We had been living in the city - unfortunately after my husband's job transferred him, "the city" was located 64 miles from my husband's new place of work. With two children with special needs, it became increasingly important to make the move closer to my husband's work. Of course this delighted me to no end as I am a country girl at heart - and that heart was set on chickens!
Living on a very tight, month-to-month budget, we were thrilled beyond measure when we found the most wonderful 1905 farm house on a horse farm... to RENT! To sweeten the deal, since the farm is out in the middle of NoWheresville, VA, the rent was lower than the house in the city. To add icing to the cake, the house already had a lovely, spacious chicken coop! We started planning our move and I ordered chicks!
Then the unthinkable happened. See that beautiful old Ash tree? A wind storm hit Virginia like an out-of-control tanker truck, and that tree... and the coop that once stood beneath it... became casualties.
Now what?? We were about to move to this beautiful horse farm, we already had chicks on the way, and there was no coop. I believe I already mentioned that our little family is rather financially challenged. I mean like generic cereal for dinner financially challenged! How on earth were we going to replace the coop? The owners of the farm already had enough damage across their beautiful property to deal with and could not afford to replace the old coop.
Well - I truly believe that where there's a will, there's a way... and since I don't know anybody named "Will," I took matters into my own hands. I poured over all the wonderful coop pages on BYC, taking note of the features I liked and what would be most important for the health and safety of my new chicken-babies. Of course if I implemented all the things I really wanted, I'd have to win a rather large lottery prize to actually build it. With no lottery prize calling my name, I looked for alternatives. Cheap alternatives!
Really, really cheap alternatives.
I stalked Craig's List daily... hourly at times... looking for something - anything - that I could make into a coop (and that someone would sell me for next to nothing). One day there was a "curb alert" for old windows. I was there within 10 minutes of the ad going up to grab a few. Of course I didn't have an actual structure yet to put a window on, but I knew that whatever structure I ended up with - even if it were just a few old boards nailed together - it was going to have a window, darn it! I even considered ways of constructing an entire coop out of the old Crag's List windows... but with my particular kids around, I quickly ruled out the "glass house" thing!
The next week I found an old, wooden XXXL doghouse on Crag's List for the price of "please get this big old thing off my property." Once we got it home, cleaned it up a bit and did the "oh geez that spider dropped into my shirt" dance, I found it to be solid and in fairly good condition.
Hooray! I now had a structure and a window. What more could a girl ask for, right?
Well - how about more wood for a run, perches, doors, hardware, nails and any number of other things a coop requires. (I mean, not to be picky or anything... )
So remember that big old tree and all that match-wood the old coop turned into? As the man with the chainsaw disinterred various parts of the old coop, I dragged them out of the pile of splinters. I spent hours pulling out nails, clipping off staple ends and figuring out how to take all these random pieces (and my window) and make a chicken coop. In fact I couldn't seem to turn my dad-gum brain off when it came to figuring out how to build my chicken coop.
I found a piece of the old coop that was big enough to make a 4' x 4' base for my new coop... but after sitting under a fallen tree for more than a month, it was a tad on the warped side. No matter - not like we could afford a non-warped piece of wood. We covered it with a piece of linoleum flooring we found on clearance for super-cheap. The 4"x4" wood was part of the frame of the old coop and we were able to salvage some good wood between splintered pieces - just enough, in fact, to raise my coop 24" off the ground. You can see how it's bowing in the photo... yup - with those legs, my coop can move at WARP speed! Or maybe at the speed of mildew, but whatever, right?
We ripped the old floor out of the dog house and I did what I could to clean it up. I found a gallon of top-quality paint at a large home improvement store in the "Oops Paint" section for $5! One man's Oops is another woman's chicken coop color. I'm not really partial to blue, but I actually really like the way it turned out!
With daily thunder storms rolling through our area during the build, we moved the building excitement to the old farm house's large front porch. I think the poor landlords may have been somewhat alarmed with all the clutter collecting up there each time they drove past. I considered putting an old washing machine out there just to complete "the look" but decided that would be way too much work... and I needed the space for all my splintered reclaimed coop wood and windows, anyway!
Instead of buying good wood for perches or trying to de-nail reclaimed 2"x4"s from the old coop, I turned to the offending tree itself for perches. I found some nice branches and made a high perch as well as a mini chick perch (since my babies are still just over a month old). Of course instead of fancy hardware to hang my perch, I just used bits of the reclaimed wood left over from cutting the base. The perches are both removable for easy cleaning.
(Note - the right side wall has now been cut out to allow access to the nesting boxes)
We traced around the Craig's List window and cut out that part of the dog house. After making numerous additional cuts and using enough sand paper to cover a small desert, the window fits perfectly! It also allows me full-access to the inside of the coop.
(Back wall now removed and opens into nesting boxes)
I liked the idea of the drop ramp in the floor, but if I'm to put bedding in the coop, how do I prevent the chickens pushing all the bedding right down the hole? I thought about screwing some wood in place around the opening, but I was short on wood, and it's also hard to get droppings off wood that you can't actually remove from the coop. So the gears started turning, and 5 minutes later I had grabbed the plastic topper to an old cat litter box, cut one end off and screwed it in place. I think it serves the purpose nicely, don't you?
For our birds' safety we actually purchased hardware cloth for the vents and for around the small, covered run under the coop.
The space on the base opposite the window has now been filled with nesting boxes, made solely from reclaimed materials from the old coop. The red tin roof from the old coop will be installed soon - gotta get some tin snips to cut some of the less-bent pieces it to the right size.
Yes - I put trim on the coop! I found some cute gingerbread dollhouse trim at the craft store in the clearance bin and I couldn't resist spending a few dollars to dress up my coop.
(Prior to nesting boxes below)
And finally the coop was ready for its new residents! Of course the very day we moved them out, the overnight lows were 52 degrees Fahrenheit... so off I trotted with a heat light and some extension cords to keep my chicken-babies warm for the night.
Are my chicks spoiled? Maybe just a tad.
Note the home-made feeder hanging under the coop. I made it from a plastic butter container, a plastic ice cream container and a bolt. It's been working great!
You can see the old tree trunk on the right side of this photo... lurking... wondering what we have done with its branches...
...and perhaps happy that they will be useful in some way.
And that is (so far) the story of the horse farm and The Pollo Club.
Original dog house dimensions:
24 1/2" from base to eves on the sides
44" high from new floor/base to ridge
4' x 4' square
Raised 24" on four 4"x4"s, a 2"x4", a 2"x6" and one branch section.
Enclosed with 1/2" x 1/2" hardware cloth.
Gate in Base:
Framed with 1" x 1" wood inside and 1" x 3" boards top and bottom to "sandwich" the hardware cloth in.
Racoon-proof padlock system
35 1/2" x 20 1/2"
Hinged to support that rests on the base inside the dog house - running lengthwise.
Racoon-proof padlock system on each side.
Main perch - natural wood. Allows for 18" of head room under ridge. Hung with scrap wood.
Chick perch - rustic "ladder" style made from branches of fallen tree.
Since we are renting and may someday have to move, the coop has been constructed in sections, The Dog house portion can be easily removed (with the proper tools) from the base, and the nesting boxes are removable also. We built the coop on the front porch and when we moved it to it's permanent location, we found it surprisingly easy to assemble and had it done in 5 minutes!
When building a structure from found/reclaimed/repurposed pieces, it is important to keep an open mind and to get super-creative. A number of times I was told, "You can't do that," or "That won't work!" Like with the gate on the base - it's crooked because the old wood is warped.
Big deal to a professional handy-person, but no big deal to me. I simply build a crooked gate (not like it's hard). It works great!
Just because others may not be able to imagine the final product you have in your head does not mean you can't build it.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that this coop was a success is because neither I nor my husband have ever had any actual training in building stuff. Therefore our imaginations took over and we weren't limited by things we had been taught about what would or wouldn't work. We just sort of created...
Find it. (Perhaps on Craig's list or under a fallen tree.)
Thank you to my husband and son without whose "cooperation," none of this would have been possible!
(Even if you did just help me to shut me up!)
I'll update this page with new photos when I can get the nest boxes built...
and when I find old flower boxes to decorate with...
of if a chicken sits on top of it...
or if the light hits it "just so" making for an impressive shot...
I'm gonna hush up now, but I hope you enjoyed the saga of The Pollo Club! Please feel free to comment.
(Photo prior to the installment of the nesting boxes)