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One of our Spring and Summer projects has been chickens!!! We kept talking about how we wanted to get some, but we never took the plunge. Most people would get a coop figured out before getting their feathery friends…but us? Nope! We decided that if we got the chicks first, then we’d be forced to figure out the coop situation and we wouldn’t keep putting it off…lol…maybe not the most recommended method, but it worked for us :D.
When we moved into our house a couple years ago, the previous owners left a strange building in the back yard. We don’t know what it was for—some critter of some sort. We decided to take it apart and repurpose the materials for our chicken coop. With how high wood prices have been recently, we thought it’d be a great way to recycle, reuse and save some money. All in all, the coop cost us about $96.00, and $48.00 of that was a gallon of outdoor paint!
We did some research to figure out square footage needs, roosting needs, nest box needs, etc., and sifted through several different designs to figure out what we wanted to do. We picked and chose different aspects of different coops that we saw and created our own design with exactly what we wanted—the world was our oyster!
I’m not a builder, but I can tell you that as “honorable” as it is to recycle and reuse, doing so with wood is hard!! Especially wood that’s been primarily nailed together (face palm). Screws people! Use Screws!!!
Despite the nails, the disassembly went fairly smoothly, with the exception of Yours Truly deciding it was a good idea to remove the roof alone, slightly bending our ladder…woops (face palm…again…).
After we had all the pieces apart, we measured out our new dimensions, making sure to discard any wood that was rotting. I didn’t want it quite as tall or as long as the original, and also wanted to put it on stilts so that the girls could hang out under the coop.
The original windows were screwed into the wooden walls and sealed (Yay! At least they were screwed!!! :D). I had read that coops need lots of ventilation and airflow, so I removed the windows and reattached them with hinges so that they could open. We stretched ¼ inch hardware cloth over the windows, wanting something more durable than screen in case a fox decided to jump through the window…
The original building had a ceiling. We cut the ceiling out so that we could screen the eves with hardware cloth, allowing crossflow in the “upstairs” portion of the coop.
We had some left over deck stain from refinishing our front porch last year, so we stained the floor to hopefully help cleaning go a little more smoothly. In the future, we may end up putting a sheet of vinyl flooring down…not sure yet though.
We also decided to paint the walls dark green so that it’d blend into the environment a little better. Plus, we love dark green 😊. We primed the walls first, then painted with a glossy, outdoor-friendly paint.
Next, we worked to level the ground where the coop would rest. We brought the base over and attached the stilts and cross sections to stabilize it. Then, it was just reassembling. We put all the pieces back together.
We decided to make 4 nest boxes for our coop so that we can grow a larger flock down the road.
After attaching the nest boxes, we were able to fasten ¼ inch hardware cloth to the upper eves. We dug a 1-foot deep trench around the base of the coop and stretched ½ inch hardware cloth—we wanted to make sure that critters couldn’t dig under the coop and attack our precious Layers. We built a small door into the lower section to let the girls out during the day. I wanted it big enough that I could crawl in there if I needed to (like to build them a swing…yes, I definitely did that 😉).
When it came to the roosting area, I knew that I wanted something that was easily removable for cleaning. Chickens poop a LOT at night when they’re sleeping 😉. We decided that, because the coop is pretty tall inside, we’d make a removable “second” floor. It’s kind of like a drawer, with handles on the outside so that you can slide the floor out and scrape off the poo to clean it. We used some oak branches from a recently fallen tree for our roost bars.
The final step to the coop itself was building a ramp from the floor down to the ground underneath the coop. My brother recommended that we make the ramp liftable, so that we have the option to secure it up at night if we need to. It took a little finagling with the way the floor had been put together on the original building, but we got it handled.
Last, but not least, we got a food and water system figured out. This part cost nearly as much the whole rest of the coop because of the PVC pipes that we used. We spent close to $80.00 just on the food and water system! But it works great, and we have been able to leave for a week-long vacation without having to worry about them running out! We got our watering cups on Amazon and they work well. We had to wrap the snot out them with plumber’s tape so that they wouldn’t leak, but from reading other reviews, that is quite common for this kind of watering cup.
We decided to use Aspen chips for our bedding material for the girls. Pine is commonly used, but in our readying, we found that the sap can be toxic over the long term, so we chose the Aspen. It’s a little more expensive, but we opted to give it a try. I buy the Aspen bedding at Chewy.com.
Another thing that we decided to add to the coop was this awesome solar-powered light. We don’t have electricity out where the coop is, so this light is just magical for our overnight lighting needs. I painted ours with red paint so that it’s not quite so harsh. I highly recommend it! I’ve heard that the key to happy, laying hens in the winter is light, even at night. We haven’t gotten to winter yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Once everything was set up, it was time to put the girls in their new home. Success! For the first week, they were only in the house portion. I went out every evening and physically placed each bird on the roost bars so that they would get used to sleeping up here. For the second week, we let them down into the under/stilted portion. Over these couple of weeks, we did build a nice, tall fence around their outside area, so for the third week, we finally let them out into this outer space (we can’t let them be fully free range because of our predator situation where we live).
For added security, we took an old VHS video tape (I chose Scream…yuk) and strung the tape around the top of the fenced in area. We used to do this in Africa. It flutters in the wind, and the shimmer deters predators of the sky from swooping down for some dinner. So far, it’s worked wonderfully!
It’s been a really fun project, and I’m happy to announce that we started getting our first eggs at the beginning of August and are now getting about 5 eggs a day!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and our process. Thanks for stopping by, Friends!
P.S. I also recently made curtains for the girls… 😉