This is where the idea started: And this is where it ended up: The thing is I knew that somewhere under that big tangle of blackberries there were some abandoned greenhouses, and I knew they would make an excellent chicken coop. I love the idea of reclaiming some unused item from the farm. I'm not sure anyone else saw the potential, though. This is where the greenhouse blackberries had been sitting for a few decades. The building right behind them is an old chicken house repurposed as a pig barn repurposed as a horse barn repurposed as a storage shed for garbage and supplies for our maintenance business. Behind that is a shed we use for the nursery. This photo was taken when about 2/3 of the blackberries had been cut back. This photo shows part of the blackberry removal process. Good thing we have equipment for this. This picture shows how much soil had drifted over the greenhouse frames ... and shows the enthusiasm level for my vision at that point. I'm not sure anyone else could see the potential. I was busy taking measurements and taking stock of my assets. There were three sections of greenhouse, each 10' wide by 21' long. The sides are about 3.5' tall before the bend, and about 8' tall at the peak. Once we (and by "we" I do mean the guys) had dug up the frames and carried them over to the sequoia by the house (for shade and protection from other weather) and figured out the right arrangement, the guys attached some sturdy boards to the bottoms of the first section of greenhouse frame with u-bolts. I believe they scavenged the sturdy boards, but we bought the u-bolts. The guys also built door frames and enclosed the ends with plywood -- more u-bolts, some screws, some strapping at the corners. We just attached hinges to plywood for the doors. The doors may need to be re-worked over time, but everything else is as solid as it needs to be, I think. This is about the point where everyone else began to understand my vision. Here is another view, standing just inside the top door, looking downhill. This shows why I chose to orient the greenhouse in this precise way: the property is sloped in two directions, and I wanted to work with the slope so rainwater would flow most efficiently off the roof and away from the coop. Also, the coop would fit between a couple of trees in our backyard orchard I was (secretly at that point) planning to use for the chicken pasture. No trees had to be cut down. This photo shows one of our (many) mistakes. Someone scavenged a sheet of particle board and decided to use that at the top end of the coop. Not only does this part of Oregon have three very wet seasons, but this end of the coop would be getting most of the weather. Particle board soaks up moisture and mildews very quickly. It was only in place for a few weeks, and had started to mildew before the guys had the time to swap it out for regular plywood. Perhaps particle board would be fine if you were also using siding ... ? Work on the coop stalled out at this point ... the guys do have a LOT of other work to do ... but the 70 chicks in my tiny office were starting to get peevish with me and with each other. I was worried they would go cannibal on me if I didn't move them into their own, larger, space. So I started to dig the drainage ditch around the coop, with a little quality control help from my dog Gust. Here you can see Gust making sure I calibrated the ditch depth just right: one dog head deep, no more, no less. Then I attached hardware cloth for predator protection. It is starting to look like a coop! Yeah, right. There was still a lot to be done. The mesh extends down into the ditch about a foot. Later, we also put drainage pipe and river rock into the ditch. Then the guys put strapping boards along that bend in the side of the coop which they used to secure the greenhouse shade cloth and greenhouse plastic. They did this so fast I didn't have a chance to get pictures of the process. But this is how it looked at that point. There is a bit of scrap plywood at the right edge of the picture ... we hung heat lamps down at that end as it was still a bit cold, especially at night ... and the plywood helps blocks the draft at that end of the coop. We left the plastic long, but not attached to the bottom. This way we can let it down to keep out any snow or rain, or raise it up to ventilate the coop. It has been up most of the time. You can see we moved the chicks out there right away, and right away we decided we needed more space as some of our chicks were being aggressive. So we started work on the second section of coop right away. We left a little gap between the sections of frame (about 3', to match the spacing of the uprights for the frames) between the first and second sections of greenhouse frames, and strapped them together with more sturdy boards. We could have made this gap bigger, but an extra 3' works well enough for us right now. Here are a couple more views of that part of the process ... Gust says it will do. You can see the greenhouse plastic draped over the end of the first section ... we were smart enough to not cut it when the first section was done ... this way there won't be a big leaky spot in the middle of the coop. Propping the plastic up with lovely 2 x 4s and letting it back down again if it was cold or wet was easy, but I didn't like the waste. So I spotted some of this nifty stuff in the landscape maintenance shed, and had the idea to use it to tie up the plastic. It is flat plastic landscape rope, the stuff they use to strap trees to stakes. It works by sliding one loose end through the O of a link, turning it sideways 1/4 turn and just pulling it through to the desired length, then twisting it back again to lock it in place. I attached a long section under the plastic, and a short section (just three links) over the plastic. We roll up the plastic, cradle it in the long section, and then pull the free end through to rise the sides. Here the sides are all the way up, but I left the long end long enough that we could have the sides raised or lowered to any level we need. Pretty soon we had the second and third sections of the coop finished. The top section is the quiet room. We keep cages in here, and are busy instilling the nesting boxes as I write. Our hens have started to lay just this week! The cages have bantams who are enough younger than the rest of the flock we decided to keep them separate. Eventually we'll have a special bantam habitat. We've hung feeders and waterers from the top poll of the greenhouse frame. For the floor, we put down a few inches of sand, then some weed barrier, then a thick layer of pine shavings. So far it has stayed very clean and dry. The chickens scratch around enough in the shavings we don't really even see any droppings, except where they roost. They had been roosting on top of the cages, which is why we have some plastic there. But we have been working on training them to use their roosts. Here are the nesting boxes we're currently building. One is installed through the hardware cloth so we can harvest the eggs from the outside if we want to. Two others are on the floor of the coop waiting to be installed. Note the cool old-school 3-hole nesting box at the far end? We emergency-scavenged that from a friend's abandoned coop. The girls started laying in it just like they know what they are doing. Good girls! We found some cool flats with wire mesh bottoms in one of the big barns, and these flats are the basis of the nesting box design. Each box holds one of the flats, which can be removed for gathering eggs or cleaning. We've stuck a plywood divider inside each flat, so each flat makes two nesting boxes. Each box fits just right between the uprights for the greenhouse frames. The hens seem to like them ... they are quite a bit larger than the one we scavenged. The second section of coop is the dorm. We've put up a couple rows of roosts for the girls. We also have more feeders and waterers hanging from the ceiling. You may recognize the nesting box flats, though here' they are dropping trays for under the roosts. If the shavings in these trays get icky enough, they're ready for the compost pile. The third section of coop is the play pen. We have a lot of predators around here, and wanted to have an outdoor space that was maximum-security so the girls could go outside when we sleep in. The hens took the initiative and quickly converted the space from pasture to one big dust bath area. Chickens are smart like that. Beyond the play pen is a fenced pasture. We ran about 300' of chicken wire around the orchard. Here is a look from the bottom end of the coop back up through the three sections. Here is a view looking uphill from outside the pasture fencing ... And here is a view from the kitchen deck. And that, my friends, is the Joyce Farms Chicken Coop!