If you asked me even a year ago if I would ever own chickens, I would probably look at you funny and say "No, I doubt it..." My girlfriend and I came to own chickens when the house we bought had existing outbuildings, and one of them had been used to raise bantam roosters for show in the past. We liked the idea of getting a flock of our own, to have for eggs and entertainment. We were supposed to close by Jan 18th, and didn't end up closing until Feb 22nd. I had already ordered the chickens from eFowl.com thinking that we would be in the new house by February, and they ended up getting to us Feb 11th. We ended up with 18 day-old chicks in our apartment in Newport, RI for a week and a half!
Here is the new property:
And the Existing coop:
You can see that it needed some TLC, so we started by scraping and priming the outside:
Once that was finished, I moved inside. Here is the way it was before we got it:
I started by getting rid of the roost shelf:
Once everything was cleared out, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the floor. The building is in OK shape; it is pretty old though, and parts of the floor seem to be better than others. I wanted the floor to be easy to clean, but also provide great protection from any predator trying to dig through the floor from below. What I came up with was to add 2 layers: the bottom layer would be wall-to-wall hardware cloth, stapled down along the seams and outside edges. On top of that, I would use vinyl flooring, to make it easy to clean. (I want to use the deep litter method, where I can keep adding hay every week or two, and clean everything out into the compost twice a year.)
Here is the hardware cloth stage, not all pictures show the finished stapling, I went a little crazy with poultry staples...
Next we added the vinyl flooring on top:
Here's my girlfriend doing surgery on the flooring:
I secured the flooring using felt paper nails, I had thought about adhesive, but if I ever want to pull the floor up, it would be a huge mess.
At this point, it was mid March, and the girls (and one boy) were about 4 weeks old, and the temperature outside was still very cold. I did, however, want to get them out of my house, where they had taken over a guest room. I bought an additional heat lamp, and set them up in the new coop, which held the heat surprisingly well considering it isn't insulated.
At this point, the chicks were in a clean, dry, warm environment with food and water, so I moved outside to tackle the run.
My girlfriend and I work full time jobs, so we needed a place where we could feel comfortable leaving them all day. I had seen a lot of different types of runs here at BYC, and I decided to focus on the things that my run should provide.
-Human sized- I want the run area to be accessible for cleaning, feeding, and handling purposes.
-Protected- It is very important that the run be protected from common daytime predators: Dogs, foxes, hawks, etc.
-Covered- A lot of people use netting or wire on the top. I want the girls to be able to go out in their run in the rain and snow and not get soaking wet.
-Well lit- I know there are a lot of options for the roof, and I wanted to pick something that would let through a lot of light, so that it feels like you are outside when you're in the run.
With my list of wants, I went about sketching out a rough design. It was nothing special, and it ended up getting left out in the rain during the construction of the run. It would be about 20' long, and 12' wide, and attach to the peak of the existing coop structure. I decided on clear corrugated roofing while walking around the hardware store.
All of the lumber is pressure treated, I really want this thing to last. Special thanks to my girlfriend's father who helped me move all the lumber and build it.
I started the construction by measuring and digging the main posts, which go down 2'. To keep everything straight, I decided to frame out the roof before filling the post holes with concrete:
Next I built the doors, and added some more framing to help attach the fencing to the run.
For the fencing, I landed on 2x4 welded wire fencing. It was either that or hardware cloth, and I really feel that the biggest threats to the chickens in the daytime are loose dogs and hawks. I hope I was right. I'm going with this setup until there are enough "incidents" to justify reworking the design with hardware cloth. I think this looks so much nicer:
Pictured: Chicken approved.
At ground level, I half-buried a 2x4 to attach the fencing to, and below that are 6" garden staples, 11 gauge. I think this is much easier to install than buried fencing, and I think it will do the job. Again, this is the run, so any digging that happens at night will be easily visible the next morning before the girls go out. Heaven forbid something digs into the run, they still can't get to the girls until they're let out.
For the door thresholds, I did something similar, except I used concrete instead of a 2x4.
This is before I filled it with concrete:
At this point, the only thing left was the roofing, which was so easy to work with, I just put up cross-braces up to attach the plastic mounts to, and went one panel to the next screwing them in at each "valley".
It came out nicely, and is exactly how I pictured it.
Here is my rooster Jubal inspecting my handy work.
Since they were getting so big, I also built them proper roosting poles. When they were chicks we set them up on a clothes drying rack. I made them a ladder roost out of poles I cut in the woods.
All in all, the chickens are very happy, and love running around their coop and run. My projects in the near future are their nest boxes and their automatic pullet door. they wont lay until July, so for now I'm gonna take a little break and just enjoy what I've done so far.
I'm not sure if there's anything I would do differently. I know as time passes and I start to have problems it will become clear what those are, but so far there aren't any signs of digging, so I can't tell how that will hold up. I've seen hawks around, but obviously they don't have any option to get to the flock. I think it came out better than I even planned in my head.
Wish me luck!
The Lafayette Chicken Compound
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