The pictures did not post and as a new user I cannot add them. Below is the link to my blog. vocationalnomad.blogspot dot com My Chicken Coop Like everyone else, we have been feeling the rising cost of everything. After looking around a bit and asking some peoples opinions, we came to a conclusion that I expect to change our lives (one way or the other) we are going to raise chickens! With that decision out of the way, I did some research and asked around. One of my very best friends has chickens, so I went to his house and checked out his set up. He has a variety of birds, large and small, and uses an old shed for a coop. He collects a couple dozen eggs a week. His family is not wild about the meat from the birds, but I think that is mostly psychological and would go away if they were hungry enough. After discussing the different experiences he had getting birds, I decided that I would pitch in with them and order my birds from a co-op. The next decision is what kind of birds do we want? I decided that in the beginning, it would make sense to get dual-use birds. That is to say we should get chickens that are good layers and also taste good. That way if we decide chicken farming is not for us, we at least get a well stocked freezer out of the deal. After a little research considering the cold Massachusetts winters, we decided to go with Rhode Island Reds. They are a hardy bird that can literally be left out in the cold and will do just fine all winter long. I have no intention of leaving my girls out in the snow but I could. They had better remember it. Next is where to house them? I have no intention of letting them flitter around my living room or of giving up what little shed space I have, so I would have to build something. There are many different opinions and strategies to building a chicken coop. Some people swear by the chicken tractor, which is essentially a chicken coop on wheels that they can move from one part of the yard to another. Other people opt for the Fort Knox style coop complete with concrete foundations, defensive parapets, and a security perimeter with interlocking fields of fire. We do have bears here and I do like to shoot but I think that could be a bit of overkill (even for me). So after some discussion with my good buddy (Mike) who has chicken already, I opted for a nice simple design. I ordered 12 birds. The American Poultry Association suggests an interior space of approximately 2.5 feed per bird. This is an interior space of 30 square feet. A standard piece of plywood is 4x8 or 32 square feet. Even after losing some interior space for the foot of each wall, I think that the coop will be a veritable chicken palace, so we pressed ahead. I do not want something totally permanent, but I dont really anticipate moving the coop either. I dont want to incur the expense of a concrete foundation in any form (cinder blocks, bricks, anything like that) but I do need the underside of the coop to be raised to discourage predators and other animals from nesting underneath the structure. I opted for a pressure treated base that raises the floor of the coop 2 feet off the ground. Two feet is high enough for me to see under the coop; and therefore too high for any animal to feel safe hiding underneath. Mike came over and we got to work. Any part of the base that touches the ground is pressure treated. The lumber yard I used (NOT Home Depot or LOWES) is a local yard and sells lumber that is true to dimension, so there was very little waste. We took one 4x4x8 and cut it into two foot sections. Next we cut two 2x4x8 boards in half. We used the pieces to build an open sided box, that is supported on the top and bottom by 2x4s nailed into the 4x4 posts at each corner. I am cheap. Not the kind of cheap where I dont spend money, but the kind of cheap where if I can use ½ inch plywood and get away with it, I usually will. I regret that a little. Listening to my good buddy, we put the floor joists at standard intervals, but I opted for the cheaper ½ in plywood. It is fine for the chickens (they weigh a total of about 60-70 pounds for all the birds together) but it did sag a bit under my (considerable) body weight when I stood on the base. I should have used ¾ inch. So if you use this as a piece of research towards your own chicken palace definitely go for the gusto and use ¾ inch CDX. I am glad I got that off my chest. So anyway, we used a single sheet of ½ inch CDX for the floor and nailed/screwed it down just like you would build a house. I live in an area with bears, fisher cats, moose, deer, raccoons, skunks, weasels, foxes, and goodness knows what else. So I was not willing to be cheap on the walls. We used 2x4s to build the outside walls. I did not want a peak roof, mostly because I did not want to be bothered with that complicated a build. (I mentioned that I am cheap, did I mention that I am lazy too? I know, I am getting more attractive by the second) We built one wall 4 tall and the opposite wall 38. This makes the highest end of the roof over 63, so I can comfortably stand under the overhang in the rain, and the low end is just under 5. The roof is tall enough for me to stand under it, but low enough that I will be able to sweep the snow off the coop in the winter if it starts to get too heavy. The two end walls were built 38 to match the short wall. I used the triangle opening that resulted from the difference in the height of the two walls to provide end ventilation and some sunlight into the coop during the summer months. Once the walls were up we simply trimmed the ends of some 2x4x8s on a shallow angle in towards the coop to shed rain water and then laid them across the top of the 4 and 38 parallel walls. With the gaps in the walls and the soffits, it becomes very important (considering the aforementioned predators) to secure the coop as much as possible. I am not interested in my yard becoming the KFC of the animal kingdom. If you have ever worked with chicken wire, you know the gaps are fairly large and while the tensile strength is considerable, it is easily bent out of shape making it easy for many chicken lovers to climb inside and help themselves. To avoid this I opted for welded wire. The gaps in the wire are about ¼ of an inch in each direction and every intersection is welded together. I stapled the wire on the ends of the 2x4 studs used for the roof. I did learn a couple important lessons for working with welded wire 1. Wear gloves 2. Cut the wire before you put it up, it is not easy to trim once it is attached 3. Before you put the wire up, make any bends you will need down the full length of the wire I used left over staples from another project to secure the welded wire to the frame of the coop. I then used either the plywood of the outside walls or scrap pieces of lumber to secure any edges that seemed like they could be pulled loose. Looking at these pictures reminds me, instead of buying flashing and everything else to do the roof on my coop correctly I went for the cheaper option. I simply overhung the end of the roof by a half an inch or so on each side. I am not a roofer, construction worker, or other competent builder and I am not building the Taj Mahal, I am building a chicken palace! Good enough is decidedly good enough. I did use two bags of shingles to cover the entire roof with plenty of overlap not only between the runs of shingles but also all around the edges. I did use roofing nails to prevent too many spikes over my head should I ever have to enter the coop myself. I should probably mention that I am planning three doors in the coop. One of them is in the middle of the 4 foot wall. This is the door that I will use to clean out the coop using a rake and a tarp to make my garden happy (read about chicken poop fertilizer at a later date). The large door is simply ripped out of the sheet of plywood used to cover the 4x8 wall (see, little waste told you I am cheap). Inside of the door I used some scrap 2x4 to make the classic Z supports to keep the door from warping in the wet and cold. On the wall opposite to the man sized door is the egg door. This is a long shallow door that will line up with the back of the laying boxes (once I build them). I will have a hook and eye to keep the door open while I reach in from behind the birds and pilfer their young! Sounds awful when I say it like that, doesnt it? I am over it. The last door will be the chicken door that will allow the girls to go in and out of the chicken run during daylight hours. On the doors I am using normal hinges (appropriate to the size and weight of the door) and simple slide latch locks. I am also using normal two screw light weight metal handles. Nothing you should be doing with your coop should need heavy duty handles etc. In the picture with the inside of the door, you can see the two perches inside the coop for the birds. They are off to one end of the coop and away from the laying boxes because, frankly, chickens tend to crap off the perches. This will let me keep as much of the poop to one end as possible, keep a fair amount of it out of the food and water (which will be on the other end of the coop), and keep my eggs cleaner. The perches are 1x3s screwed to the inside of the wall studs. The wood and square top gives the birds an easy place to hold onto and feel safe while they rest. Knowing that I could let my girls heat up the inside of the coop themselves (part of the reason for limiting the vertical height. Egg production for layer birds drops off significantly if they are below freezing. If anything happens to just a couple of the birds, they will not produce as much heat inside the coop putting my egg supply at risk! I sprung for the heat lamp. You do have to be able to adjust the height of the lamp. I have seen people do all kinds of creative and interesting things to facilitate this capability. I decided to screw it. Literally; I put a couple of screws into the ceiling and looped the end of the chain onto itself. Then if I want the lamp at a different height, I choose a different screw. This is extra important for me because I plan to use my coop for a brooder box as well little chicks need heat. So with the palace almost complete and the birds on the way, soon I will update you about how happy my RI Reds are doing. I will post more pictures with the birds and the chicken run which is the next phase of the plan!