We’ve already inserted the chickens, but I thought I’d go back and share with you more on the coop-building process. It took about three weekends, plus so longish evenings, to get it all together. We enlisted the help of friends and real builders to make it happen and, aside from what we gleaned online, didn’t use any plans.
Not for want of trying, though – the key thing about this project was adaptibility. We started off thinking we had a 8′ x 8′ space to work with, then it morphed into a 8′ x 20′ before settling on a 10′ x 30′ (ish). We were building in a friend’s backyard and no one really knew what was available for chickens until the first day of building.
Thankfully, the hardware store was only a few blocks away. 😉
The other variable were the people involved – we all had different ideas on how to make this work. So even though my wife had come up with a full schematic before we bought our first 2×4, that schematic never got used. Which is fine because, as it turns out, chicken coops really aren’t that complicated. You have a run and a coop and thankfully it doesn’t have to pass building code.
The most important part, of course, was the initial frame. We got this together in the span of one long Saturday, with the help of a pro’. I had erroneously believed that we could do this ourselves with a hammer and some nails. Excuse me while I go laugh quietly at myself.
While you probably could, power tools make the job go a lot faster, and having someone who actually knows what he’s doing takes a lot of the time-stealing second guessing out of the equation. The guy knew just how much to space things and just how to angle the nail for maximum stability.
I definitely have a newfound respect for power tools after this project. Beautiful things.
Then it was up to us for most of the rest of it, which included: securing the perimeter with chicken wire, putting together the coop, putting up the sides, attaching the doors, attaching the latches and locks for the doors, putting on a roof, and a few other things I’m certain I’m forgetting.
We actually decided to attach hardware cloth to the bottom portion of the run and under the coop because of the prevalance of burrowing predators in our area. Our local food bank has chickens as well as a garden as part of their community outreach and during the short time I volunteered there a few years ago, something dug underneath the chicken wire and stole chickens. Twice.
So not only did we use the hardware cloth on the bottom portion, but we also ran chicken wire beneath the run itself. This was easier for us than other suggestions to keep burrowers at bay, like digging a foot down and laying wire vertically that way, especially considering the soil here is hard and sandy. So far, we haven’t had anybody try to get into the run, but it’s only been a few months. 🙂
After the hardware cloth around the bottom, we did the rest with chicken wire. We attached both to the 2×4’s with a staple gun and it seems to be holding on just fine. We did the same song & dance of hardware cloth & chicken wire to the door for continuity.
Then the coop itself – we decided a raised coop was probably best for our climate, giving our chickens guaranteed shade during the hot days and most effectively cooling the coop itself for the nights. We gave it three doors – one for the chickens with access into the run, one for cleaning access on the outside for us, and one at the back along behind the nesting boxes for egg access.
We simply cut out the doors with a circular saw, then attached the wood back in place with hinges. Viola. Not very pretty, but servicable. The outside coop door has proven essential, since you have to have some way of getting inside the coop to clean out all that poop and make sure they still have food and water available to them. I keep hoping the nesting box door will come in handy soon…
We built a coop ramp out of spare wood, using wood glue and the tiniest of nails to hold it together, then attaching it permanently to the outside. I’ve yet to see a chicken use the whole thing, but they do hop up about halfway and then totter inside their coop. The “rungs” could have been spaced more broadly, considering how wide their feet are, but they’re definitely useful to keep the chickens from sliding.
When the run was ready for our chickens, we spread straw thickly across the chicken wire bottom, covered the coop floor with sand, filled the waterer and feeder, and then let them loose. Aside from adding a few ventilation holes in the coop itself, we haven’t had to change anything. It’s been a full six weeks of chickens and they’re growing and clucking up a storm.
I only have one question left about our project and our flock:
Where are our eggs, ladies??
I tried to cover everything about our construction process, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Everybody should have a flock of chickens, even if they live in an apartment like we do. You can definitely find a way!