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Virginia Coop and Run

By PeckPal, Feb 20, 2015 | Updated: Feb 21, 2015 | | |
  1. PeckPal
    "We should get some chickens," I said, not expecting we'd actually succumb.

    Suddenly, we were single-minded. Chickens. We had questions, and plenty of them. How long do chicks need a heat lamp? Chickens don't have lungs? Is cattle fencing overkill? We read tons. We learned lots. The bulk of our understanding came from the generous and knowledgeable community at BackyardChickens.com. No surprise there. Additional info was gathered from "Storey's Guide to Raising Poultry." Within three months, the Virginia Coop and Run was completed by one determined artist, one egg-loving supporter and an adept carpenter friend. We were ready to raise chickens.

    We broke ground on the 10'x12' coop and 10'x32' run February, 2014. The chicks arrived in April. We are now successfully caring for the flock—one Cornish Rock Cross, two Buff Orpingtons and two Light Brahmas. Here's the completed project...

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    Several popular and recommended chicken coop features are incorporated into our design, such as... 1. Cozy nest boxes with black interiors...

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    2. A dropped floor to accommodate the "deep litter" method. The coop door opening sits 7" above the self-leveling concrete floor. About 6" of pine shavings are added. And a little straw. Georgia the Cornish Rock Cross is too large for vertical maneuvers, so we put a pile of straw behind the door so she can nest. She's glad to lay eggs in the dark corner...

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    3. Egg collection without entering the coop...

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    4. A secure 9x12" pop door; old house windows reglazed and hinged at the top; cattle wire run fencing with chicken wire added to the bottom three feet; and a dutch-style pen door for tossing in favorite treats—corn, kale, tomatoes and black soldier fly larvae...

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    5. When winter winds kicked up, cold air blasted through the open pop door. To cut down on drafts in the coop, I modified a salvaged pet door. I cut the thick vinyl door flap into three vertical strips, and screwed in a horizontal piece of wood to secure them. Magnets at the bottom of each flap catch on a metal strip screwed into the bottom of the pop door opening. In this photo, the center vinyl strip is lifted and clamped to the top (to get the chickens used to using it). Much less draft now...

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    6. The hens roost over a droppings pit, making clean up a breeze. Hardware cloth is used on the top and sides. The floor of the pit is cut from a sheet of dry erase board (Lowe's), and lightly framed. The brown chicken ramp is painted with a mixture of exterior latex and a handful of sand, giving the hens better traction on the incline. Scroll down to see how the droppings tray is removed and cleaned from the back of the coop...

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    7. For winter, straw is added under the roosting bars for a layer of insulation. This works well since the droppings are much firmer, if not frozen, making clean up a one-minute job with a hand trowel and a dustpan. The straw makes a warmer and more comfortable bed for our Cornish Rock Cross who is too heavy to get a leg up on the bars and must bed underneath them...

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    8. An easy-access door at the back of the coop allows for quick cleaning of the droppings tray (the floor of the droppings pit)...

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    9. A dust bath area. They love to bask in the sun and pack their feathers with dirt...

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    10. Plenty of light and ventilation. The coop has four reglazed and repainted house windows, all hinging at the top. Each adjusts using a rope and pulley rig. All window frames have fixed hardware cloth across the openings (attached from the inside). Here's the rear of the coop, showing the open back window, the open vent window above the roosting bars, the lower droppings tray door (closed and locked), and the back side of the dust bath area. And three teenagers searching for mischief...

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    11. Camilla the Light Brahma went broody in October, so I made a Broody Girl Box with leftover run wire and zip ties. This broke her cycle of wanting to spend all day and night in the nest boxes. After a few nights in the broody box, she was able to rejoin the flock. She began to lay again a week later...

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    12. The run is fenced with cattle wire on all sides, doubled with chicken wire on the bottom 3'. The top of the pen is covered in orchard netting, and six light-reflecting CDs are attached bottom-side up to deter hawks and eagles. The perimeter base of the run uses treated 2x6s and cement pavers to discourage digging predators. For access to fresh greens in the dirt run, we built a grass garden frame using painted 2x4s and hardware cloth. We toss rye seed under the garden frame and keep it watered. The tender grass blades grow up through the hardware cloth. The chickens graze on the tender growth without disturbing the roots. Win-win. Here's Kate moving the garden frame to let the hens have a go at the entire grass patch...

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    The girls have it rough. A large crib, organic layer feed, daily free ranging. Torturous. Sadly, we also inflict upon them other horrors...like tasty cornsicles to chill their hen-ness on hot summer days...

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    And hand-harvested black soldier fly larvae from the compost pile...

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    And warm oatmeal every cold winter morning...

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    If we were to do it all again, what would we do differently? The design is working very well, so I wouldn't change much there...the hens are protected from predators, sun and precipitation...the coop is insulated, ventilated along the ceiling peak and draft-free...it's easy to clean. Running water and electric to the coop are two things on my wish list, so we'd probably add those to make chicken keeping life a little easier.

    Thanks for stopping by to check out the henquarters. We'll do our best to respond to any comments and questions below.

    Good luck with your coop projects...

    Chris & Kate

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Comments

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  1. PeckPal
    HotDesertChick and ChickenObsesser9...thanks for checking it out.
  2. ChickenObseser9
    Wow very nice! I might use some of your ideas in my coop
  3. HotDesertChick
    Really, really, well thought out. I wouldn't call the coop 'predator proof' given our personal area with many "opportunists", but designing for future clean-up issues, and other Chicken Amenities, is superb. A lot of sound planning went into this coop. Four Stars.
  4. PeckPal
    Mellow1 and featherweightmn, thanks for the stamps of approval. I learned so much from the information posted on this site, so hats off to everyone who shares info. I designed the structure with as many "smart" features as I could work in. So glad it came together. :)
  5. featherweightmn
  6. Mellow1
    Job well done! Well planned, organized, and comfy! You have some very happy hens, thanks for sharing :)
  7. PeckPal
    Thanks for the comments, Madddawg. Let me know how the droppings tray works out if you end up building one. I had ours built into the plan at the advice of numerous chicken keepers on this site. "Make it easy to clean," they say.
  8. Madddawg
    Very nice set up. I like the big size of the coop and run. I like the idea of the droppings tray. I wish it wasn't to late for me to incorporate it into the coop I am building. Hmmm, Or is it? thanks for the pictures.
  9. PeckPal
    The frame is 3'x8' with hardware cloth stapled across the top. Use three untreated 2x4x8s and one roll of 3' hardware cloth (metal wire). Use one board to make the two 3' short sides. Use the other two boards to make the 8' long sides. Make the two 3' cuts, then prime and paint all of the boards and let them dry. Place the boards on a hard, flat surface and make a 3'x8' rectangle. Boards should have their short sides up to maximize the height of the frame. Be sure the overall dimension of the rectangle is 3'x8' (this will allow your 3'-wide hardware cloth to fit perfectly on the frame). Screw the boards together at the corners, using two exterior screws per corner. Get a roll of 3'-wide hardware cloth and staple the end of it to a 3' side of the frame. Roll out the wire across the frame, stapling it to the top of the frame every few inches. At the end of the 8' span, cut the wire with a grinder and staple that last short side. Use a hammer to pound in any sharp metal pieces of wire, especially where the grinder was used. Hope that helps.
  10. crazyfeathers
    How did you make the grass garden frame please. Be specific I'm not a very good builder lol. Thank you. Love your chickens and the story.

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