The Zen House

By ZenHenMama · Oct 2, 2013 · ·
  1. ZenHenMama
    • Joined: 10/2013
    • Posts: 9
    • online
    This is a blog I wrote on another site(non chicken related):

    Well as you know I’ve brought 3 hens and a duck into our family’s lives. The big effort was to produce a coop for them. I had been entertaining the concept for chickens for quite some time, and had even took a class about having them. One day I spotted an old doghouse at the curb of someone's house in our surrounding neighborhood. I thought how perfect for one or two chickens. It was sturdy and in great shape.

    When I brought it home my husband surprised me and was on board with the concept. In fact he thought why try to make this work, why not get a real coop. He went on line and found someone's old homemade coop and brought it home for Mother's Day. It was old and weathered and still full of old chicken stuff and straw. He thought and I agreed, that it would be easy to clean and paint and would be good to go, and fairly quickly. But the more I looked at it the more I knew I wanted to change it. There was no way to enter and clean it, and there were too many uncovered screens, besides what about my perfectly good dog house?

    So I thought why not put the two together to make one big coop, wow I could even get a couple more chickens! You've already seen the pictures and know I got a duck also, and lost one of the four chicks. The good news is that the rest survived and of all the good luck I managed to pick all females from a straight run flock (sex undetermined.) That was practically a miracle, since you can’t tell them apart and males are not allowed in the city.

    But I digress, this is the story of the building of the coop. I happened to have a beautiful large stained glass window that I had picked up at a yard sale. It had been sitting neglected on the floor behind a mirror in my bedroom for lack of having any real particularly good place to put it in my house. I thought it would be so cool to have it on the coop. But oh, how outlandish and impractical would that be! Oh to H-E-double toothpicks with it, I can do what I want. What's the worse that could happen, would the coop police show up? (The curse (and blessing) of being a perfectionist, you always think of every angle.)

    So I decided to commit to it, even though the likely hood of it staying clean would be impossible, so I also committed to paying for plexi-glass to cover both sides. Oh the grinding and gnashing of the teeth! This was supposed to be really cheap and those two sheets alone cost forty dollars. Oh who cares? You only do this once and you'll be glad you protected it. Same argument for the two black plastic dog kennel replacement trays for holding sand at the bottom of the coop, thirty dollars for those. More grinding and gnashing, but had extolled the virtues of sand for floors, especially in the way for keeping smells to a minimum. Glad to say, now that it is reality and not the visions in my head, that it did pay off and I really don't regret that outlay of cash as both are integral to the Zen of my coop.

    How do you combine a 3'x3'x3' wooden doghouse and a 3'x4'x4' wooden used coop on 2' tall legs you ask? That's what I wanted to know too. The floor had only 1/2" hardware cloth (wire mesh) and the walls, oh the walls they would never work. The front and back walls were solid with a small pop door for entry and exit on each. And they were small, just big enough for a chicken or an arm to get in. The sides were split in half vertically, one part solid wood, one part hardware cloth. How on earth did they clean it? You couldn't get in it. Probably why they didn't want the coop any more!

    I needed to picture it physically as I had theories of splitting the doghouse in half. So I used some wide spaced graph paper using one square for 6" and cut out the pieces and taped them together to make a 3-D shape of both structures. So many options. I played around with them, then cut the doghouse form in half vertically, and played around some more. I decided that placing the two halves on both sides of the main coop would be the most pleasing on the eye. One side could be the nest box, the other side would be coop space.

    OK, the design was settled upon, the use of the window incorporated, and I wanted sand on the bottom. I scrubbed the old coop with bleach water before I started even tearing it apart because it was so dirty from the previous chickens, eewww. Next I sawed the doghouse in half with a circular saw and a jigsaw. If I couldn't get that apart I would have had to change the whole design. The original doghouse was made with a removable roof for some reason, which made the cutting in half much easier. Even though it was tricky trying to measure and saw a straight line from front to back it actually ended up pretty straight. It was meant to be.

    The roof was only weathered plywood and sagging but as I started deconstructing the coop, I used a 2x4 from the side of the coop to squeeze underneath it and over the frame pieces. Wow, it fit perfectly without having to cut. I took off all the walls of the old coop, but you know, the floor with its mesh and support boards really would do a nice job of supporting trays for the sand, so I kept that intact on the four corner support 2x4’s that held up the roof and extended down and became the legs
    I was lucky I came across some trays at Petco because I wasn't having luck with my other options (too big/small, too expensive, too deep etc.) FYI - sand is heavy. I didn't even realize how much until I started using it. I'm still experimenting but I think I really only need it in the summer to help poop dry faster and not smell, now that it's colder and it doesn’t smell so much I think I'll just scrape off and spray wash with the hose.

    I decided to use a 1x2" strip of wood trim down the center, sides, and across the back of the floor and I lined them with galvanized drip edge (for roofing) as an "L" shaped runner to slide the trays onto on each half. The trays would slide out the front. I could hardly believe it - all those pieces put together worked out perfectly even though I was anticipating having to fill it in somehow. It was meant to be.

    The front by the way used to be the back, which was taller for the slant roof, but I figured I needed the height at the front for the stained glass window. When I was eyeballing it I kept thinking about how I was going to have to put in fill pieces, but once again by the time I made the "H" frame surrounding the wood framed stained glass window out of 1x3 lumber, it filled the space perfectly above the floor trays, nothing else needed. It was meant to be.

    Next I painted everything inside and out. I figured it would be really difficult to get at later if it had walls up, including the doghouse pieces as well. This was a really good decision because it would have been hard to get at later as suspected and I felt a whole lot happier about handling everything now that it looked new. A $5 can of exterior clearance paint has amazing super powers!

    The 9" openings on opposite sides of the window I screened with hardware cloth. I also screened in the gaps between the roof rafters at the front and the back. Easy to do since there were no walls up yet and freshly painted. I also attached the inside plexiglass with screws on the sides. Unfortunately the top and bottom edges only cleared the frame opening by about 3/8" and so had to be satisfied with clear silicone to seal it in place.

    I had the great idea to lay all the silicone on first (after insuring the pilot holes for the screws were in place on the frame and the plexi.) That ended up being a mistake because apparently I don't have the multiple arms of an octopus, and trying to hold that 34x30" sticky glued plexiglass in place while screwing in screws is just not gracefully done. At all. So cursing and swearing were next employed, along with frantic scrambling to get it in place and all the smeared silicone wiped off as much as possible, as quickly as possible since it was drying fast, which required multiple dashes to my kitchen for more paper towels and the use of rubbing alcohol. Of course it did not occur to me to just bring the roll with me.

    Luckily in spite of the smear-tastic disaster I was able to salvage it and get most of it cleaned up and consoled myself with the thought of it being only on the inside, and that it did seem to help really seal it well all around after all, and not only would the chickens not tell, they simply wouldn't care. LOL. I decided to save the insertion of the stained glass and the application of the outside plexiglass until the very end, that way I wouldn't break it while doing the rest of the construction.

    I forgot to mention the ridiculous amount of time spent on deciding just where to place the coop in the first place. I knew which corner of the yard I wanted it in… perfect for adequate ventilation, furthest away from the neighbor dogs on the other side of the cyclone fence, under some trees. I deemed it necessary to provide a foundation paver for the legs of the coops to stand on, so even if wet it would dry quicker than earth would and it would make every thing level.

    The blocks of concrete were18x18x3" and were heavy, like about 25 lbs each. I took a whole day and a half to measure, stake out, physically set the coop on top and off several times, and carefully lay the pavers, so that not only were they in line but were also perfectly aligned and level not only in themselves but with each other as well. My perfectionistic tendencies were ultimately going to serve me well for the foundation as any good architect's daughter would tell you (yes I am that girl).

    So my husband came to view my progress. "Well that looks really great, but why did you point it to the fence?" What the... sure enough it was pointed in the wrong direction and looked it. Turns out I measured off the back fence and it was not square to the house across the yard, it was angled and so my coop and all that back breaking work, scraping in the dirt and mud (yes it was raining, I put a tarp over the area, just barely big enough to cover) and working so hard with those heavy pavers, lifting and adjusting countless times until I literally injured my wrists; was all for nothing.

    I couldn't stand it, it had to be changed. How could I not repeat this again. More shuffling of the coop. Did I mention the coop is heavy? So heavy that I could only struggle to move it? Finally I started thinking, why not put it in the corner diagonally since it just isn't looking right or fitting right when I try to straighten it to look right from the back of the house. So the H-E-double toothpicks with it, might as well stay with the unconventional. It looked much better and I was quite pleased with myself even if it did take every bit as much effort and energy as it first did to reset the pavers, even in spite of swearing I would not be as picky this time, I still was.

    Now I built legs for the dog house which would be the sides of the coop. I used old wood from my mom in law’s shed, in fact all the wood I used on the coop was either wood from the shed or a part of the original coop, only a couple of 1x2 and 1x3’s were purchased. It didn’t matter that it was old dirty weathered wood because the whole coop was already that. They were a bit spindly so I added some braces. Yes it ended up being done twice because I had to take it apart at one point. The half dog house lined up well on the sides and I attached them with some metal “L” braces. In fact if I needed to move it I could undo these two little braces and the whole side would come apart.

    On the side for the nest boxes I decided to add a 1x6 across the inside to keep the nesting material in one spot. I put in a removable divider to make two nests and a shelf for the top to enclose it a bit better and I get a bonus shelf to store my tools in. I cut a hole in the side facing out and hinged it on the bottom, attaching ball chain on the sides to hold it like a table, here’s where I get my future eggs! The other side was attached the same way but it had the original arched door opening which I made and added a door to that.

    Now I needed to attach the roof to the doghouse. The old one was really heavy and had extra wood braces inside to hold the removable roof in place. It also turned out to have 2 complete layers of asphalt shingles on top, when I tore it apart. All I needed was the plywood top so I stripped every thing off it and then cut it down to fit the sides of the coop with an appropriate amount of overhang to shed the weather. I decided to hinge the roof so that I could lift it up and look inside. One side was the shelf which holds my cleaning tools and the other side I hope to add some sort of water/ feed station. I also needed to apply the walls of the remaining distance to the top.

    The final wall was the back wall and yep I made it complicated. I wanted complete access to all parts of the interior of the coop, so I made two doors that opened in the middle and swung wide to expose the entire back. I can reach in and get everywhere. But I also wanted to be able to screen in the birds and still be open so I cut another hole in each of the doors and put hinges on those as well. I attached hardware cloth to the big doors and mission accomplished. It’s great for helping to air out the coop and give additional ventilation in the summer. The back also got some slide bar latches to really hold the doors closed at the bottom. Also all my cuts were fairly tight and so when paint was added it keeps the air/ rain out pretty well. This is the Pacific Northwest after all and it doesn’t ever get too cold around here.

    The original roof only fit the exact square of the coop, except on the low end, so I added strips of plywood to both sides and the front for roof overhang to provide rain protection for the hinge roof and rest of the coop. Now I got to learn how to roof with asphalt shingles. I had some old roofing felt that I had from a roofing repair and I bought one package of shingles. $25 I followed the directions on the package and laid it like it was a full size roof. For the sides I was a bit short on shingles so I carefully used scrap pieces to finish filling the spots and glued them down with a 40 year exterior adhesive. You can’t even tell which ones they are.

    All along I had painted so it was ready to move in which the birds did when they were 5 weeks old. It was the middle of summer so I didn’t have to worry about them getting cold and they took right to it. I also later added some iron planter hooks that I put a straight branch on from our apple tree for a roost . They are still snuggling with the duck in the nest boxes or at least on the ledge to the nest boxes however, though they use the roost when they are awake for the days before I let them out. The remainder of the coop consisted of all the hinges and latches I used for the many doors and exterior screws, which is the way to go in case you need to change your mind about anything. LOL

    I had also made a ladder for the door. Because I have an Indian Runner duck she was the complicating factor. She just can’t get up as easily as the chickens and was convinced she couldn’t do it. Seeing this I thought of making some tables for her to climb because she could lurch forward better. But it didn’t work well even though she was capable of making it on her own I always had to position her at the bottom and herd her up. She wouldn’t do it on her own. So then I decided to make the traditional ramp and put 1x2’s every 5 inches so she’d be sure to have something to grab on to. I attached it by building a "u" shape with 1x2 scraps attached like a handle on the coop and then using a couple of the "U" braces with one side beat flat and screwed on the ramp. This sets into the wooden "handle" and so is removable. This has worked out fine for the duck and she is learning to climb it on her own. I also made solid shutters for the sides of the window for in colder weather, I found some more $5 red clearance stain/ wood preservative, which I think works perfectly with the red window.

    It’s pretty hilarious to watch the hens scold the duck when she hesitates to climb. One time I saw one literally have a conversation with the duck telling it that she could do it, just follow me I’ll show you how. After talking face to face, the hen went over to the ramp and showed the duck how to do it and duck followed right behind and tried to comply, but the hen cheated and jumped up halfway up the ramp, too high for the duck to make. So the duck needed some help that time.You should have heard the snickering and worrying going on in the house, when she didn't show up. She’s finally getting the hang of it now, but she gets nervous if she thinks anyone is watching and won’t try. Now that she is getting more confident I don’t think she will feel so vulnerable and will scoot up freely. Go Sofie!

    At this time the decision was made to cut down the plum tree that was starting to crush down the cyclone fence aiming directly at the coop. We discovered it had 'live wood' termites in the base and that's what was bringing it down. It had to be done though I was sorry to see it go because it was beautiful.

    I had plans to build a run in spite of having a huge fenced backyard for them to roam in. So here is where the fantasy of a cheap coop gasped it’s last breath. I built it of weather resistant 2x2’s and chicken wire. But I wanted sand on the ground, and to contain it my husband urged me to use the pile of bricks we had that I hadn’t been using. Of course we only had half of what we needed to make a 13x13.5’ run so I bought more brick and learned how to mix mortar and lay a brick wall two bricks high.

    Of course this is the foundation so once again I’m down on the ground in the sweltering heat (100’s) carefully laying out the bricks and leveling so they lay straight. Only one spot really needed an actual level because of the hump around the base of our apple tree which I had to cut into. The rest sloped to the back of the run, which was fine because then past the fence water would run down a steep hill and away. The ground was pretty flat and hard packed already so I laid out the twine lines and laid the 2x2’s to see how big it really needed to be. Of course I had to make it different and provide an open view of my wonderful stained glass coop so I thought I ‘d cut across the corner and make it a five sided diamond profile shape, just so the post would not obstruct my view. Why do I do these things to my self? I dry laid all the brick just to estimate how much I really needed, and to get the lines straight.

    In the end I made it work. I connected all the wood with some metal “U” shaped brackets and they even bent enough to go around my funny angles . I made it 6.5’ high so that when I finally get a roof on top you can still walk beneath it. As I was building it I went from the ground up, directly on top of the brick wall. I screwed all bottom row together, then added all the uprights. These I held in place with twine and stakes in the ground. Then the top row was attached. The structure was all screwed together now so it was getting heavier. It’s perched on top of my two brick wall and once I added the roll of six’ tall, 150’ chicken wire stapled to the inside of the wood every inch, it became even more stable and heavy. I had to stretch the wire in all directions to make it reach up, because the screen roll had been crunched down and diidn't reach it's full measure, and it is still 6 inches too short which I have to accommodate when I build the roof, but the stretching really added to the strength of the structure. At this point in time there is nothing attaching the run to the brick other than the weight of the structure and I will attach some wires to the cyclone fence it's butted up to. So predator protection comes in phases: cyclone fenced yard, chicken wire run, hardware cloth-stilted coop. If I end up needing more I'll deal with it then, right now this suits all my needs.

    I know that it will get even better when I get the top attached. I plan on using galvanized guy wires attached to turnbuckles for a really straight top and then some how attach the chicken wire to that. I’m still debating whether I need a roof or not. Inside the run I dumped a yard of sand although I bought one and a half. Not cheap by the time you have them deliver it. Trust me, you want to have them deliver it, that stuff is heavy and I saw what it did to the guy’s pickup who thought he could handle it, not a real good decision.

    Another idea I had was to take some PVC gutter and cut it in half lengthwise so I could use one half to cover the middle of the two trays inside the coop and keep all the poop and sand out of the runners and it works really well. I also made a cover for the front of the trays by putting a 1x3 bar with a 1x2 strip attached like an "L" shape and hinged it on like a door. The floor tiles didn't stick well on the door side of the coop because the floor was so uneven and weathered, so I took them off and am now using instead a black rubber floor runner cut to size that over laps the wood connection to the main coop and that's super easy to take out and clean off too with a hose and my favorite soft, nylon hand brush. I’m also planning on making better, bigger waterer and feeders. I want to get them in the coop on the door side, under the hinged roof. The duck is complicating everything! She needs a whole bowl full of water to stick her head in and she always messes up the water. Arrrgg! Good thing she’s so cute and wears a perpetual smile on her face. Any how, at long last here are some pictures. Thank you for humoring my need to be an author. [​IMG]




    Here are some more pictures when it was still being built








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Recent User Reviews

  1. Nardo
    "Fun story"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Dec 12, 2018
    Good article explaining the way this unique coop came into being. Good job on the 5 sided run and also on helping the duck.


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  1. featherweightmn
    How creative!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. RezChamp
    Dang! That a nice 1.
    Yep, we all have an artistic talent 1 way or another
    We just need the right incentive for it to escape
    Good job
  3. gclark94560
    OMG cool! I love it! :)
  4. gclark94560
  5. ChickenLife
    I Like your using the old stuff and turning it into something so nice, its so very good to see. Your job done is really good and I'm sure your duck is happy.
  6. Pretty Chickens
  7. Pretty Chickens
  8. Teena Marie
  9. Quackpot
    Very cool! And inspirational, too...
  10. MyPetNugget
  11. BunnyTheSlayer
    Love that stained glass!
  12. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations, we've chosen one of your pics for the Chicken Coop Picture of the Week. Thanks for posting your coop design & pictures to our "Chicken Coops" pages! You can find more info about the CC-POW here: CC-POW Process
  13. joan1708
    I didn't read the whole narrative but, WHAT A LOVELY COOP! It looks well thought out and functional. I love it!
  14. beach hens
    Very beautiful....
    And thank for sharing
  15. sumi
    Love it!
  16. TwoCrows
  17. ChemicalchiCkns
    Highly artistical
  18. Whittni
    Its very cool looking, thanks for sharing.

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