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September 11, 2009

The Scoop on the Coop

Well, we have finally finished the coop enough that I decided it was time to tell you a bit about our summer project.

We're pretty pleased with how it turned out, considering that it's made almost entirely out of leftovers from our house.  The only things that we had to buy were a few extra roofing shingles, a couple of sheets of plywood for the roof, a gallon of exterior paint, and wire mesh for the run.

Still a few things left to do, but mostly done.

The work involved was a little more than we anticipated (and most of it through record summer temperatures), but since almost every room in the house looks out on to the coop, we wanted it to be something that we enjoyed looking at.

While we didn't have any actual building plans, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted it to look like.  Using Google Sketchup, we played with things like the wall height, roof pitch, and window/door placement until we ended up with something that we were happy with.

My husband hadn't done a lot of framing before, but he did an amazing job of turning our ideas into an actual structure.


Some of the features that we planned for are:
  • we placed the coop in the sunniest part of the yard so that the run will have a chance to dry out in between winter rain storms.
  • passive solar heating - the coop is oriented exactly east/west, so the overhang shades the windows on the south side during the hottest part of the summer, but lets the light in when the sun is lower in the sky during the fall and winter months to help keep the chickies warm (also, because of this positioning, the coop itself creates a nice shady patch in the adjoining run).
  • the coop and run are directly in front of the vegetable garden, with an extra door into the back of the coop so that all of that precious chicken manure can be scooped out right where we need it.
  • there's an additional pop door on the south side where we will eventually dock a chicken tractor (next year's project)
  • we wired for overhead and exterior lights, as well as an outlet for either a fan or heat lamp, depending on the season.
  • we're going to install gutters which will lead to rain barrels on the back side of the coop in order to reduce our dependence on well water for irrigation.
  • we allowed for lots of natural ventilation.  There's a ridge vent in the roof, as well as soffit and gable vents, which will eventually have small doors so we can close them up during cold snaps.
Insulation and back door into the garden.

As mentioned, we used almost entirely recycled materials, many of which were given to us.  My mom and stepfather are renovating their house (which was built in 1909) to turn it into a B&B, so we were able to take a lot of things that would have otherwise gone to the dump, including the insulation in the photo above.  We insulated the ceiling using rock wool and styrofoam sheets that were left over from insulating our basement slab.

The interior walls are covered with shiplap that was torn up from the floors and walls of my mom's house (beautiful one foot wide, 100 year old fir boards).  They will eventually get a coat of paint to make them easier to clean, but right now they are a weathered grey, which gives the coop a rustic, barnlike feel.


The exterior is covered with fiber cement lap siding, which we painted to match the house.  I built the ramps out of cedar decking cut-offs.

This is the day that we let the girls out into the run for the first time.  They were pretty sure that we were up to no good...

My favorite Speckled Sussex was the first one out of the coop.

...but it wasn't long before they were outside and charging around the run.



I'm still amazed at the instincts possessed by these domesticated birds.  They kept a constant watch on the sky, and would run inside at the first sign of an aerial attack (it was usually just an airplane - our property is on a flight path).

You can see in the above photo that the bottom of the coop is enclosed with 1/2" wire mesh, which was given to us by our neighbor.  It's a much heavier gauge than hardware cloth, and will hopefully keep anything from digging under and making a home under the coop.

Pippin - our beautiful Dark Brahma

The run is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so the kids and I can stand in there comfortably.  The top four feet are covered with 2" square wire mesh, and the bottom 18" with 3/4" hardware cloth.  The hardware cloth is actually 3 feet wide, but we buried the bottom 18" underground to prevent anything from digging under the fence.  While we don't have many of the usual predators here (not even raccoons or skunks), with the public trail running past our property, there is some concern about dogs.  

Of a bigger concern are attacks from the sky, so I used the deer fence that didn't work so well on the veggie garden to cover the run and keep out winged predators.


This second gate from the garden into the run will make it easier for me to bring them garden scraps.  We also want to be able to let them into the garden from time to time for a change of scenery and to help clean things up at the end of the growing season.


I fashioned their roosts out of cedar decking and 1 x 4 cedar trim (which had been pre-stained).  I sealed the cedar with the same non-toxic linseed oil product that we used on our butcher block countertops.

The east facing window provides them with a sunny spot to bask and preen in during the early morning hours...



...and I built a perch under it so that they can take in the view during the day.  It's easy to tell who is at the top of the pecking order by observing who gets to sleep here at night - it's clearly their favorite spot. 
I'm in a rush to build some nest boxes, as their faces are starting to turn red, which I understand is a sign that they're getting ready to lay.  I'm thinking about building a "community" box as opposed to individual nests, as I keep hearing that they will all use the same one anyway.  Any thoughts on this from those of you with chickens?  My girls are a cuddly bunch, so I can't see it being a problem.  


After all of that hard work, I think my favorite part of the coop project is the stepping stone that my daughter made to go in front of it.   It makes me smile whenever I see it.

Now if only they would start laying!

19 comments:

Cheryl said...

Please excuse the awful spacing and font problems on this post - Blogger has been giving me a heck of a time!

Debbie said...

What a great set up! Your coop is amazing. As far a nesting boxes goes, I have 7 places for mine to lay and they use 2 of them. I often go in and see 2 or 3 in the same box which is always funny for some reason. Looks like you guys thought of everything!

Annie said...

I don't think anyone could love their chickens as much as you do! You thought of everything and it turned out beautifully... No, more like sensationally... phenomenally... remarkably... I'm just so impressed! You make me think that raising chickens could actually be doable here where I live.

inadvertent farmer said...

We have 25 chickens and they only use two of the 6 nest boxes...a community box would probably work wonderfully.

What a charming chicken house, love the set up! Kim

Jessica said...

That is a great coop! Our is the back half of the garage that has been converted to house the hens but one day I would love a little hen house like yours. I think just a few laying spots will do. We usually have about 4 hens at a time and they use a communal nest. We did have boxes set up but now there is just one as they never used the rest.

Carla said...

That is truly the nicest chicken coop I've ever seen. I'm sure your birds will be very happy there.

Roasted Garlicious said...

thats a lovely chicken coop!!! they are lucky to have u as their friend :D as for the blogger, i've been having problems as well.. so not to worry!!

Sarah said...

We have four boxes for about a dozen hens (it has varied over the years). To keep them from all laying in the same box, which sometimes results in broken eggs, I've had success with placing stone eggs (usually made of marble or granite) in the boxes they aren't using. Beautiful coop!

Cheryl said...

Thank you all for your nice comments! It sounds like rather than filling the coop with nest boxes, I might be able to get away with the community option. I made a huge roost, and they all squeeze on to half of it, so maybe I should take my cues from that! :D

molly said...

Now that is one of the fanciest chook houses I have seen, just gorgeous!
(ps-Aussies call chickens chooks LOL)

Michelle said...

Cheryl that looks awesome!!!

I hope you're enjoying them as much as we're enjoying our ladies.

teresa said...

We have 30 chickens and they lay in a communal box. My husband was going to put in dividers (it's a 2 level box that's about 6 feet long) they have plenty of room if he does, but they seem fine going in the same 4 corners. Once in a great while there's an egg in the middle of the box, but for the most part they're comfortable sharing.

Love your coop!

designergirl said...

Cheryl, your coop should be featured in Home & Garden it is so fabulous! You must let me know if the hens start laying and if you ever sell your eggs. Great Post!

Cheryl said...

Molly - Thanks!
I'm rather fond of that Aussie term - "chook" just seems to describe a chicken perfectly!

Thanks, Michelle! We're really enjoying our birds too!

Teresa - That's great to hear. It sounds like communal is the way to go!

designergirl - Thank you for your nice comments. I'll be sure to post at the first sign of an egg! :)

It's me ...Mavis said...

What a beautiful coop!

freelearners said...

That is absolutely beautiful! You guys are amazing!

Willo said...

Cheryl, what a beautiful chook house. From my years of experience I would not be surprised if you decide to extend your buildings at some stage. We have the hen house with deep litter even though they are free range in our orchard. Then we have a small aviary for sick chickens who need to be separated, for mothers with their new borns to have their own space, for a place to put girls who are sitting when it is not appropriate and need to be encouraged to stop. Then we have 2 runs with smaller houses for mothers with their chicks as they grow bigger. These are covered to protect from flying predators. New mothers will not share space so this has proved necessary. We have the space which makes this sort of management so much easier. Having communal nest boxes is fine if you have no roosters. If any one is wanting to swell their numbers the natural way it will not work as a sitting hen can not be disturbed. Good luck with your flock.

steffiw said...

only just found this,your coop is utterly beautiful,well done,i love my chooks and duck too,alas all were stolen one week before christmas-hope to restart mid 2010.mine laid around 20+ weeks,when their combs/bibs were very red. steffiw

Philippines properties said...

That is a lovely coop. You guys are awesome!

Deirdre G

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