When I was a kid, my grandfather had about 30 hens in an enclosed coop (1970's) and supplied the neighbourhood with fresh eggs (for a modest price). When I had kids of my own, was living "in town" and heard them refer to a squirrel as a "wild animal", I thought "Hmmm... these kids need more exposure to animals"... thus was born our first urban chicken adventure.
We call it our "Three French Hens Coop" ... you'll see why. It was built using mostly recycled material as well as a bit of new plywood (mostly for the roof & egg box). Let me start with the finished product & then I'll tell you how we got there:
First let me tell you about the site:
There was a narrow swath of land (2-3m / 6-9') between our garage and a concrete walkway leading up a slope, into the backyard. We chose the site for the following reasons:
The only drawback (if you can call them that) during the build is that working in between the garage and the lilac made for fairly tight quarters by times.
- We could enjoy watching them from the kitchen window.
- It was quite sheltered from wind - nestled up against the garage (a couple of bushes and yew shrub would also provide some shelter from winter winds and summer sun).
- Being on a slope and being covered with limestone, it was very well draining... meaning that any smell would be greatly diminished.
I started out by putting four post-spikes into the ground - 4x4 posts and 2x4s would make up the basic frame. I wanted things to be solid and I didn't want the posts to be in direct contact with the ground, to avoid any moisture rot (even though I used treated posts).
- The Plan: I wish I could share plans with you but there were none... I was building as I went (with all the adjusting that that entails) it was roughly 4'x4' I think.
- Materials: The 4x4s were new, but the 2x4s were recycled from a couple of fence panels that had blown over and that I'd decided not to replace. Floor boards were also new.
- No fancy tools... just a jigsaw, a drill with screwdriver bits and an old-fashioned manual hammer!
- I also used galvanized brackets to attach the 2x4s to the posts... looking for sturdiness.
Starting to close things in:
- Here you can see that I'm using some of the recycled fence boards to close in the walls
- You can also see the poop door that the hens will use to go in & out.
- I had a rigid plastic piece that would provide underlay for some spare vinyl flooring that I had laying around.
- In the next picture you'll see the egg box going on and you may notice that there's some chicken wire on the far wall... that's a ventilation window... I'll give you a better look at that later.
The Door (below):
I made the door using some old wooden shutters that I'd picked up at a flea market and had been keeping "for some neat project" (that was many moons in the making... they'd FINALLY found their purpose!)
On the inside... A double layer (below):
I built this coop when we were living on the east coast of Canada so winter temps could get very chilly. For this reason, I covered the initial walls (vertically installed, 1" thick, leftover fence boards) with a combination of leftover tongue & groove pine, plywood and another wooden shutter. This would help cut down on any drafts and help keep the girls warm. During really cold spells, I rigged up a low wattage light on an extension cord, plugged into the garage, just to keep the cold at bay - nothin' fancy but it did the trick.
You can also get a better look of that ventilation window, behind my daughter.
The Chicken Run:
Below you can see the run, including how it was nestled between the shrubs and the garage. It was essentially just:
- a couple of 4x4 posts anchored into post-spikes at the foot of the run.
- treated lumber for the framing + hardware cloth (there was an abundance of inner-city raccoons, so an open-top run was a no-can-do).
- a home-made door (scraps & hardware cloth)
By now, the coop was all painted (though we never painted the run), so you can clearly see how I left the wooden shutters their natural stained colour (below), to contrast with the rest of the coop. I covered the plywood roof with leftover shingles from the garage. Between the door and the egg box, there's a tall & narrow plexiglass window to allow some light in even when the ventilation window & poop doors were closed.
Also, you can see that I put a cement paver stone down beneath / adjacent to the egg box. It's because the coop is located just next to a concrete walkway (door side) and I wanted to minimize the need to step in muddy dirt when it came time to collect eggs. Just keeps things a bit neater.
A Few Details... "Maurice"
Since we were only going to have hens, we still wanted to provide the girls with a little romantic inspiration, so we installed "Maurice"... a little home-decor fella we found at Winners (like T.J. Maxx).
A Few Details... Painted up
- The kids helped paint the inside, but we just varnished (or varathaned) the tongue & groove pine - again, for contrast.
- My wife did the stenciling ... she had more patience for that part.
- You can see the open ventilation window (it could be covered up with another custom-cut wooden shutter)
- Lower right, you can see the roost bar in front of the nest boxes (there were two).
A Few Details... "The Poop Door"
We wanted an easy way to open & close the poop door, so a piece of shutter was rigged up on a runner & track system and I attached an old broom handle that came out through the hardware cloth. There was a clasp so that, once closed, it could be "locked".
A Few Details... Ventilation window, with a view
- I installed their inside perch right in front of the ventilation window. It meant that during the summer, if they were perched and the window was open, they could also look out.
- The roosting bar was not straight across the inside of the coop, but on an angle. This allowed me to maintain a greater amount of "open space" inside the coop... useful when it came time to clean as I wasn't trying to work around (or under) the roost.
A Few Details... The "Fleur de Lys"
The stenciling was the final touch so to speak and the Fleur de lys was a dominant theme... it's a symbol associated with the French monarchy and remember... this was a coop for our Three French Hens (Cue "The 12 Days of Christmas)...
That's about it... A really small coop, but one that served our three girls quite well during the time we had them. We eventually had to get rid of them because we had urban chickens before urban chickens were cool and after about a year, the city pretty much said "get 'em gone or we will."
We eventually replaced them with rabbits... but that's another story.
Thanks for checking out our Three French Hens Coop!
Three French Hens Coop
We had a small spot to deal with, were expecting three hens and were making a foray into "urban chickens" - we were very much "in the city". This...