I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see chicken coop updates since you devoured my first build report. Well, prepare your gullets. Here you go.
This project ended up taking longer than I planned since I prefer to spend as much non-office time wrestling with the world’s strongest Toddler. So coop progress was mostly relegated to snippets of nap-time-construction-time and after-night-night-total-darkness-build-hours. However, I finally declare this beast 99% done and ready for occupants!
Who wants the grand tour? Just ignore the ugly tall unfinished fence post that’s part of my ugly 9′ tall garden deer fence. (Yes, we are overpopulated with rabid, ravenous whitetails.) I wanted the coop just inside the garden fence for a few reasons.
- The chickens will be a little more protected as they free range. Roaming neighbor dogs are a serious threat for us.
- They can help clear the garden of weeds and pest bugs. I just have to be sure and adequately protect the stuff I DON’T want them to eat!
- As you learned last time, I’ll be using my lovelies as Compost Production Machines and wanted that system near the garden.
- This garden is a Zone 1 (often managed) area where I’ll visit regularly. I can pull weeds in the garden on the way to the coop, throw those greens to the chickens, do garden stuff, check for eggs, then head back out. Saves this lazy guy a trip.
So, please feast your eyes on the prettiest little coop my wife has ever co-owned. Such is the life of a lucky Gentleman Homesteader’s spouse.
The entire 8′x12′ structure is protected by half inch hardware mesh that encapsulates the 4′x8′ elevated, enclosed hen house. Every chicken book in our Metro library system (because I read them all) and every online source I ingested agree you want a minimum of four feet indoor space and/or eight feet outdoor space per chicken. Initially, I’m targeting seven chickies, so I (sorta over) designed their Cluckingham Palace to give them plenty of wing-stretching space. This has helped make everyone happy and I have had no bird-on-bird violence because of it.
That hardware mesh is buried twelve inches into the ground to thwart any raccoons, skunks, coyotes, or other hungry diggers looking for a free meal.
The girls can access their Deluxe Apartment in the Sky through their very own ladder.
See the Eye Hooks on either side? They help secure the front wall. It’s hinged and can be held open to access the inside for cleaning. I have a lofty goal of adding old car hood struts that will hold this wall open for me, thanks to an ingenious idea I picked up from another blogger. I even have the struts, but just haven’t attached them yet.
Let’s look inside, shall we?
More fittingly for tasty pets, maybe it should be “Open Sesame Seed Bun”.
On the right you’ll see a 2″-3″ diameter limb I scavenged from our woods and cut. It’s perfect for use as a roost at night. The natural imperfections of the limb are preferable to a uniform dowel rod or piece of cut lumber.
To the left are their nesting boxes which they now dutifully overflow with eggs. It’s very important the roost be higher than the nests. Chickens evolved in the wild roosting in trees at night as high as they could get for protection. So that’s where they want to be. If your nests are above your desired roost, that’s where they’ll sleep (and make a terrible mess) each night, thereby soiling your eggs and making you very sad.
Yes, I did line the floor with a scrap piece of linoleum my Dad found at a garage sale. This should greatly assist clean up. The floor will be covered in about two inches of sand (you’ll see in later pictures). A few seconds of scooping every four to seven days into the run below (where I’m composting using the Deep Litter Method) keeps things nice and tidy up here.
Yep, let’s definitely keep this area clean.
Chickens share nesting areas. A rule of thumb is you should have one box for every three to four hens. So I went overkill here, but since I could theoretically house up to 10-12 birds in this structure, I might as well give them some options. Not that it matters, since all seven of my birds lay in the same box.
Above you can see the sand that still needs spread out. There are a lot of different bedding options, but I’m trying sand because it best dries the droppings, reducing smell and easing clean up. A note: You don’t want fine play sand. Rather, look for washed “construction sand” or “river sand” that is coarser. The most suitable (and cheapest) stuff I could find was at Home Depot and labeled as “all purpose sand”.
Purchasing pullets (female chickens less than a year old) or hens (older than a year) will set you back between $4-$12 each around these parts, so I made sure to adequately protect my investment and load test to exceed weight specifications before their arrival. (Don’t tell the wife how I did so.)
The entire top is open, but protected by hardware mesh so nothing can climb the walls and drop in for a midnight chicken smorgasbord. I made sure the mesh “ceiling” is over six feet tall so we can walk in and work comfortably without having to stoop. There are a few inches between the mesh and the sloped metal roof to provide plenty of ventilation, which is essential for healthy living quarters. You definitely do not want ammonia building up inside a dirty coop.
I built a small outside access door that opens into the back of the nesting boxes. That way we can gather breakfast without having to enter the main structure. Both this access door and the human door on the front are fastened with carabiners. I read that raccoons are able to open anything a two year old toddler can open. Let’s hope these do the trick, as our woods sure seem to be infested with raccoons.
Voila. Open that door each morning and fill up your carton with natural, organic backyard eggs. Not these plastic easter eggs made in China. They train our young girls where they should be laying. When the girls see egg-shaped thingies in a safe comfy spot, they learn it’s a good place to lay and will head there when nature calls. I kept them in there for about two weeks and then removed them. Everyone knows what to do!
Golf balls can also be used in this role, but I don’t have any on hand since I humbly believe a golf course is a terrible use of land that would otherwise make for a great long-distance rifle practice range.
So there you go.
I hope you enjoyed your look around.
Here are our first tenants thanks to people practically giving away 1960s era decorations on Craigslist. Hopefully these lads will successfully look after their ladies.
I know. I know. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful you’ll throw a tantrum when it’s time to leave.
Have you made many modifications to your coop after living with it for awhile? Any neat tips or tricks to share?