Welcome to our little coop (Le Poulailler Noir) in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. The coop is 8' x 8' with an attached 5' x 16' run, and is the culmination of a year-long bliss project. The finished coop is what happens when you combine and artist (myself) with a math-guy who who has an amazing retention for that one construction job he had in college (my husband.) It is a mix of new and old/repurposed materials. We began the build on March 14, and finished it on April 25. It was mostly a weekend effort with a few weeknights thrown in.
When I first described my vision of the coop to my husband, I said I wanted it to look like it like Diagon Alley... only French. "So structurally unsound?" he asked. What you see above is his orderly interpretation of my chaos.
We started by purchasing coop plans from Etsy Coop Plans Here We used these, basically, as a guide which we then modified to fit our specific needs... which are:
1) We are raising a large breed chicken (Jersey Giants) which require a bit more space for nest boxes and roosts - which also need to be lower to the ground.
2) Wisconsin winters can be brutal, so insulation and ventilation are beyond important.
3) Our property borders a nature reserve so predators are a constant consideration.
The purchased plans were for a 4' x 4' coop with small attached run... we opted to increase the footprint to 8' x 8' as it is a standard lumber/plywood size and would make things a little easier during construction. (We designed the coop using 4’, 8’ and 16’ dimensions which took advantage of standard lumber lengths and lessened the cutting involved.)
So here we go!
So this is what one page of our plans looked like... complete with my husband's chicken scratches. After roughly drawing it out, we sent the material list to Home Depot for delivery.
10- 8" x 48" cement tubes
14- 80lb bags of cement
7- 4" x 4" x 12' treated
10- 4" x 4" x 8' treated
50- 2" x 4" x 8' regular
8- 2" x 6" x 8' treated
20- 1" x 6" x 8' deck boards
12- 1/2" 4' x 8' treated plywood
4- 3/4" 4' x 8' treated plywood
100' roll hardware cloth
100' roll welded wire
5- 36" x 16' metal roof panels
It was a chunk of change, but I cashed in a couple of future Christmas, anniversary and birthday presents for this coop.
We went with a dirt floor, but wanted it slightly raised in case of heavy rains/flooding. We approached this by sinking 2' cement tubes (4'ers cut in half) on which we would build the structure. We used string supported by stakes to ensure it all lined up, and laid a 4"x4" on top of the forms with a level to make sure that they were as level as could be from one form to the next. The ground was super uneven, so leveling across the forms was important.
Using large rocks to loosely hold the soil, we began to fill it in before the frame went up. I did not enjoy this part.
The base was remarkably level. That 4' x 8' section in the front is a porch... which was my husband's idea. Although we had a rough-drawn layout... we work best making modifications as we work. Exact measurements tempered by fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pantsery. This requires a certain amount of confidence in one's abilities... and flexibility as new ideas (what if we do this?'s) arise. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry... if you're able to roll with it, the process becomes much more enjoyable.
In the plans, the nest boxes were on the outside. Worried about the cold and it being a northern exposure, we decided to build the nest boxes inside the coop, but kept the frame opening so we could 'sink' the boxes into the wall. It gave us an extra 3 1/2" of interior room and helped support the boxes.
The basic frame... finished.
We dug a moat around the frame, 12" deep and 16" wide-ish, to hold 48" welded wire fencing, and continued the fencing up the sides, encircling the entire structure. Around the run, we extended the hardware cloth down and over the fencing into the moat. Also, I did not enjoy this part of the process.
The insulation would then be layered over the wire and down into the moat to help keep the floor level insulated in the winter. The metal was salvaged scraps from our house.
He's marking where the studs are so we hit them when affixing with screws. We had purchased roofing felt which we decided not to use on the roof.. we instead folded it in half and layered it over the section of foam insulation that would be in contact with the ground. The plywood siding would go over the top.
We used 1/2" treated plywood for the sides, and 3/4" treated plywood for the roof. We installed 16' metal roofing panels which fit perfectly over the coop and run with an overhang along the run. We only had to cut one metal panel in half (with an angle grinder) to fit the extended roof area of the run.
Much of the fun stuff that comes next was reused or repurposed. We have a bit of an advantage when 'feathering the nest' as we live nearby an Amish salvage yard. The locals calls it The Amish Walmart. I scored a floor model casement window and many turn of the century (18-1900's) pieces of hardware, woodwork, and ironwork. From my sister in law's farmhouse remodel I got the door and the east-side window... which is actually a vanity mirror with the mirror scraped off.
The shutters were odd, but cool, hinged table legs that I deconstructed and reconstructed into shutters. The casement window, iron work (flanking the run door) and door hardware are all from the Amish salvage yard. The cement chickens were made by my great uncle and 'pinkafied' recently.
Amelie is my independent hen.... here she is enjoying her own company. Much of the bells and whistles are things I thought were cool and just hung onto.. until the right time... which turned out to be chicken coop time. In the reflection you'll see a teepee... most of our trees are young and don't offer much shade so I created the teepee as a shady space for the chicks. We do have woods on the property - but the chickens keep a fairly close radius to the coop, and this doesn't offer much shade (yet.)
The table leg banisters and mailbox (painted post purchase) from the Amish salvage yard. The sign is a vintage mirror which I scraped the mirror layer off and painted directly on the back of glass, backwards. We used roofing felt to cover the exposed pink insulation foam, tucking about 2 inches under the plywood.
That's the vanity mirror as a window.... caulked heavily and covered in leftover copper flashing. We accidentally hung it upside down, but went with it. You can see here how the 16' roof panel fit with the additional overhang. I stained/sealed the plywood. You can barely see the ventilation in the eaves which is covered in recycled metal screen and hardware cloth. The ventilation runs along the east and west sides, and a small opening on the south side.
The run side with its chicken-friendly garden planted to cast shade in the summer. The garden is enclosed as to keep the chooks from digging up the baby plants, but they'll be able to free explore when the plants are mature. After reading much debate on the BYC site regarding where to keep the food and water, I decided to keep both outside the coop, in the run. Plants include sunflowers & lion's ear for height, calendula, grape vines, marigolds, climbing nasturtium, mint, lemon balm, and dill.
Front and back view of the run.
We haven't noticed anything that we would do differently in the build... my jury is still out regarding the use of sand on the roosting poop deck... it is fairly easy to scoop but not sure the lack of absorbency is the way to go. I did completely underestimate two things, however...
1) chickens LOVE to eat pink foam board. We knew they liked it, but didn't know they would be crazed about it and will stop at nothing to munch on it. So every little exposed pink foam board within pecking distance had to be covered. No one became sick, but it still created panic on my part. It must have a good 'beak' feel... I really can't explain the appeal.
2) They also love to eat hosta plants... like really love them. I had to make chicken-wire cages for all of my hostas. Another trick... using inexpensive wire hanging baskets - turned upside down (domes) so the chickens can't crush, dig up sensitive plants. The wire baskets keep the chickens off while allowing room for the plants to grow through the 'dome.'
Nandor the Relentless and Jolene thank you for stopping by our coop. We will continue to post pictures of the coop throughout the seasons.