I’ve officially lost track of how long this project has taken. At least a couple months (keep in mind though, we only worked on it on weekends). Still, considerably longer than I was anticipating. It’s not quite “done”; the bones are complete and the girls are moved in, but I still have to pretty it up! That might have to wait till the spring though, so until then…
Here’s a begining to end tour of our progress (so far)!
I still find it a bit surreal that this coop dream of mine actually came true. As I’m sure I’ve said in previous post’s, I’ve dealt with two make-shift coops so far, both having serious flaws. So I wanted to make sure I did everything right this time.
Our chickens are totally free range and spend most of their time outside, even in the winter, so we planned for a coop size of 10’x12′ with a (4’x10′ chunk of that dedicated to storage) leaving us with an 8’x10′ coop space. This allows us to house 48 hens, with each hen having roughly 1.7 Sq. Ft. of floor space (the general rule of thumb is 1-1.5 Sq. Ft./Bird). But, with the exception of night time, our girls are never all in there at once so it’s mostly roomier than that.
We raised the structure for two reasons: #1. to prevent water from getting in to the coop. Our last coop was about an inch below grade and every time it rained (or the snow melted) it turned in to a swimming pool. VERY frustrating. #2. to make it easier to clean. At this height, I can easily line a wheel barrow up to the side of the coop and push the litter out. This is very nice, especially with so many chickens (read: so much poop!).
I’m super lucky to have a handy Dad, husband, and friends, who were all willing to help out with my building project. In fact, they were so willing to do the work, that I’m beginning to think that they were just trying to avoid having me do anything. I’ll admit, building might not be my strong suit. The one and only time I was left unsupervised, I managed to nail one of the floor joists completely wrong, and to make matters worse, the nails I used got so bent from my wild hammering that it took about five before I got one where I wanted it to go. I did get pretty handy with a circular saw though.
Let There Be Light!
Another thing I wanted this coop to be was light and bright. The structure is situated so it’s south facing and I found old windows from the original summer kitchen of our house that are about 3/4’s of the height of the walls. Also, the door that we used has a nice big window to let even more light in. Although they won’t be installed until spring, there are also windows on the East and West walls as well. Since the coop is surrounded by trees, these windows are less for light (although they’ll obviously add light as well) but more for ventilation. The wind here almost always blows from the West, so on those hot summer days I can open both windows for a nice cross breeze.
Another important aspect of this coop was having somewhere to store feed, extra bedding, ect. that the chickens couldn’t access. I had all these things in rubbermaid bins in the last coop, but the chickens would constantly poop on the bins. Very gross. So inside the coop we put up a simple partition wall, covered it with chicken wire we found in one of our barns, put in a door up, and Voila! a nice clean storage space, and a great spot to put a chair! Before I had a baby, one of my all time favorite things to do was come home from work, put on my scrubby clothes, and sit in the chicken coop for an hour. The biggest drawback to this was, of course, that my chair was always covered in poop. No more! I can safely sit without worrying about what it is I’m sitting in.
This is probably my biggest reason for building this new coop. Previously, our chickens were housed in the basement of our old wooden bank barn. The cracked concrete floors, field stone walls and wooden beams were pretty much impossible to clean properly. It was the perfect breeding ground for bugs and bacteria. Add to that the fact that it was a touch below grade, and as previously stated, turned in to a pond every time it rained. The ducks liked it. The chickens and I, not so much. It was dark, dirty, and dingy. So in the new coop, I layed an inexpensive peice of pre-cut vinyl flooring which I got on sale at Rona. It’s so easy to wash and disinfect, and it’s one solid piece so no water or dirt can penetrate it.
My biggest expenditure for this whole project was the nesting boxes. They are made of galvanized steel and hard plastic, can be taken apart completely for cleaning, and the perches can be folded up at night to prevent the chickens roosting in them. But the best part of all? They have a roll out feature, so when the chicken lays her egg, it rolls out the front in to a compartment that is covered by a plastic flap. This not only keeps the eggs clean, which means less washing, but it also allows me to take the laid eggs out even if there is a chicken still in the nest! It seems that no matter how many nest boxes they have, they all lay in ONE (maybe two). And since some girls like to take their time, I’m unable to collect the eggs that have been laid until late afternoon. This is a problem for me because I sell my eggs to the public and need to be able to collect and package the eggs as soon as possible.
Another feature I added was a clean-out door. It makes cleaning much easier since I can just push the litter out the door and into the wheelbarrow. You can see the chicken door inside the larger clean-out door as well.
Warm..But Not Too Warm.
Frozen eggs, frozen water, frozen combs. I hate winter! The new coop, however, should make all of these things less of a problem. It’s completely draft free, the outside walls are covered in tar paper (which soon will be covered with either plywood or barn boards) and the ceiling is insulated.
We only insulated the ceiling, and not the walls, because A.) Most heat escapes through the roof, and B.) we only want it to be above freezing. Any warmer and it’s not good for the chickens health to go from a warm coop, out to the cold and back again several times. The most important thing is that coop be draft free.
Another benefit of a solid coop is the vastly reduced risk of predators getting in. We had issues with a weasel tunneling in to the coop last winter, and raccoon’s ripping open the shotty wire windows this summer. The coop is also quite close to our bedroom window, making it easy to hear any ruckus if something is trying to get in. It will also make it easier to hear the rooster crow at 3 am. Sorry Farmer B 🙂
Next on my to-do list is to whitewash the the interior to brighten it up and to discourage bugs and bacteria.
If you are interested in building your own coop, I hope this gives you some great ideas.
If you already have a coop, I’d love to hear what you’ve done (or wish to do) to make your coop better!