DIY Chicken Coops and Managing the Flock by the Old Timers

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by darkmatter, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. darkmatter

    darkmatter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2009


    A trail cam to catch varmints on cam and myself doing chores

    A trellis of squash for food and shade
    A re-purposed wildlife feeder to give treats twice a day

    Most people buy chicks, then hurry up to build a Coop to house them in. I built my Coop a year in advance of purchasing chicks and designed it for durability and ease of chicken husbandly. (maintenance).

    Having had a garden shed I bought as a kit, then had it fall apart within ten years, I did some research on durable farm outbuildings and how to keep chickens. I did this before the internet and researched traditional methods. The modern method of building a coop on concrete is really a bad idea, I had visited some peoples Coops and nearly gagged from the Ammonia fumes produced by anaerobic fermentation. This also makes the chickens sickly and poor producers of eggs and meat with a shorted lifespan. My research indicated that European farmers and Amish type farmers have for centuries used a deep litter aerobic composting pit in contact with the ground, usually below grade.

    I’ve attached a composite photo and others of my Chicken Coop that has been in use for over twenty years with minimum problems. Some of the construction features are:

    Roof overhang on all four sides. This is for durability from the weather. The roof has metal edge trimming and was tarred on the plywood edges before the metal strips went on, I also tarred all the joints before applying tarpaper and shingles on the roof. The eaves are open on the high side and low side with predator proof screen to provide ventilation year round. I also added a rain gutter and collect the water for the chickens, I don’t have water or electricity run to the coop. (it’s not needed)

    The foundation. I used Bricks, but that is because I had them salvage. The foundation should extend below frost depth and the center should be dirt below grade. Mine is two feet deep with the composting pit holding up to 18 inches of compost built up(takes about a year). All the wood should be above ground level to prevent rot. My Coop is 8’ X 12’ and I sized the foundation such that the plywood sheathing overlaps the foundation to prevent rainwater from seeping in under the wood and causing rot, I used treated lumber for the base plate anyway.

    Windows face south and west to maximize the winter sun. They open for summer and trees provide shade in the summer, in the winter the leaves fall and allow more sun when needed.

    The roost is a ladder type and pivots up out of the way when I need to do chores and/or cleanout, usually once a year. I sometimes have to manually spade over the compost if the chickens haven’t been scratching it up enough. The roost is suspended from the roof joists with chain and I have a cable run through pulleys up and over to the door with a counterweight on it so I can easily lift it from the door area. NOTE: Don’t have your top rung of the roost too close to the wall, the chickens will streak the wall, you may notice in the picture, I removed the top rung so the night dropping will now fall into the deep litter rather than streak the wall.

    The nest boxes are about a foot square and I built doors into each to reach the eggs from outside, that’s not necessary but a nice feature for wimps and women not liking to enter the coop. Each nest door has a inner tube rubber strip stapled over the hinge area to prevent rainwater/air seepage into the box. The door overlaps the actual hole into the box for air sealing reasons.

    The people door threshold has angle iron overlaid on the wood. I remembered seeing rodent chewed holes under the doors back on the farm when I was young, so I added the angle iron to prevent that. It also keeps wear and tear from making a bigger crack under the door.

    The Chicken "Pop" door is hinged on the bottom and also serves as the ramp when open. I attached a inner tube rubber strip over the hinge to prevent the chicken poo from filling in and turning as hard as concrete----it pops off each time I close the door.

    The chicken run itself was planted with Illinois everbearing mulberry trees to help with free food during the summer, the Illinois mulberry bears for 10 to 12 weeks vs the native variety which only bears for about 2 weeks. This worked so well, I have since planted Apples, Persimmons, and wild plums in the enlarged run to extend the “free food” season from spring to late fall. I also, when I extended the chicken run, fenced off my garden and it shares a fence. When I’m done in the fall, I let the chickens in to glean/till/fertilize the garden fall and winter and close them out when I till in the spring for planting----that has really saved me a lot of garden effort.

    Predators; everything in the world that walks, crawls, or flies wants to eat your chickens. (including your dog Spot and cat Fluffy) I was unable to free range mine and had to build a large run.

    P.S. I started this thread for the Old Timers to give practical advice without all the Treehugging bunnylover pet chicken chatter that fills up most of the other threads. (no offense intended, there's a place on BYC for everyone, even diapered chickens in the house! )
  2. Christy85

    Christy85 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 7, 2014
    North Dakota
    I'm a Young Timer / First Timer but I am looking to use traditional methods. I have an old coop on my property that looks a bit like yours that I'm planning to fix up this spring. It also has a below-grade floor, which I found rather curious.

    I was not able to find much information about coops with sunken floors. Do you have any resources you can recommend?
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Nice looking coop. I'll be following this thread to see what kind of personality it takes on. You've incorporated some nice ideas into your poultry space. Do I see squash in the run? They didn't tear it up? I'd like to build a clere story type of coop, most likely with similar dimensions to yours, bare ground floor as well. Couldn't go below frost grade here, as I'd be digging 6' deep! So most likely on cement block with a skirt.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Funny.......... this thread was started more than a year ago.
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    DUH!!! I'm not always the most observant!

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