This is a mid-sized coop, built for about 6-8 occupants. It's insulated, and designed with easy maintenance in mind. Above the egg-boxes there's some storage-space. The whole back wall can be opened up to easily scoop out all the litter. The perches are located right in front of this door to allow for just cleaning under them. There's also a maintenance door, to which the feeder and waterer are secured. This way they just fold out and are easy to refill. Everything inside the coop is easily accessed from the outside.
Also check out our rabbit pen, the Nordic Hare Pen.
It all began with my girlfriend casually mentioning her desire to keep chickens. "Sure" I thought, thinking that once we're living in a bit bigger house with a nice big yard it could be fun to have three or four egglayers roaming about.
As things often are with members of the fairer sex, you need to pay close attention to what they're doing, because soon our bathroom was occupied by this:
Fast forward a few weeks, a couple of failed hatch attemps with organic eggs bought from the store (In Finland they tend to be fertile, out of 4 eggs all started developing and the last two gave up on day 20), we finally ended up with 1 Marans and 3 Araucana-Marans mixes sitting in our living room in a cage meant for Guinea pigs. We had had a batch of Sussex'es cooking in between, but sadly they we're all infertile. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when my better half came home with a box containg six more Sussex eggs. Out of these we got two more little cluckers. I've also been informed that we have three slightly older hens reserved to kickstart our egg production.
Then to the build.
Here's where my part comes in. Obviously we couldn't keep these little fellows in our living room forever, so after a lot of browsing on this site, and it's Finnish counterpart, we came up with a design for our coop:
As you can see it is quite heavily influenced by the various Wichita and Taj Mahal coops you can find on this site.
The basic idea was to have an easily serviceable coop with a small covered run, able to house up to 8-10 chickens. First we were going throw together a little shack, but since we had some leftover insulation we decided to make a year round coop able to withstand the harsh Finnish winters.
Luckily, spring arrived early this year after a record low amount of snowfall, so in the beginning of April we got to work. Here we have the spot where this thing was to start taking shape. It was all ready covered with a 20cm layer of gravel, so it was a natural spot to place the coop. You can see me untangling drain pipe, and the foundation and bottom support beams in the background. I just leveled some cinder-blocks on top of the ground rock, and made 4x4 beams out of 2x4's for the base of our construction. The size of the base is 210x280cm. We also suspended some metal netting in the frame to keep out intruders (Mainly our Dachshund). I first built the inner part of the frame, then attached the netting on its outside, and then sandwiched the thing together by putting another round of 2x4's around.
Next I built the frames for two walls out of 2x4's. I placed them 122 centimeters from each other (the standard size for plywood sheets is 122x244cm). I used 2x4's on their side at the bottom (to accommodate for insulation) and 2x2's at the top. The higher end is 210cm and the lower end 170cm. I left 50cm under the floor to be used for the run.
Then I fashioned five roof beams out of 2x4's, and built the roof out of leftover lumber (90mm groove and tongue). I used 2x2' around the side, nailed to the ends of the roof beams and the bottom of the roof. Then i covered the roof with plastic sheeting to waterproof it during construction. I also placed a 2x4 in the middle of the floor to support it.
After this I attached a lip under the floor supports to keep the insulation in and insulated the floor (50mm of windproof mineral wool on the bottom, and 50mm regular mineral wool on top. I taped the seems with duct tape. Then i nailed a plywood sheet on top of it. Because of the spacing of the walls i didn't need to cut the width of the sheet.
Then it was time for the ceiling. I nailed some 2x2s across the roof beams and built a frame for the ceiling out of 2x2's. Then i insulated this with 50mm of windproof rockwool on top (with a 50mm airspace between the insulation and roof to let the construction breathe), 100mm of regular insulation, a layer of wind blocking paper below this and then nailed in some plywood to form the ceiling.
Next I covered the inner walls with plywood, and insulated with the same 50mm+50mm layer as in the floor. I covered the outside with wind blocking tar-paper, and nailed 20mm of wood trim outside it to allow for breathing space between the outer boards and the insulation. After this I nailed on the outer boarding. You can see a better picture of the trim a bit later when i did the other wall.
At this point our two Sussex's started hatching.
Next i put up the framing for a little utility cabinet under which the eggboxes will be located. 2x2's used here. Put some plywood on the inside of this too.
Then we planted some potatoes.
I insulated the utility cabinet with 30mm aluminium coated polyurethane sheets. You can also see the other wall being insulated. Notice the hole to the top right for electrical cords. On the bottom part of the wall I have some rodent netting to keep mice and insects out of the wall's breathing space. The same netting is used on all the walls, and also to cover the roofs breathing vents.
Next it was time to put together the service door, same polyurethane insulation in it. Also learned a bit about cutting glass and building windows.
Then I built double doors for emptying the bedding, and filled all the cracks inside the coop.
Here's the rest of our flock enjoying the sun in the garden. Notice the Dachshund behind the potato tower.
Then came the lid for the eggbox (insulated), doors for the utility cabinet. Oh, and first coating of paint. I hate painting.
Inside's been painted as well and here I am making air ducts. Also put in the lovely faux tile rubber mat flooring.
Then we installed the heater on the wall, a lamp in the ceiling and a chain for the heat lamp. Also installed the feeder and waterer on the maintenance door for easy access. Oh, and perches, removable of course.
The bigger fellows were starting to stink up our living room by now (at 5 weeks) so we threw them in the coop.
So far the coop's been staying at about 15 degrees C with the 90W heater on during nights (temperatures have been ranging between 0 and 20 degrees C) and hasn't gone above 20 during the day even with the sun trying to heat up stuff. The insulation and double glazed windows seem to be keeping up to par. We haven't been using the heat lamp either. I'll probably add some seals to the hatches once winter comes again, but for now I think the extra airflow won't hurt.
The outside isn't quite finished yet, and I have been working long days, so I haven't been taking that many pictures, but I'll post an update once the thing is finished with some more pictures. If anyone has any questions about our design, I'll be happy to answer them to the best of my abilities.
*Update April 30th 2014
I put together a ramp for the chickens out of some leftover treated wood from building our fence. Still needs some paint and then it's ready to be attached. I also took some more pictures. Loads of small improvements have happened, some more painting, installing some trim in various places, and of course the support chains for the egg box hatch. The lovely sign you can see on the wall is from Bainbridge Farm Goods.
I've also put the roofing material on, and attached metal trim around it. For the roof I used bitumen panels that my neighbor had lying around. Took about 8 square meters to cover the whole roof (I think it's 3,20 meters by 2,55 meters, so a bit larger than the base of the coop). The bitumen is raised up on the sides, and then covered with the metal profiles to keep rain from seeping under.
The inside of the utility cabinet has been covered with wood as well. And a lot of locks, latches and hinges have been used on all the doors and hatches. Also covered the air ducts with a grill. You can also see the door for the run lying under the roof.
Mainly I used materials we had left over from various projects, but I did need to buy surprisingly much as well. I'll try to list some of the materials needed for this kind of build.
For the base:
-Cinder blocks, depending on what kind of surface your building on. I needed 6 of them. Might have been a good idea to put some in the middle as well, now I just propped the middle up with large rocks.
-About 25 meters of treated wood
-A 25 meter roll of 1 meter wide metal netting (This we'll use to cover the run as well)
These are rough estimates.
-About 75 meters of 2x4's, untreated
-About 100 meters of 2x2's, untreated (I could have managed with a lot less, but I had to use quite a lot to fill out stuff covering earlier design flaws, like too wide openings etc.)
I did not buy any more 2x2's and 2x4's, so that was the total amount for the whole build. Spent maybe 30 meters of 2x4 for the frames.
In addition to the stuff bought earlier I got about 300 meters of 90mm wide tongue and groove boarding that my parents had left over from a building project. About 100 meters of this went to covering the roof, the rest was used for the walls and to make various pieces of trim etc.
The metal profiles came from my parents cottage as well, used about 12 meters of it.
I needed about 8 square meters of bitumen roofing panels to cover the roof
The doors took up a lot of 2x2, as did frames for them.
For insulation, I think I used about 8 square meters of windproof 50 mm mineral wool, 10 square meters of regular 50 mm mineral wool, and a few square meters of polyurethane insulation, mainly for the doors (It's a better insulator, and my neighbor had some scrap pieces, so this allowed for slightly thinner doors. They still came to about 8 cm or 3 inches.)
For the inside paneling I used 5 sheets of 122 cm x 244 cm plywood, that's 48 x 96 inches. The plywood used here was 9mm thick, but for the floor I might suggest some slightly stronger stuff. The chickens wont need it, but there was some give in the floor when I was in there.
One thing I noticed was that screws, nails and especially hinges and latches are surprisingly expensive. I did use slightly (a lot) too strong hinges though, I can assure that there was absolutely no give in the utility cabinet door when I managed to hit my head on the open door getting up. I guess real construction workers wear helmets for a reason. When we propped the waterer and feeder on the service door (almost 40 pounds of extra weight), it drooped 2mm down in the far end, forcing me to move the counterpart for the latch a bit lower.
Paint also costs money, we used about 4-5 liters of red latex paint on this, and about a liter of the cream paint. Personally I would prefer an oil based paint, but this is what the house was painted with, and since the coop sits about 2 meters from our house we really didn't want to break the pattern all that much.
There's probably loads of stuff I've forgotten about, but feel free to ask if there's something you're wondering about.
We still need to fill the run with sand, put up the netting, and attach some more trim, but hopefully the coop will be done by the end of the week. I'll keep posting updates as the coop progresses.
Oh, and comments and improvement ideas are welcome, as is questioning some of my solutions. We've never had chickens before, and this is the first coop I've ever built, so feedback and ideas from more experienced chickeners is highly welcome. One thing we don't have is a sick bay, but i'm thinking of converting some of the egg box space for that use if needed.
*Update May 3rd 2014
I started putting up the net yesterday, but Mother Nature interrupted me with a hailstorm. Today I managed to get the job done. I used washers and decking screws to secure the net to the frame.
Then we painted the ramp, and I made some hooks out of angle-brackets on it's lower side, now it hangs from some loops i screwed in under the chicken hatch.
Luckily my neighbor had a spot on his yard where an old sandbox had been, and he let us steal some sand from him. We shoveled about a metric ton of sand to cover the bottom of the run.
Then we finished netting the end of the run, installed the door and i'd say the coop is pretty much finished.
After opening the hatch it took about a minute for the guys to start exploring the outside for the first time (Corn was a good motivator).
I think the coop is pretty much predator proof, but our dachshund seems to try to prove me wrong. So far she hasn't made any progress in trying to break in. The labradors gave up quite quickly, but she'll keep trying to get in for a couple more weeks i'd imagine.
In preparation for moving the two Sussexes in with the rest of the flock we also put together a little sanctuary for them. Let's hope they have enough wits to use it to keep out of the way of the bigger ones for a while.
I might still put up some trim around the run to hide the edges of the net, but for now, that can wait.
Feels good to finally be finished!
*Update May 4th 2014
My better half put together this flower box in the front of the coop
Turned out quite nice in my opinion. Now the chickens can enjoy their own plants.
Also, we moved the smaller chicks into the coop yesterday. Luckily we had the chick sanctuary in there for a while before that, because when we we're going to put the little ones in, one of the larger hens was sitting inside it. We added a crossbar to make the openings smaller, and now it keeps the bigger guys out. The little ones seem to be doing all right in there, sometimes the bigger ones start picking on them, but they can hide in their little box, so I think they're going to be fine.
I also started on a compost-box yesterday to handle the used litter, I'll post pictures of it once it's done.
*Update May 7th 2014
Here's a rough draft of the coop floor-plan:
The coop measures about 122cm x 210cm
*Update May 12th 2014
Furniture and preparations for fecal matter processing
I added a roosting bar ladder for the run during the weekend. The compost is starting to come together as well. The two Sussexes ventured outside the coop for the first time during the weekend as well. The roost bar was received positively, with the help of some tinned corn I managed to lure the chickens out and in a matter of minutes they were sitting on the roosts. The dogs are still getting used to the idea of feathered additions to our pack.
The compost is made of leftovers. The box itself is made by taking 4 ~1m long 2x2's and nailing siding to those. I pre-cut a lot of siding into 90cm pieces and used those. On the front I only went half way up with the nailed siding to allow for easier turning and emptying. I only had 100mm thick polystyrene, so we sawed that in half because I thought 50mm would be enough. Sawing wire was great for this purpose. On the bottom I have a layer of 5mm rodent netting (I only had 15cm wide, so I had to sow a bunch together to form a wider sheet) and a layer of leftover netting used to cover the run. The drain pipe is an old sewer pipe that I drilled holes in and covered the ends with rodent net. I put some light tarp on the inside to protect the wood and plug some drafts. On the front there's a removable panel, and I used water resistant plywood as a separator inside the compost. On the bottom I have some treated wood for the compost box to stand on.
The outside dimensions are 90cm x 94cm x 105cm plus whatever the lid will take (about 10cm in the back and 5 in the front). The inside is about 75cm x 80cm x 100cm, so it should hold almost 600 liters.
I still need to build a lid for this thing until we can start breaking down the poop and peat we have in the coop. Also any food scraps that don't go to the dogs or chickens will be handled by this. Hopefully the insulation will be enough to keep this thing working through the winter.
*Update May 15th 2014
Things to remember or "Don't do this"
When building something out of wood, it is always good to remember that it's a living material which reacts to moisture. Due to the heavy rains we've had the past few weeks, humidity has been quite high. This lead to doors that tended to swell up a bit. They where just a bit hard to open, no real problems, but if you have a climate that ranges from dry to humid, keep in mind that you'll need to leave room for the wood to change shape. So if you build a tight fit in sunny weather, it might be quite difficult to open a door during rain.
Otherwise, no real problems with the design so far.
*Update May 27th 2014
The wheels of progress have ground through another turn
The compost has been finished (although it is still sans paint) and has been up and running for a bit over a week. Nice hot composting action going on in there.
Also, with the imminent arrival of three 18 week-old's, we had to finish the egg nests, because the breeder told us that one of them might be laying all ready. So we took out the separating piece of plywood and cut out some holes in it. We made two nesting spaces, and the third hole showing a bag of hay is going to be turned into an infirmary if needed, just need to put up some net over it. We used kitty litter boxes as nestboxes, they are about 45cm x 30 cm, and the height is about 40cm. Apparently my better half is going to make drapes to hang in front of the entrances, for privacy.
*Update June 25th 2014
I had completely forgotten to post an update about our curtains. We hung them about a week ago, the material is a wax fabric from Ikea, about 6 euros per meter I think. We stapled it to a piece of trim and attached it with a couple of screws. Turned out pretty nicely, and about 20 minutes ago, Veera the Alho chicken went in there, so I'm hoping we might enjoy our first egg soon.
In the picture, Viiru is modeling the latest in chicken coop interior design.
A small addition, I checked the nests just now, and found our very first egg.
A bit on the small side still, but hopefully that will improve, the color is nice though.
*Update July 19th 2014
Time for a little update again. During the summer we've found that we are a bit short on storage space for both gardening equipment and chickening paraphernalia. We decided to utilize the empty wall space at the end of our house for a little cabinet shed.
Also, I'm happy to report that the compost is functioning wonderfully. I will soon dump the first load of composted material into it's cooling storage. If anyone's interested in the build pictures of the shed, here they are:
*Update August 25th 2014
With fall just around the corner, we decided to attach a gutter to the coop to direct water away. It still needs a barrel for collecting rainwater. Darkness is coming earlier each day too, so we put in a light in the run. It's set on a timer, as well as the light inside the coop. The run goes dark 15 minutes before the coop.
We also planted a plum tree in front of the coop instead of the little aspen that was growing there. All the soil used for making the raised bed came from either our compost, or our potato towers.
We have also installed feeders and a waterer in the run. I modified a design from a thread here (The no waste 5 gallon feeder) to suit our needs better. It's built with a trash bin and a storm vent.
My next project will be preparing the run for winter. The plan is to cover the run with corrugated plastic to keep snow out.
*Update September 8th 2014
A breath of fresh air!
I forgot to add an update about this, but a few weeks ago I added some air intake vents below the roosts, the idea being that cold dry air comes in, freezes the poop, and the warm moister air goes out from the top vents that were already in place.
Here's a before pic once again:
And something I learned when doing the top vents earlier, a cordless drill is really not suited for this kind of work. Luckily I have a great neighbor who I can rely upon to lend any tool that I don't have myself.
This is how the inside of our doors looks. From the outside, it's 22mm wood paneling, breathing space, 30mm aluminium coated polyurethane, and 9mm plywood on the inside.
Here we have an inside view. The plastic piping I'm using has an inner diameter of 100mm, but the outside is 104mm, so for it to fit into the 100mm hole I had to enlarge it a bit with a file.
And here's the finished product. I installed a little galvanized grill on the outside, and the inside is a plastic grill. I'm hoping the downward facing fins will be enough to direct airflow away from the roosts, since these intake valves are placed directly under them..
And here's a pic of the earlier mentioned lights in use:
*Update October 7th 2014
Snow cover and wind break
Yesterday was spent making the coop ready for winter. We picked up some corrugated plastic, and attached it to the outside of the run. I used screws and washers to attach it, as any more elaborate system would have ended up costing a bit more than we were prepared to pay. The corrugated plastic set us back about 140 euros already. The material was surprisingly easy to work with, I used an angle grinder to cut it. First I tried using scissors, but that broke the plastic in a ugly way. Pre-drilling holes for the screws was easy too, as long as I kept the drill at a slow speed and held down the plastic. The point is to sort of melt the plastic in stead of actually cutting or drilling it.
Here we are half way through:
And here's the finished product. I left the top open to allow for ventilation. If snow blow in through there, I might cover it with something further out, still allowing air to circulate.
The girls seem to like the wind break it provides.
It also looks pretty nice in the dark with the lights on.
*Update October 21st 2014
Water defroster and temperature monitoring
No pictures this time, since these aren't really visible changes, but I added a water defroster to the outside waterer. It's a water proof plug in model, with a built in thermostat. The hot part of the cable is 2 meters (about 7 feet) long, and should give 10W per meter of heat. I drilled a hole in the wall and sunk the heated part of the cable in the outside waterer, it plugs right in to my interesting display of extension cables inside the utility cabinet. The cable is meant to keep drinking water lines and gutters defrosted, so it should work for this. We also purchased a wireless weather station to be able to monitor the temperatures in the run and coop without going in there.
I thought I'd add a picture of the cable anyway.
The corrugated plastic seems to be working well, and the fact that it reflects light back a bit has actually kept the chickens more active in the evenings when they've gone back into the run and it's dark outside, but still light in the run thanks to the added lighting. I'm really happy with it.
*Update October 26th 2014
Warm feet and drinks
Yesterday I replaced the round 5cm (2") roosts with flat 12cm (5") roosts. They too are easily removed, and I added a piece of wood on top to keep them stable in the metal holders. I also snapped a shot of the water heater inside the waterer.
We've also collected some maple leaves to use in the run over the winter. We took some birdnetting, meant to protect bushes, and tied knots at each end of 2 meter (7') segments before opening them up, so that they formed bags. Then we collected leaves in them, and they are now hanging from the ceiling of our storage shed, where they will stay dry.
And here's a picture of the inside of the waterer:
I drilled a hole close to the top of the bucket, and threaded the heating cable through it. So far we've had -5C (23F) at the coldest, and the water has stayed liquid without any issues. We'll see what the limit will turn out to be for this heater.
*Update November 7th 2014
Re-decorating the run
Yesterday we cleaned out the whole run, and since the roosts had been getting in the way of doing that, we took them down and put in new ones. Now they're attached to little hooks with paracord. We also put in a little swing for the flock, it's anchored in one end, and the other hangs from a string so that it's allowed to move. We also added some fresh leveling sand to work as grit. I still need to make an adjustment to the downspout on the gutter, right now the water coming down from the roof is pooling a bit outside the coop, I need to direct it a bit further so that it will pour away.
*Update November 12th 2014
Gambling with bedding
The better half has been complaining about the run being slightly smelly (which I think is caused by the fact that humidity is in the 90%'s). Anyway, we decided to experiment a bit with bedding in the run. In addition to the straw we've got in there, we added a bale of coarse hemp bedding and a huge bag of dried maple leaves. The chickens seem to like it, since it gives them something to scratch around in. The hemp we dumped under the roosts, where most of the poop lands, and the leaves we dumped in the middle of the run. The chickens will get to spread them by themselves, and this will either turn into some sort of deep litter, or then we will have a horrible mess in there. I'm hoping for the former, but the skeptic in me is expecting the latter. Time will tell how this goes.
I've also directed the water from the roof a bit further from the coop, but that turned out too ugly to take a picture of.
*Update December 20th 2014
All fall some of the girls have been insisting on becoming broody, so we finally caved and gave them some eggs to sit. Last Wednesday our two broody mommies finally managed to hatch 5 little chicks, so we needed to make arrangements to keep the chicks safe from the rest of the flock.
First we put up some 13mm (½") hardware cloth inside the coop to divide it in half. Then we moved the broodies and their eggs over to the less used nest, and noticed that three of them had already pipped, so we were just in time with our modifications as usual. That was enough for a few days, but today we put up some smaller feeders and a nipple waterer that the chicks can reach too. We also put in a dust bathing bowl filled with leveling sand, so it doubles as a source of grit. The mommies kept making a mess of the food and water bowls we had in there, so we raised them up on some 2x4's lying flat.
We've also had the heat lamp on for them now, to encourage the chicks to be a bit more active. The coop is about 6 degrees C (43F), and under the lamp it's about 20C (68F). Of course the mommies are there to provide heat too, but the chicks have ventured outside the nest a bit on themselves too.
*Update December 30th 2014
The better half channeled her inner Martha Stewart and made this lovely addition to the coop to make it a bit cheerier for Christmas.