Need feedback on open air coop design in AZ

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ammonihah99, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. ammonihah99

    ammonihah99 New Egg

    Jun 18, 2009
    Mesa, AZ
    Long-time lurker—first poster. You guys are amazing—so much combined knowledge!

    I have been thinking a lot about coops lately and how I want to build mine. I came up with a design previously that would have been sufficient, not extravagant, but it still would have been expensive and time-consuming to build. And I'm still convincing my wife this chicken thing is worth it. So now I'm rethinking.

    Right now they are free range in my backyard with a portable roost (with built-in poo collector) high on a table on the back porch and separate nest boxes around the yard. This situation would normally work fine, but the daily deposits of chicken poo on the porch and surrounding yard is getting tiresome. Looking at all these coops on this website has been inspirational yet depressing—I just can't afford a nice one. My father-in-law recently built a really simple coop with basically just four chain link fence walls and a sloping tin roof (he's a simple and cheap kind of guy). It's ugly—but, as far I know, it works. I used to think I needed a big coop with a separate run but now I'm thinking they can be combined, as his is.

    I've also been reading about this open air coop theory and I think especially in my situation (high temperatures) it will work great. But here's the catch—my wife won't let me just slap some fencing together, it needs to look decent. My idea is a simple sloping roof (metal or otherwise), with the walls split as far as materials go—the bottom three feet will be hardware cloth and from there up (probably seven to eight feet) it will be just normal T1-11 siding. The floor will be just dirt–though I'm thinking of adding some pine shavings here and there down the road just to add some variety. The human door will be hardware cloth too, to allow for more ventilation. I'm only allowed up to ten chickens (I have four now, but want more) per city regulations so it will be a minimum of 100 square feet. My thinking is that the bottom portion of the wall will allow plenty of ventilation (and chicken play time for my kids) while the top portion can keep drafts away (as if there are even such things here) and heat retained (as if it's needed here). Plus my neighbors won't see the bottom very easily so they will think it's just a shed or workshop and not a "stinky" chicken coop. I think I can build it fairly easily without breaking the bank. All I would need is four posts and a few studs, a few sheets of siding, and some hardware cloth (probably the most expensive part). I don't think it will look bad if I do it right.

    Oh, and one more thing: Because I would be combining the coop and the run, do you think that the recommended run space—10 sq. ft. per bird—is insufficient? Should i add the inside and outside recommendations together and make it a minimum of about 150 sq. ft.? I guess I could add a "2nd floor" to the design (with maybe a galley-type walkway where the human door would be—hmmmm . . . ), making more room and more of an interesting home for my girls.

    What do you think? Does it make sense? Has anyone done anything like this? Any folks from AZ want to chime in?


  2. gsim

    gsim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2009
    East Tennessee
    If I lived there I would look into using lattice for surrounds on all sides. With that, you could safely use chicken wire inside of it to keep most things out, as long as it was firmly fastened to the lattice for added strength. Mice could get in tho. Lattice could be stained using an automotive type spray paint gun. I would use an oil type stain. The roof could be done using decorative wooden shingles normaly used for interior finishes. Then soak them with oil several times and they will last well in the desert. They are cheap and look good. Need OSBfor roof decking and roofing felt on top of that before doing shingles. I would do a hip roof with a ventilated cupola on top and maybe even a tiny copper roof on that. Your wife will love it and your neighbors will too. If it is next to your house, you will come to hate it if it is junky and depressing.

    Do an 8x8 and maybe no less than 7 ft tall. You can cover 3 sides in wintertime if needed with a gray tarp on hooks spaced to match the grommets in the tarp. In AZ you will want a drafty coop most months. I would do a linoleum floor over 3/4" osb and do a 24" wide poop plank linoleum covered for ease of cleaning. clean dilly and recycle into garden or compost. Use deep litter method. In desert tho, dirt floor coop would stay dry unless built in a gully. Maybe put in coarse sand mix and change every 6 months? Maybe mix with sawdust, wood chips, etc? Lattice walls will dissipate fumes and heat readily all year.

    Thing about coops on the ground, is they often get mice and really can become infested, whereas one raised a foot or so is less likely to have that happen. Could even do a 24" tall run of hardware cloth at bottom and balance with cheaper chicken wire.

    Figure on $0.05 a day per chook for feed at present prices. So 10 chooks = $0.50 a day.

    AM a newbie too but can email me for questions.

    Best of luck,

  3. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2009
    Monroe, North Carolina
    gsim has it right -- make it pretty and you'll love it, and everyone will love you.

    And YOU are right. Open air in Arizona is probably about all you need. Look especially at the coop designs from Florida. They've got some nice ones.

    There's one particular design -- not sure where to catch it on BYC -- the guy used pvc pipe painted red and it looked really smart! PVC has the advantage of being light in case you wanted to have it portable.

    Not too sure about what kind of ground you have under your birds, but if it's Arizona dry, then sand ought to be adequate, and poop collection wouldn't be too much of a problem, seems to me, since they would dry out fairly quickly, no? You'd have the makings for some really nice compost stuff, you lucky dog, you!

    Good luck with it, and be sure and post pics, so the rest of us can steal your ideas! [​IMG]

  4. cap1717

    cap1717 6 chooks, 1 slave. . . me!

    Jun 12, 2009
    I think your idea for an open air coop is an excellent one. I am planning on building (or more correctly, asking my cousin to build for me) just such a structure this winter. My hens, like yours are now free ranging in the yard with a very small coop run combo where they are safe at night, but like you, I am tired of stepping in chicken poo every time I walk out the back door.

    I am very much impressed with the open air coop at Western Ranchman Feed Store (32nd St. between Greenway and Bell) in north central Phoenix. Theirs is about 20 ' long, perhaps 10 ' wide, completely covered with roost space and nest boxes in the rear of the structure. I beleive that have between 10 and 15 hens there at any one time, and there is no evidence of crowding.

    My proposed structure will not be as large as that, but I think I have space for a 10' x 6' strucure, and I will no more than 6 hens. I expect to let them out for free range time ocassionally, but not all day every day. Good luck with your setup, one thing to think about would be using hardware cloth rather than chicken wire on the entire structure, in order to prevent wild bird access. . . they can eat an awful lot of your chicken feed!
  5. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 31, 2009
    Hi, I currently live in Colorado but was born and raised in Tucson. If I had to move my chickens to Tucson I think I would build them a completely open ramada-type shelter and run and enclose it in welded wire. Perhaps the nest boxes could be protected with something at the back and you could put up tarps in the summer to deal with the monsoons. But in Mesa, the more air and shade, the better. If you built them a house, even one with open sides then you may have to put a cooler in for them in summer, like a member who lives in Phoenix does.

  6. rufus

    rufus Overrun With Chickens

    May 17, 2007
    If you have a good wall or fence around the backyard, you probably don't even need a coop.

    We used to make our chicken houses out of palm fronds nailed to a roof structure of poles cut from Tamarisk trees. It is called a palapa, and it is dirt cheap. Run chicken wire around the outside supporting poles, add the roosting poles and nest boxes and call it done.

    Now that I live in a neighborhood, I have to be a little more discrete. The coop was oringally 8 x 8, but I am now enlarging it to 8 x 16.
    It is only 36 inches high. None of my chickens are that tall. That makes sure that the coop is not seen over the wall; I am sort of illegal.

    The top is on hinges, so that I can lift it up and get into it if needed. The box portion is 8 x 4 and is also covered with a hinged lid.

    What you really need to have is shade and air circulation. My coop is in the shade of some huge Allepo pines most of the day. But when it gets hot along in April or May, I will cover most of the coop with some old plywood boards (political signs) to make absolutly sure that there is shade all day.

    I now have ten hens and one rooster. That is just about the limit for my back yard.

    Chicken poop in the yard gets washed down every evening. It just dissolves into the turf. Chicken poop in the coop gets shoveled out ever so often and is applied to the citrus trees. Water it down real good; it is very high in nitrogen.

    That deep litter method is not for Arizona. Don't try it or you will be sorry.

    The secret to chickens in the city is secrecy. Hide the coop. Out of sight, out of mind. I used to live in Mesa, and I know that there is a tendency there to mind other folks' business. Be discrete.

  7. rufus

    rufus Overrun With Chickens

    May 17, 2007
    Tala, I love the coop. Are those pecan trees in the background? I think I really would like Arkansas. Trees, green grass, rain and chickens.

  8. ArizonaDesertChicks

    ArizonaDesertChicks Eggstactic for Pretty Eggs

    Dec 8, 2008
    Glendale, AZ

    I think open air or 3-sided coops do work best in our desert area - an enclosed or 4 sided coop would be way too hot for the chickens in the summer. I've seen many of the AZ coops listed here on BYC - check out our AZ thread and maybe you can see some of the coops by clicking on the members' websites or BYC pages.

    You can see my 3-sided coop and run by clicking my BYC page - the coop/run is a year old now and has worked out well. Since the pictures were taken a year ago, I have added a 2nd dog run to the right side to make my run larger (bought more chickens). We saw a coyote in our backyard several weeks ago - the dogs chased it away. You're lucky if your area is predator free.
  9. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    Quote:Yes the neighbors have a pecan tree against that fenceline. It drops a lot of dead wood on our side of the fence, even though it appears to be alive. My clothesline was straight and plumb for all of 2 weeks before their tree dropped a huge limb on it - the new wires stretched instead of breaking and pulled the T's inward. You should see the top pole on that chainlink too, it's really bent up!
    I really like Arkansas, seems like the landscape is really green (lots of trees).

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