Looking to build a new coop - Advice for Utah birds?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by lindsayjesse, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. lindsayjesse

    lindsayjesse Hatching

    Feb 16, 2014
    Hey everybody! This is my first winter keeping chickens, and as we just signed a lease for another year in this house I felt it's time our ladies got a coop upgrade. That, and the fact that we have this arctic front blowing in now and I was out there with a digital thermometer taking readings of the coop in the 12 degree F wind last night at midnight... The highest it got was 26 F, which I know is fine because down coats and no drafts and all, but I still want better for them. Also... To say our current coop is "ghetto-rigged" as my husband says, is an understatement.

    - We're in Salt Lake City, UT, so we get all of the weathers. Super crazy hot (though it's a dry heat, as they say), raining big fat drops all day, sub-zero temperatures with insane winds, snow that sticks around literally for months, and downright pleasant weather as well.
    - We have 5 girls, all rescued from different situations -- a blue-laced red wyandotte, a buff orpington, and a sussex; and the two that showed up this fall in the local park and decided they wanted to come home with me -- I think they're a RIR and Plymouth rock. No intentions for more chickens, I think the yard is happy with its present load of poop.
    - They free-roam the whole year, all day. They only go into their coop to sleep and lay delicious eggs.
    - They're fed layer pellets from the local feed store and get scraps and produce as available (never more than 30% -- usually limited to 10% or less -- except for the time they got into the vegetable garden at the height of tomato season).

    This is what we have now. We're working with what we've got; since my husband and I are both workaholics we don't wind up spending a lot of time on coop design/maintenance unless it's all done in spurts. We purchased this before really understanding what the chickens were going to do in our particular situation, and even with the on-site advice of our friend the chicken addict, our girls are teaching us new things about what they want from us every day.

    The coop was pretty great for the summer, just sitting on the ground. Then every single bird decided they wanted to roost on our porch railing instead of inside the coop, since it was higher. Elevating the coop solved that problem, but not attractively. The ramp has since had rungs added to it so they can climb. The first day this was up they just flew around it. :)

    Pretty basic coop. Kind of looks like a rabbit hutch.

    Well, a rabbit hutch with a nesting box in the back, I guess. The fashionable tarp addition is because there's a small gap between the bit of roof on the nest compartment and the back of the coop. We're off to buy something to cover that gap in a more attractive manner.

    12 degrees outside? Great time to blow your coat, girls. Good choice. The roost is super low to the bottom of the coop, and they don't really like it much. They sleep in the nesting boxes, snuggled together in the corners of the coop, and occasionally on the roost a little bit. I'm sure there are ways to make this better but they're beyond me right now.

    The two park-dwellers. Does anybody know breeds just by this one bad picture (wherein Pepper, in the back, has her nictitating membrane up)?

    While stuck in a glorious Pinterest loop the other day I came across this coop design (they sell plans for it here) and fell in love. Built-in storage for food and cleaning supplies? A large indoor area with multiple levels of roosts? Doors big enough to actually get inside to clean? A screened off portion of outdoor space for when you need to keep them confined? Added bonus of being adorable? I'm in love!


    So, here are some problems and some concerns.

    1. Holy god they stopped counting costs of building this at close to $1,000? Soooooo how can I do this for, let's say, WAY less than that? I don't actually need the decorative parts on the doors and that little pointy bit on the roof, right?

    2. Does anybody see a way we can save costs by modifying what we have already? Some parts seem fairly similar, and I'm very handy with tools and we have a huge Makerspace to work in. I'd much rather modify than start from scratch.

    3. Our girls free-range all day every day in our big back yard and they seem to love it. The only reason I'd want that screened-in bit is for harsh winter times, just to give them more space when it's too cold for them to come out. So even with this beautiful coop, I'd have to modify it to suit my winter needs (putting up boards or insulation panels or whatever). Suggestions?

    4. The deep litter method sounds great, but it also sounds not as great if the girls are really not going to be spending a whole lot of time in the screened-off bit, since they have access to the whole yard. Thoughts?

    5. Is there something I'm missing? What would you change about these particular plans? Add? Subtract? Winterization ideas since it can get suck-tastically cold for a long time here? If there is such a thing, summarization ideas, too?

    Thanks everyone for the help! I love this community so much!
  2. cnicho05

    cnicho05 Chirping

    Feb 22, 2014
    Owosso, MI

    Congratulations on deciding to build onto your coop....

    Firstly, I would strongly suggest you not purchase any plans or outlines online. Not to say these plans are bad...but you can rather spend thirty minutes online and find plans similar to these for free (on google)...Secondly, if you purchase a plan it becomes difficult to customize the overall layout. Don't forget, the coop and run have to fit into what you and your birds need.

    With this said, I would strongly suggest you purchase a pre-built coop from an online retailer (as they are much cheaper to purchase online). Resources such as eBay are perfect locations to find wonderful coops for about 24% of the cost of those found at retail stores. After you get a coop you can build a custom run using cheap lumber and goat fencing. I did this by building eight foot by four foot sections and attaching them together in a rectangle design. Once you have this done you can install 1"x1" poles for them to roost on throughout the run. This will keep them isolated to one area and close to the coop.

    While I use tarps to cover my layout....during the winter....you could cover yours with plywood. This is only to keep the snow from building up throughout the coop. Lastly, I installed a small light as to help monitor what was happening during the night. This layout provided me a huge design for roughly $250-$300.00 by the time I purchased everything. I don't have storage access but it works great for me...
  3. cnicho05

    cnicho05 Chirping

    Feb 22, 2014
    Owosso, MI
    P.S. The profile picture was taken from within the run...while it doesn't show much it lends to the idea of how easy it is to build...
  4. yyz0yyz0

    yyz0yyz0 Songster

    May 2, 2012
    When I was ready to build my coop I just looked through all the different coops people have posted here on the forum. Many of them include plans right in their writeup. You can find many useful ideas that way also. Since this was my first coop build I mixed ideas from other coops to make mine. Even then I've come across a few things I would do differently if I do it again.

    If you want to go really low budget, search on "pallet coops", made from disassembled pallets. Don't get much cheaper than that. I found a place near my work that sells plows, trailers and does truck customization. They have 40-50 pallets a week they need to get rid of, I stop in and get pallets to burn in our fire pit, but some of them have such nice boards that I can't resist taking them apart and saving the wood.

    also keep an eye on craigslist for materials or used coops.

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