Converting a not-a-greenhouse to a chicken coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by AmyPaperlady, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Our property (just a few blocks outside the city limits, so .15 acre) has a building right next to the garage (walls maybe 18 inches apart) that had (originally clear, I'm sure) corrugated fiberglass for about 1/3 to 1/2 of the wall area (not counting the wall next to the garage--that's solid wood) and a translucent corrugated fiberglass roof. There's a heavy glass door, as well (used to have a wooden track, now has to be muscled around to open/close). We thought it was a greenhouse when we bought the house, though the fact that so much of the wall area is wood, and the strange placement/design of shelving made us wonder about the person that designed it... Turns out that it was originally built to house a hot tub, and the low "shelves" were actually the deck around it. That information made the design much more reasonable[​IMG] We've been using it as a greenhouse anyway, though all we've done in it so far is start some tomatoes and hang a couple of Topsy Turvy planters. Then more light was blocked by a shed built on the west side--the side with the biggest stretch of fiberglass, short of the roof. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing ways to become a little more self-sufficient, and chickens came up...

    Anyway, what I'm working with is a 10'x10' wood-and-fiberglass building on a cement slab. The roof is sloped, front to back, and I can just barely reach the tall part and almost flat-palm the low (I'm 5'7"). There's no overhang (well, a couple of inches on the side next to the garage--the one side that has never been exposed to the weather). The garage is on the east, the door is south, the shed is west, and the back is north.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]The pictures of the space between buildings are from the back, because I'd pulled a lot of stuff out so I could see the walls and take pictures. I didn't pull everything out, because 1) I couldn't shift the tables by myself, 2) I could see the space well enough, and 3) I'd just been tossing stuff out the door, so there wasn't any room...

    Interior shots start with me standing in the door and circling towards the left. Last shot is the ceiling.




    This is already getting long, so I'll put my plans in the next post.
  2. Whittni

    Whittni Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 26, 2011
    Southern Utah
    Looks like something I'd buy on spot for my chickens. Good luck!
  3. The white shed in the exterior shots used to be a fireworks booth, so I now have free 1/2' hardware cloth--enough for ventilation purposes, anyway. I'll be replacing the top boards all the way 'round with hardware cloth, and the glass door will be open during the day during the summer, with a board to hold bedding in and maybe a screen door. Assuming I can get help to get a track set up for it again--there's no way to put hinges on that glass door, and I think it might be too heavy to operate that way anyway, since I can't lift it more than an inch off the ground unaided (not that I've hefted many regular doors as comparison). There are gaps between all the boards, most likely from board shrinkage--the hot tub was housed roughly 30 years ago. I was just going to leave all the gaps (after going in on a really windy day to check for drafts, and changing plans if needed) but about half the boards on the back wall are spongy and definitely need replacing. We probably have enough wood floating around, but my husband raised the possibility of getting some plywood. Just one sheet would ensure we have more than enough wood. Since I need to replace so much wood in the back anyway, I'm going to make the nest boxes external. There's plenty of room behind there.

    We've got a cherry tree that badly needs pruning, so I'm planning on making the roosts from the branches. I'm wanting to get standard sized birds, so what's the minimum diameter I should keep for the roosts? What I'm also planning is to get a Silkie and a couple of other adult hens or pullets when the coop is finished, and then eggs in the spring (thus the Silkie). Should I make a separate area for the Silkie and eventual chicks now, or wait? If the bigger hens I get now ("now" meaning "When their house is ready," as I keep telling my 4-year-old who keeps asking to go buy chickens right now (which is why she didn't learn that there's a poultry barn at the fair when we went yesterday[​IMG] )) have been kept with roosters, is it likely that we might get chicks before spring? Oh, never mind--I just realized that we wouldn't unless I left the eggs...

    I'm going to be doing deep litter. I realize that getting compost going on a cement floor instead of a dirt floor will be a little harder, but the current flooring is bark nuggets over the cement, and it smells like compost in there already. I'll also add some from my failed compost bin (compost is fine, but the bin fell--I tried to do the chicken-wire-and-posts type, and I didn't use enough posts...). Heck, I figure that, with only having maybe 3 or 4 hens in 100 square feet for a while, I might not have to add any flooring for months! I should also be able to keep them in the coop if the construction of the run needs to be delayed (definitely don't have enough hardware cloth for that, and I work for the school district, so won't get paid until the end of the first school month, which is September). We're in Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17--we rarely get as low as freezing in the winter (though there's generally a week that's really cold, I don't remember it ever going much below freezing, either--and certainly not all the way down to 0) and summers are typically low/mid 50s to low 60s, with an occasional foray all the way to 70. So I'm not worried about heating or cooling (except for having the glass door open on really warm days, though it probably wouldn't hurt to leave it closed except during oddball heatwaves). Winters tend to be full of wind and rain, but the prevailing winds are east and west (we're on the northern California coast) and the coop-to-be is sheltered on those sides by buildings. We're also surrounded by dead ends that end in tall firs and pines, so we have less wind to begin with. I've not decided how exactly I'm going to arrange the inside yet.
  4. I had been fairly certain what I was going to do for a run. There's a short fence in from of the coop-to-be, 9 feet away. I was going to turn that area into the run, but then I was in the yard today and realized that the skinny back and side yards would be great. I haven't had a chance to talk with my husband about the possibility yet, though, and I do need to put more thought into it. For one thing, although our yard is fully fenced in with chainlink, the fence is only about 4 feet high. (The side neighbor has a really tall wood fence, though--about 8 feet.) For another, the hose that we use for the majority of the yard (so we don't have to worry about driving over a hose crossing the driveway) goes through that area--would chickens peck holes in it? Also, I'm not certain how soggy it gets back there in the winter--the ground seems kind of low, and I didn't go back there last winter (we bought the house April of last year). If I do set up the run back there, do I need to line everything with hardware cloth? They'd only be out during the day, and the coop will be well protected (there are raccoons in the neighborhood, fed by one of the neighbors, who informed my husband that we'd all get headlice if we got chickens[​IMG] I explained to my husband and his friend exactly why that was impossible). We've got the house on the corner, so having the run in the back would also keep things a bit more private, as well--the neighbor that shares our back fence has a few chickens, so I know they won't have any problems with seeing our birds. Hawk proofing the run would be much less complicated if the run were in front, since I'd have the height of the run equal to the height of the coop all the way 'round. If the run is in the back and side yards, the tall side fence generally has lilacs and blackberry vines arcing over and nearly touching the house, so that's fairly protected (as long as my husband doesn't weed-whack them down, though I think if I ask him to leave the cover as hawk protection, he'd only cut the blackberry vines that dangle down far enough to get tangled in our hair), but the back has a short fence. I suppose I could make a tent of netting or something going from the fence up to our roofline, but our girls really like to go over the fence to visit with the little kids there. Then again, they could go over the fence in front of where the run would end... Until I get the run location figured out, I don't know where I'll put the pop door--I suppose I could prep doors in each wall and cover whichever ends up not being used with hardware cloth for extra ventilation.

    As you may have guessed, I don't think we can free-range unless someone's outside with them. Maybe not even then, unless we cover the fish pond when they're out, and unless we can train the dog (a boxer) to leave the birds alone (or the girls not to let her out when the chickens are out). I do have an old open-bottomed playpen type thing I could set in the yard and put the chickens in--if we get too many to put in the pen at one time, I could band the birds to aid in rotating them, so everyone has a chance to graze. Do chickens like pillbugs? Because we've got lots of those.

    Sorry about the walls-of-text--I do promise to post pictures when I have them (maybe I'll take some pictures of the run possibilities the next day or so). I'm still a the wander-around-and-stare-at-things stage of building, though. I also need to figure out where I'm going to hang the tomatoes when we get the hens, since I don't think the replacement greenhouse will be planned, much less put up, by then. I suppose we could wait until the current plants die, but I don't want to wait that long to get chickens! At least I can do my remodeling around the plants, for now.
  5. Oops--even with the walls-of-text, I forgot some of what i was going to say! Probably because I kept getting interrupted...

    I'm planning on using a good exterior paint to paint the interior white, so that there can be as much light as possible in the coop during the day. Someone told me elsewhere that paint might peel in the humidity of a deep litter coop, but exterior paint holds up to weeks of rain just fine... Or maybe I'll be ambitious (if we don't have about a gallon of white in our extra paint cans) and make some milk paint. Then again, Google tells me that milk paint can't be used over oil-based anything, and I don't know what the dark bits on the boards are.

    I have seen the thread on using glass in a coop--if it seems like my birds aren't liking a clear door at night, I'll hang a curtain from the metal runner that is in the middle of the coop parallel to the front. That wouldn't mess up ventilation, especially if I hang it so that there's a foot or 2 of free space above the bedding. Or a curtain on the door itself, if I can figure out how--not much frame on it, and I think the frame may be aluminum, so no magnets.

    I'm torn on using a light during the winter. I don't need a heat lamp for my winters, according to all I've read on here, but I'd been thinking about a light timed to come on before sunrise in the winter, for egg production. Then I started reading about coop fires. The coop-to-be is 18 inches or less from our attached 1-car garage. We stand to lose more than the coop and its contents in a fire--and I can think of 3 families off the top of my head in this town that have lost their homes to fire. What is the fire danger of a solar shed-type light, wired to a timer?
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Any electricity poorly wired can cause a fire, tho a 40-60watt bulb for laying light is much safer than a 250watt heat bulb. Read this thread for ideas to be safer.

    I don't think you need to paint the interior, you have plenty of natural light in there. You may need to be sure that the nesting boxes are dark and cosy tho.

    Even tho you temps are in a quite mild range, you probably need to add some ventilation, especially if you plan to do deep litter....which I think will work fine considering that you understand composting, just need to make sure you have some micro and macro bugs in there for it to work. Great article on ventilation here.

    With new land it's good to live there a year so you can see the changes the seasons bring to the site, especially in regards to water flow and drainage, that would help you decide the best place to make your run. But you could easily keep a few chicken in the coop for a while once it's decked out inside with roosts and nests and you get some ventilation in. You could make a cheap and easy tractor to give them some yard time until you figure out where the run should be.

    If that big glass door isn't operable, I'd get rid of it and replace it with a wood framed hardware cloth covered door. If they are going to live in the coop full time the door needs to stay closed and it would be a good start to your ventilation.

    Looks like there's gutter on the back of the roof so you could rig a catchment system to water the chooks with that and it might solve any water flow problems on the land.

    Tip on searching here for info: upper right hand corner of pages 'advanced search' use titles only
    There's a ton of info here, you have to read thru some crap, and I've found most of my questions were answered by searching and reading.
    Keep an eye on the dates of the threads, and read the whole thread, some are very old that new folk have posted on and won't garner an answer.

    Here's an example for one of your questions: advanced search>titles only> roost size

    Good Luck, Have Fun! You have a very nice structure there to start with, you can do a lot with it! I'd strip most that shelving out and save it for future use, you can probably build your roosts and nests out of what's there.
  7. chynasparks

    chynasparks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 21, 2013
    Sounds like you will have a great coop when it's all done. Wish you all the luck on your project. I know this is off the subject (my apologies) but I noticed to have one of those topsy tervy tomato plants hanging. It's actually got something growing. Mine failed miserably LOL
  8. Totally and completely unrelated, how would I have broken up that quote into little sections instead of how I ended up replying? Just quote it multiple times and then cut out the bits I wasn't answering?
    Off topic doesn't bother me--my main internet home has off-topicness raised almost to an artform[​IMG] But I know it's not encouraged here. (For that matter, actively discouraging reviving old threads is a completely foreign concept to me, but I'll follow the rules about that here[​IMG]) Yeah, the planters seem to be working well, though I don't know if anything'll ripen--not much sun during the summer. I do need to figure out where to put them when we get our chickens, since tomato plants are poisonous. Unless we wait until the plants die, but my 4-year-old is having a hard enough time accepting that we can't get chickens until their house is ready! My husband thinks we can just hang them in the tree, but the branches strong enough for that are the same ones I'd want for roosts... Maybe I should just do boards for roosts and see if I can get ahold of a chipper/shredder to at least use the smaller pruned branches.
  9. Well, I've taken down just about all of the shelves and supports, and can probably figure out how to repurpose the stubborn bits, so I can claim I left 'em on purpose[​IMG] My husband wants to look the structure over before I start taking down the north wall, to make sure I don't end up knocking everything over or something *rolls eyes*. Since he had to go out of town and isn't back yet (and may not be before dark) I don't know when I can do that... Other than the rotten bit that got knocked out when I was prying up a shelf board whose screws' heads had snapped instead of coming out[​IMG] But at least whoever put the thing up used screws 99.5+% of the time--the only nails I had to actually deal with were rusted wimpy things.

    I found out why some of the boards on the north side are so bad--I'm pretty sure the things inside one board supporting a shelf are termites. Makes me wish we had chickens already! That, and my 4-year-old is still asking if we can go get the chickens now several times a day... But maybe some of the spiders I've disturbed over the last couple of days can have a feast before I have to do something about them.

    Depending on how many boards I need to replace (and how much I have left after sawing off the rotten bits of the boards that aren't completely useless) I may not have to actually buy any wood, except maybe some thin strips to cover the edges of the hardware cloth.
  10. Still haven't gotten any any more work done, though we're supposed to get to removing bad boards today. Since I haven't been able to figure out how to secure the glass door if we get a new track for it, we're likely going to make a board-and-hardware-cloth people door, and cover it over during the rainy season.

    There's been a hole in one of the fiberglass panels for about 6 months now, so we're going to get the epoxy and cloth stuff to fix that up. Would attaching hardware cloth to the top of a fiberglass panel with the fiberglass repair stuff work as far as predator-proofing, or should I stick with attaching hardware cloth to wood?

    Still haven't decided if the run is going to be in front or behind, so I'll probably put pop doors in front and back so there's not a big change inside the coop when the final decision is made--since the building is 10'x10' and the plan is to get 2 silkies and maybe a standard of some sort to start and, when/if the silkies get broody in the spring, to get some chicks for them to raise, we don't really need to rush on the run. Heck, since the legal limit is 11, no roosters, we could probably get away with no run at all, but I'm not going to do that. We should be able to free range a bit (at least supervised)--the neighbor behind us has chickens and hasn't seen a hawk when they've been out with their birds.

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