The Coop


Our chicken coop had to be attractive since we look directly at it out the back door. Neighbors can also see it over the block wall if they tried.   In designing our coop, I tried to make it blend in with all the other arbors, fences, and other decorative elements I had created in the yard and garden over the years.

Most things around our home have to either do double duty or be small scale, especially in the garden. Due to my love of gardening, I incorporated the design of the run into a gardening potting table.   I converted an old garage workbench into the covered run/ potting table.

Construction:

The coop has approximately a 4′ x 4′ footprint and 6′ center roof peak.   It is made primarily of recycled and reclaimed materials.  All of the framing wood came from either our other projects’ scraps, my neighbors discarded pile from a remodel, or a demolished a redwood pergola.   A large number of other construction materials were purchased at Habitat For Humanity’s “ReStore.”   More details, a cut list, diagrams, etc. were published along with 16 other coops, summer 2011, in the chicken coop construction book Backyard Chickens’ Guide to Coops and Tractors: Planning, Building, and Real-Life Advice 

I designed a storage compartment under the nest box area that is accessible from the outside. I determined the size of the storage compartment based on the containers I needed to put in it.

Cow shaped handles on the doors were brought out of storage to bring a bit of whimsy to the outside of the coop; the handles were originally a decorative element in my kids’ farm themed nursery when they were little.

Below the roost level, the nesting area was sealed off with a big piece of cardboard until the pullets were around 17 weeks.  The nest boxes are kitty litter boxes filled with bedding.

The pop door to the run is a light weight plexi-glass panel, primed and painted to match the coop. I installed a homemade automatic opener made from an “Add a Motor” drapery motor and digital timer that opens early each morning and closes after dusk each night.

The roof is enclosed using ½ inch hardware cloth and covered with aluminum screening in the eaves and over also all the window openings.  I fastened it in place with screws and washers.  The coop has 3 windows and large openings under the eaves.  Ventilation was an important consideration in the design, but not really insulation since we live on the coast.  Our summer temps rarely go over the mid to upper 80′s in the summer, and the winter temps don’t often fall much below the low 40′s.  I located the coop next to an outlet to accommodate a automatic pop door opener and also a heat lamp if necessary.  It gets afternoon shade from a large Chinese Elm tree in the center of the yard.

There is 2 x 4 for a lip on the floor in front of the door and the pop door is raised off the floor.  This is to prevent the bedding from spilling out whenever the door opened.

I built the coop in generally the location it would stay.  We only moved it back a couple of feet to the wall once it was complete.  It is very heavy and would take 4 people to move any real distance.  Building it in the permanent spot seemed like the best option.

My daughter is artistic, and when she was 8 she helped with the project by painting murals in the coop and run before the chickens moved in.  Each chicken that she painted was a representation of one of ours at the time, including one science project chick that ended up being a rooster. I’m still unsure why the interior mural has cats, but my son named the painting “chicken nightmares.”

The food and water are kept outside in the enclosed run.  The first few years I put sand about 2 to 3 inches deep on top of the cement in the run.  It was easy on the chicken feet and fun for them to scratch in.   However, when we got Cochins, I switched to shavings to reduce the damage to the hens’ feathers on their feet.

Thoughts on what I would change after using it for more than two years:

1.  The exterior yellow paint was left over from when I painted our stucco house 3 years ago.  It is a flat paint. If I was purchasing new paint, instead of using leftovers, I would probably have chosen a semi gloss paint for the easier cleaning.  The interior is semi gloss and wipes off nicely.

2.  I would not have purchased or used OSB (oriented strand board) in the project. I don’t like the chemicals used in the manufacturing of it.  It is also very difficult to prime and paint.  I was okay with using it in the coop because my neighbors were throwing it out.  Using it kept it out of a land fill.  I only have OSB in on the roof area.

3. We started out with 6 large fowl chickens in it when I built it in 2009.  Eventually we scaled back to 3 and it was a better fit.  However, the hens were not happy when confined all day long to just the run and instead had lots of free range time.  We currently keep 4 bantam Cochins and they have enough space that they are happy whether or not they get out to free range each day.

4.  I made canvas covers for the windows to help cut down on early morning sunlight in the summer and add a little bit of a wind break for cold winter nights.

5.  When we started keeping Cochins, we switched from sand to shavings in the run.

Construction Material and Expenses

Salvaged Materials:

  • door
  • hinges
  • door handles
  • framing wood
  • OSB
  • plywood
  • 3 latches
  • wooden grooved curtain rods (roosts)
  • supports under roosts – they were feet from a discarded trellis
  • vinyl floor adhesive
  • roof underlayment
  • string
  • some trim
  • some of the screws and washers
  • primer
  • brushes
  • cans of paint
  • acrylic paints
  • locking cup hook
  • plant hooks
  • and the decorative chicken in window.

Materials from Habitat for Humanity for $42

  • siding (actually beadboard turned around
  • 2 cabinet doors
  • Trim
  • A 3rd cabinet door turned into a shutter for the south facing window.

Materials purchased new for $144.54:

  • 3 boxes of screws
  • washers
  • 2 latches
  • ½” hardware cloth
  • aluminum screening
  • plexiglass panel for pop door
  • vinyl flooring
  • shingles
  • additional primer

Coop Automatic Door Opener (appox. $70 total to get up and running)

  • Extension cord
  • Timer with multiple on off settings per day
  • Add a motor Curtain Motor (I bought it broken on ebay and fixed it myself!)
  • String
  • Pulley

© 2009 – 2012, .


Comments

The Coop — 10 Comments

  1. THANK YOU so much for sharing this with us. It was simply delightfull looking at all your pics and ideas – so weeelll done!! I enjoyed it so much I shall keep on looking. Ruth and Brian. x (UK)

  2. Just wanted you to know that I am so happy that I found your site. We live in Eugene Oregon, and are just new to chickens, I have four baby chicks, and we are looking for plans for a coop. I like the idea of having storage room under the nesting boxes. There were many other things that I liked about your coop.

    Again, thanks for sharing, and have fun with your chickens.
    LuAnne

  3. Hi, saw your chicken coop on Backyard Chickens, and I wanted to ask your permission to build a duplicate. I have a few questions. First how did you attach the 5 foot 2×4’s? I can’t really tell in your pictures. Any other plans would be greatly appreciated, my whole family is anxiously waiting me to finish so that we can start our flock. I’d also appreciate any other incite that you might have. I’ve read your blog and looked your site many times. Your back yard is awesome. My wife and I have started with quite the back yard garden also. Thanks again.

    • Hi Alex,

      There is a new book that my coop’s cut list and plans now appear in: Backyard Chickens’ Guide to Coops and Tractors: Planning, Building, and Real-Life Advice. I have a post about it.

      Leanne

  4. Hi,

    I have just enjoyed your information above. We are closing escrow on a property with 1.25 acres and an already-built older chicken house/yard that just needs cleaning. I will be starting with young chickens hopefully several weeks after we move in.

    I did want to mention that I live in Tehachapi, CA, and have spoken to the gentleman at Signature Poultry a few weeks ago. I don’t know of any such place here, but he said he does live here, has chickens here, but has mid-west hatcheries that I thought he owned (not sure). I said I’d love to visit his place and before I had to cut the call short, I think I remember that he said that would be just fine.

    I’d also like to purchase chicks locally so hope he has them here.

    Have you ever found out more about him? I can call again and see what I can find out. His business hours, I think, are until 7 p.m., which I assumed (but don’t know yet) one could visit.

    By the way, I love your set-up — where do you live — So. Cal.?

    Mary Lou
    Tehachapi, CA

    • Congrats on your new place in Tehachapi. One of my best friends grew up there, and I like the community a lot.

      Everything I have read about Signature Poultry on BYC, looked up on google maps, and found around on the internet, confirms his “hatchery” business is just reselling what he orders from out of the area hatcheries. There is nothing wrong with that, but you could order directly from the hatcheries without his additional reseller price mark ups. I just don’t like it when resellers are dishonest about where and who hatches the chicks.

      Ideal Poultry doesn’t have a minimum chick purchase, just a $25 minimum purchase, and it is easy to do a small order from them. Or, if you want a local breeder to avoid shipping stress on chicks, you would be better off finding someone that specializes in the breeds you are looking for on BYC or the Yahoo Group “California Chickens.” You have to apply for membership to Cal. chickens, and set up a contact with yahoo, but the group doesn’t mind newbies to chickens. If you want a California hatchery, I have heard many good things recently about Belt Hatchery near Fresno.

      Thanks,
      Leanne

      • Read the review(s) on this place and you won’t be too happy. I too am looking for a place that I can drive to and pick out 6 chickens and am looking towards Tehachapi and am having a very hard time. i am leaning towards Chicken Scratch farms in McLeansboro, Ill. Talked to the owner there and she was real authentic sounding and nice: but it is going to be a long wait for the chickens I would like to have, to come. ;;

  5. Leanne,

    Hi! I came across your coop after you commented on my coop on Apartment Therapy. (mine is the dark grey modern one that people seem convinced is going to be a mess in a year, LOL) I love your cute coop. As you say, after 2 years it still looks fantastic. I’m curious … I also have a sliding door similar to yours … what did you use to make it automatic? I’d like to buy something for the winter if I can. Spring, summer and fall, I can just leave the door open, but come winter I’d like to have it open and close automatically at dusk and dawn to keep their coop a bit warmer. Lemme know if you can! Thanks! ~ karen

    • I used an “Add a Motor” drapery motor for about 2 years. It normally worked fine, until recently. It broke and I had to replace it. After lots of shopping around online, I settled on the same company’s newer model designed for coop doors for $80. Price wise, it is the cheapest motor on the market, and it is easy to come by. However, I was also interested in the “Chuxaway,” from the UK.

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