Monday, May 2, 2016

The Chicken Coop

Yes, I have finally succumbed to the lure of chickens. The gateway animal is coming to the homestead. Am I nervous? Yes. Why? Because everyone says once you have chickens, it's nearly inevitable that you get other critters. And Chris already wants goats. Goats! We waited a long time to add a livestock type animal to our property. First we traveled too much - being gone every weekend pretty much excludes having animals that require daily care yet can't travel with you; then we were just too busy concentrating on getting the house built; then we made lots of other excuses; and now we're ready.

I looked at Backyard ChickensCobble Hill Farm, and The Hen Cam for inspiration and requirements for the coop. Got some ideas and guidelines for making a coop that would help keep the chickens healthy and comfortable. Then I started having fun with the design work.

Oddly, it was pretty easy to take care of the birds requirements. After that, I could concentrate on making something that I'd like to look at everyday. I wanted a cute building shaped like a traditional bird house (or corn crib). And I wanted fun paint. And of course I wanted it to be large enough that I could stand inside it for easy cleaning.

Just the first version of the paint job 
I figured out the dimensions, shape, and materials. I colored several mockups to pick a paint scheme. Then I broke out the Lego's to make sure the platform made sense. I love lego's - we used them to design the Nest and the house. Amazing what a 3-D rendering can help you decide.

Almost fully designed
Then we priced out the materials and I went "what???". $1,000 to build a coop? Okay, actually that makes sense. That's about how much we spent to build our storage shed which was about the same size. Except, what if I hated having chickens? Did I really want to invest a grand up front? No.

So we looked around the property at what we already owned and realized that we had a gateway coop for our gateway animals. When we built the Nest we had to set up a latrine (NOT an outhouse - there was no pit dug). Basically we used the bucket method of waste collection (see this if you really want to know). No ickiness ever touched the wood. Honest. Anyway, when we built the house and graduated to an honest-to-goodness septic system, the latrine became my garden shed (see, no ickiness!).  And now it will have a new life as a chicken coop. If it turns out I love having chickens, then I'll build a better coop. 

First we emptied it out and moved it up to the garage so we could work on coop adaptations.
Taking measurements
Ultimately we needed to remove the ill-fitting door, clean out the interior, add nest boxes, a pop door, another window, roosts, and lots of hardware cloth.
Making room for the new door
Putting it back together
Lots of progress has been made - the new door is on and the coop is actually in its final resting place. I've got to paint, add more hardware cloth, attach a covered area off the pop door, and figure out fencing, but it's coming along and we'll be ready for chickens in early summer. I'm planning to purchase pullets since I don't have a setup for baby chicks. More pictures to follow when it's all ready!

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