taken to build the run.
  2. Texas Kiki
    "Great for an open air coop!"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 15, 2018
    This could be considered an open air coop for the South.
    I love the colors you chose.
  3. Hope Hughes
    "Beautiful & Creative run!"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 8, 2018
    Can't wait to see the coop too!! Have you made it yet? Photos??


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  1. broodybird
    Thanks Mountain Peeps :)
  2. Mountain Peeps
    I love your coop!!!! Every thing about it is awesome! I love the name too!
  3. broodybird
    Help yourself to 'em, chickenlindz! ;) Glad you like it! Just a head's up:

    The planters at the bottom are mostly mint and a few basil. I may have lemon verbena in there too. I planted these to deter flies, mice and rats (supposedly, rodents hate mint) and also to keep the stink down. But the ones at the top are more "decorative." I planted million bells, lobelia and sweet potato vine in those. I wanted them to cascade downward the front side a bit more, but these are young still. I know that the sweet potato vine is toxic to chickens, but they won't get to it at that height and I keep a good watch to make sure none of the trails poke through the hardware cloth.
  4. chickenlindz
    Holy cow... I love this!!!! I'm totally stealing the planters you have at the middle...
  5. broodybird
    Thank you so much for the kudos, lwiese58. Yes, it IS a happy run. I wanted it to be a happy place, so that I would feel motivated to clean it regularly. My thought was that if it were just some dumpy area "out back where the chickens are," I might neglect it. This way, it's a pleasant place to visit and hang out. I'm happy to report the plan worked --- I even took a nap in there with them today!
  6. lwiese58
    This is such a happy run. Everything about it is appealing. Thank you for offering the paint color names! I'm probably not the only one who will wonder. Please don't forget to update when your coop is finished. Very well done!
  7. broodybird
    Thank you vehve. I'm inclined to agree with you, Louise is probably a roo. But I'm going to hold out a couple months on hope alone. I saw a post from someone who said her SS looked exactly like this, big bright red comb and wattles, even started crowing. And then one day she laid an egg! So rather than prematurely dispose, I'll hang on a bit longer. She is definitely the dominant one. And while that's an attractive disposition, it doesn't help her situation :(
  8. vehve
    Looks very nice. I'm going to venture a guess and say that Louise is a Louie. We have a 8 week old SS who looks just like him, just a bit more white in him. Our's doesn't have very distinct male features yet either, but compared to the other SS who we believe to be a pullet, there is more comb and wattles with a lot of redness like on yours, and the behavior is quite different too compared to the suspected pullet.
  9. broodybird
    Thank you valleychicks. Eula is 8 weeks, Louise is 7 weeks and Gracie is 6 weeks. I was told to wait until the youngest is 8 weeks before pumping them outside, but they are fully feathered and it's already 90 degrees here is SoCal.

    As I've been learning, the Speckled Sussex is one of the hardest breeds to correctly sex. So we're waiting a couple months, to see if Louise continues to develop as a roo. If it turns out that Louise is actually a Louie, then sadly he must go :( And that will mean we will start with the brooder, all over again, and add two more chicks. Small property, so I can only have a max of 6 chicks. Crossing fingers! I really like Louise. Quite the character. Jumps into my lap already, sits on me and "talks." I'd be sad to lose her (him).
  10. valleychicks
    Love the Run! How old are your chicks?

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