Hope it’s alright with you, but I plan to talk quite a lot about chickens. After all, they’re probably the ultimate when it comes to “Pets with Benefits”, and right now they’re my only backyard livestock (since I don’t fully count the composting worms).
When the Wife saw me sketching out coop plans, she was definitely less than pleased. In her words, she “wasn’t anti-chicken. Just anti-chicken right then”. Sure, we’d just moved into the house and had a lot on our plate, but I’d been dreaming about my own personal breakfast makers for a long time! Surely a chicken coop had priority over patching the gaping holes in our kitchen drywall. Who’s with me?!?
It’s nice to look back and see how fond she’s grown of the birds since they joined us. She said she’d only be in it for the photography, but I often catch her sneaking out to check on everyone.
Anyway, back to our coop.
Once you’ve made the decision to keep chickens, there are numerous factors to consider regarding HOW you’ll keep them. One of the principal questions is of course, “Where?”
Free range. Mobile pens (Tractors). Shifting paddocks. Coop and run.
There are pros and cons to each manner of chicken housing. For example, the smaller mobile tractors allow you to move the birds from place to place so they can always have access to fresh bugs and pasture to peck at, providing them a healthier (and cost-reducing) diet… plus they continually fertilize your space a little at a time. That’s a powerful way to put poultry to work for your benefit, and we’ll explore tractors in depth a bit later since I just started building one. It will hopefully soon be home to whatever hatches out of a dozen eggs a very broody Copper Necked Maran is warming up for us.
When we moved into our home a year ago, I already knew I wanted to start with a stationary coop. There’s really one reason, and one reason only.
I always need more compost
We have a lot of garden beds, small orchard plots, and a 1.5 acre food forest to eventually build since I’m starting from a clean slate here. All that will require a lot of compost input. It would be great if most of that was produced right in the backyard. So I built an enclosed, stationary coop and utilize the Deep Litter Method in the 8×12 lower run. I continually mix dry leaves and grass clippings in their run since I always have a lot of those. I may eventually add straw, hay, or wood chips if my own carbon inputs run low. That carbon combines with the birds’ high-nitrogen manure to produce great compost material, while also naturally breaking down pathogens that could be harmful to the birds if they didn’t have the natural composting cycle working for them.
So here’s a little bit of a throwback since these pictures were from last year, but I figured the best place to start talking about our chickens is at the beginning.
Speaking of the beginning, here it is – the first of my many material trips.
The foreman approves. As you can see, that little dude is a stickler for safety gear.
The first frame section cut and ready to assemble. All necessary tools and supplies accounted for.
Once all four walls of the 8′ x 12′ coop are assembled individually, it’s time to stain. A lot. This is my least favorite job as it just seems tedious and I’d much rather be banging on something. Necessary though.
Be sure to note the chocolate lab who decided to move around and continually take a nap under any place that dripped.
Eight cinder block footers were dug for protection from ground moisture and the walls were attached to each other. It’s finally starting to look like something!
I made sure to attach the frame to the buried cinder blocks with some scrap pieces of wire, hoping it will help prevent a gust of wind from lifting the thing off the ground. I don’t want my chicks pecking down a yellow brick road.
Next come the sloped roof rafters (for rain and snow runoff) and purlins.
This thing is really starting to take shape. The upper 4′x8′ section on the right will be enclosed and that’s where the girls will roost, sleep, and (hopefully) lay. The rest of the structure is enclosed with half inch hardware mesh to protect them from predators. Plain old chicken wire just isn’t strong enough. They’ll have constant access to that mesh-protected 8′x12′ run area to do their chicken things. For at least a few hours each day they’ll free range outside the coop and run and play in our fenced 100’x50′ garden area, hopefully eating lots of weeds and ticks.
Finally time to attach the steel roof.
Here’s the (freaking expensive) hardware mesh I mentioned. It’s made of half inch welded wire openings so a tiny, hungry raccoon fist can’t fit through. I dug a trench around the perimeter and buried the netting. This will prevent any access from diggers, and also help to anchor the coop in a wind storm.
And when I got tired of digging and hammering in heavy duty staples for the poultry netting, I decided to hang one plywood wall of the elevated, enclosed coop.
That’s it for now.
Stay tuned for the completion, the improvements I’ve totally over-engineered for rain water collection drinkers, automatic feeders, and my cost breakdown of how it will only take a mere 12.5 years of consuming our own backyard organic eggs priced at $4.00 per dozen for us to break even on this monstrosity.
Oh well, they’re worth it.
Even if you ask my wife.
UPDATE: You can take a grand tour of the finished coop Here.