As promised, a post about the building of our chicken coop. No lessons or measurements or blueprints because it's been a while now. Just lots of pictures and a few words. Or a bunch of words. I don't know yet! How exciting.
Step 1: Get chicks. I suppose it would be smarter to build the coop before getting chicks, but really, there's nothing quite like a tub full of ever-growing, increasingly-smelly little fowl to motivate one to build a coop. Especially in Michigan in March. Below is their second home, as they'd outgrown the box in the basement, and I'd outgrown my tolerance for stinky birds indoors. (Note: when given room, say, in a coop, chickens are NOT stinky, or at least not usually.)
Step 2: Decide where you want your footings. Decide on the size of your coop. Decide on basically everything because a coop is not something you can build-as-you-go, unless you want it to look like a third-world outhouse. Ours was 5'x5' on a slope near the compost bin. Dig your holes for your 4x4 posts, if that's how you're designing it. We dug ours about 1.5-2' deep, I think.
Be sure you have plenty of help. That dirt could have blown away in an instant, seriously. She held it down nicely.
Step 3: Put your posts in and cement in place with Quickcreat. Use a level to make sure they're straight! That quick setting concrete really does set up in minutes. Amazing!
Step 4: Now start building the platform. We opted for a raised coop for several reasons. 1. better protection from predators, 2. Better air circulation in the summer, 3. A built-in outdoor shelter beneath the coop so the girls can still be outside on rainy days, 4. It just sounded like more fun. I mean, if I were a chicken I'd want a cool tree-house coop, wouldn't you? Ok, lots of ways to frame the platform, but this was what worked for us. Metal thingies and screws and 2x4s.
Again, lots of help. Have children if you have to, because they're great with power tools.
Another reason for building a raised coop: the platform makes a great stage! Until the walls go up.
Which leads to Step 5: Frame in the walls! This is where a plan is quite helpful. Know where your windows will be, nesting box, door, door to the run, etc. A nesting box you can access from outside the coop is a big plus, as are windows that open from the outside. And a door that opens from the outside, since chickens can't open doors very well.
Step 6: Time to add walls! You *could* stick plywood over the whole thing, if you're going for that "Outhouse Chic" but we opted for bead board. Notice the nesting box base. It's removable for cleaning! Am I smart or what? This is the point where you'll start to think, "D@mn, this is awesome! And I'm putting
in here? I want to live in this!"
Step 7: Add those little details: windows, nesting boxes, the drop door the chickens will use to access the run. Unless your coop is tall enough to stand up in, do as much of this before putting the roof on as possible. Or, if it's snowing, the roof might be better put on now. Hmmm.
The drop door is on a pulley system with the cord coming out by the nesting boxes. Perfect for easy access, though we've found we usually just leave it open in the summer and closed in the winter. If they didn't have a fenced run, however, we'd close the door at night. Raccoons are nasty beasties with a taste for chicken.
Step 8 (I think): The birds will need a way to get up into the coop, so you'll need to build a ramp with something on to help their slippery chicken feet grip.
All done! Um. Not really.
Because don't you want to Paint it?!? See below the nesting box and the cord that operates the drop door.
Step 9: Think through the interior. Is plywood water resistant? No. Will it be getting wet? Hello, do chickens pee? Yes, yes they do. Cover the floor with something that will be easy to clean. And cheap. We opted for self-stick tiles. Sadly this made the kids sort of jealous.
Step 10: The fun stuff! Ok, it's all fun, but here you get to think of the little details. How will the chickens eat? What will they drink? After weeks of cleaning out poppy-bedding-filled waterers, we opted for 5 gal buckets with Poultry Nipples in them. Drill holes in a bucket and try not to think about Dear Liza and her issues with holes in buckets. Poor Henry. Below a nipple wrapped in a bit of plumber's tape:
The drill bit used to drive the nipples.
The nipple dripping water nicely.
And chickens need food. They tend to perch (and poop) on anything that's stationary, so hanging food from a chain does wonders. It keeps them from perching (and pooping) on their food bucket. Always a good thing.
Finally, rig up some roosts high enough to keep the birds happy, and make them sturdy! Because these Mother Cluckers get BIG! Here's our happy flock several months after moving in. Pine shavings on the floor, and yes, the nesting boxes have curtains. Girls need a little privacy, you know. Seriously though, curtains will help keep the birds from pecking at/eating the eggs or sleeping in the boxes. The sleeping-in thing is serious, as birds do an obscene amount of pooping while sleeping. We closed off the nests altogether until the girls were ready to lay.
Add a run (unless you plan to totally free range, though do remember that thing about perching and pooping - your deck may never be the same) and you have a healthy habitat for happy chickens!
Oh! I wanted to add: the total cost of this project was about $200-250, largely because we got many of our supplies free or cheap off Craigslist. After a year plus of use, the coop still looks bright and cheery. We ended up installing a heat lamp and running a cord out to keep it warmer in the winter, and put a birdbath deicer in the water pail. Happy chickens all winter long!