My one acre is a bit odd due to it’s being the site of the original house on 40 acres. I don’t have a normal front yard, the landscaping was done before the lot was defined, and it borders 5 other properties besides the road. These factors have led to me having two chicken areas, with two different flocks. One of these flocks is in what would probably be considered the front yard, although the pen area is bordered by one neighbor’s horse pasture and another neighbor’s side yard/auto shop zone.
We tried moving all of the chickens to one pen area, for my own ease of care, but there were no easy solutions to keeping the odd pasture area in the front weeded. Knowing from experience that chickens provide excellent and cost effective weed control, we decided to buy some one year old hens from Vogel Farms. My one request was a better chicken coop.
The old one was sort of a Frankenstein creation of an old goat shelter raised a couple of feet higher by a makeshift wooden foundation with nest boxes attached. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated what could be provided at the time and in a pinch, but it was lower than my height, was criss-crossed by branches for roosts, and had significant gaps between some boards. Cleaning it required hunching for extended periods, as well as doing the limbo around the roosting branches. My request was granted.
Here is a combined movie/slideshow look at the process of building the coop.
The main features of my new coop are:
- It is just big enough for about 25 chickens to roost in. The adjacent penned pasture area is the size of a small suburban back yard. They don’t need to spend a lot of time in the coop.
- The roof is high enough for me to walk into the coop comfortably. No more feeling like a giant stuck in a dwarf mine. Not only will cleaning be more comfortable, but I’m sure it will go faster!
- The roosting boards are on a hinge, so that they can swing down flush with the wall while I clean. My husband came up with an amazingly simple hinge using some metal conduit pipe (such as is used by electricians). This is really best seen by looking at the video. If there are questions, please ask in the comments. He researched roosting before he made it, to determine linear foot of roosting space needed. He learned that it is also best to have rounded edges on the roost.
- The floor is cement so that I am not accidentally digging a pit into the dirt when I shovel it out during cleaning. (To read more about how we water cured the cement floor during very hot weather read here.)
- There are windows (corrugated plastic) to let in some light. Even with the door open, back corners can get dark. The extra light will make both cleaning the coop and collecting the eggs easier. The windows will be double layered, with one sheet of plastic on the inside and another on the outside. This will make it look more finished and also provide some insulation.
- The nesting boxes are accessible from the outside, without me going into the coop/pen area, though it remains to be seen whether or not the chickens can be persuaded to lay their eggs in them regularly. I am going to try putting some scrap pieces of carpet in them.
- The finish inside and out is stucco. After some research, my husband formulated a paint-cement-sand-lime mix, then sprayed it on. He tried troweling it on fiberglass mesh inside and on the door (he has done a lot of hobby work with fiberglass, including building a magnificent pedal-paddle board for fishing), but that was time and labor intensive. He opted for OSB on the outside of the coop. If you are interested in this type of finish, ask in the comments and/or check back later for an edit. He said he will have time to find his resources to post in a few days.
- The rolling door leaves a large opening for access, and is easy to open and close. I loved seeing how he designed his own rolling door out of bicycle wheels. He is still planning on making a door guide for the bottom to stay tracked in.
The new coop has been functional since the inside was finished, though it is not old enough to have needed cleaning yet. It looks very nice from the street view now, with it’s outside walls having their final coat of stucco. I’m pretty sure my chickens don’t appreciate enough how much nicer their winter will be because of it, but I certainly appreciate how much easier it will be to take care of them!