So last summer we quit “planning” to get our own chickens, and actually did it. The whole family pitched in to build a little abode for our egg-laying beauties. And because we were first-time chicken owners and newbies in all chicken-related topics, we joined BackYard Chickens and gleaned months worth of ideas, do’s and don’ts, and building plans. (I can’t recommend this site highly enough! If you have the slightest inclination of doing chicken anything, go here and read to your heart’s content.)
It was so helpful to see photos and designs when we were in the planning stages, I thought I’d share pictures of our coop and the hows and whys of what we did.
The chicken coop
Instead of starting from scratch, we bought a small granary from my brother-in-law; about 9’x7′ inside measurements. This gave us about 3 sq. ft. per bird. The coop is nothing fancy really. It isn’t visible from the road and we don’t live in town with neighbors to care about the view from their back window, so we used as much scrap material as possible. Plus we didn’t think the chickens would mind.
So far they haven’t rebelled. 🙂
We re-tinned the roof (that’s my honey!) and I got to use the saw sawl to make holes for the windows and vents. 🙂 You can call me Mrs. Handyman. . .
Inside the chicken coop
Framing the windows and vents was the most time consuming part since the building wasn’t square. We used insulation and vapor barrier for the walls for added moisture protection and warmth because the windchill can get -40 below or more in the winter.
We made the roosting boards parallel and the same height because apparently hens will act like old biddies and fight for the top most board. (Some people’s kids. . .)
We rounded the edges of the roosting boards so it’s easier on the hens’ feet. The boards can be removed for ease of cleaning the poop boards underneath.
Poop boards seemed quite popular among chicken peoples and we’ve quickly learned why. First, chickens poop more when roosting, so the roosting boards are placed above the poop board. This makes clean up as simple as buying a wide sheetrock mudding tool and scraping the droppings into a bucket each day. We then add the droppings to our compost pile.
We originally built a rollaway community nesting box directly underneath the poop board, but the chickens ended up laying eggs everywhere but there. Eventually we added a ‘normal’ set of 12″x12″x12″ nesting boxes and they’re happy campers again. 🙂
We decided to use the deep litter method. We spread a bag of wood chips on the floor and because the hens leave most of their droppings on the poop boards, there’s minimal waste on the floor. The chickens like to scratch and fluff the wood chips so it gets stirred up and aerated. This means the coop is less smelly, and there’s only a few minutes of daily cleaning of the boards. If needed, you can add more wood chips throughout the year.
We clean the coop out fully in the spring and fall. So far it’s worked wonderfully.
We nailed a board across the doorway to prevent the rising litter from falling out every time we opened the door.
The feeders are gravity fed. They’re made of PVC pipe with a 90 degree corner and a cap at the end. We like that we can leave for several days at a time and don’t have to worry about having someone come out to do chicken chores for us.
This water stand was Travis’s idea. The hens have a platform to stand on so no matter how high the litter gets, they can reach the water comfortably.
The chicken nipples underneath are another idea shared by BYC that I LOVE. The water doesn’t drip, there is no poop or mud to worry about, and our full grown hens figured it out within 24 hrs. The pails are covered with lids to prevent the water from getting dirty and it lasts for at least a week (we add apple cider vinegar).
When we’re home, we clean them out and give them fresh water every few days.
There’s electricity on the wall above the waterers with a timed light switch. We use bird bath heaters to keep the water from freezing during the winter. We had to add the slanted plywood because the hens were roosting on the pails. (I told you they fought for highest roosting privileges.)
The pop door is a simple design, and it works great. It slides up and down, held in by L shaped boards.
When in the closed position, the hook and eye on the right prevent racoons (or children!) from trying to lift the door from the outside.
We used 1/2″ x 1/2″ hardware cloth to cover the insides of the windows and vents. . .
. . .and plexiglass for the actual windows.
We made sure to have plenty of vents (thanks to sage advice from Pat’s Ventilation Page) and used eyes and rope to open and close them at different heights.
Finally, we added a small lean-to to the side so the hens could come out in the winter. This helps block snow drifts right in front of the pop door, and they can still come out for fresh air and sunshine when they get cabin fever.
It might not win a beauty contest – but there’s something to be said for functionality. 🙂 Hope this gave you some ideas!
What have you done to your chicken coop? We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions!
shared with: Flour Me With Love, The Prairie Homestead, The Modest Mom, Real Food Forager, Growing Home, Rook No. 17, Far Above Rubies, Vintage Wannabee, Women Living Well, Frugally Sustainable, Our Simple Farm, Deep Roots at Home, Raising Homemakers, Raising Homemakers, This Chick Cooks, Raising Mighty Arrows, Our Simple Country Life, The Greenbacks Gal, GNOWFGLINS, Real Food Freaks, Comfy in the Kitchen, Chef In Training,