Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One coop down, one more to go...

We finished my mom's chicken coop this morning in the rain. And when I say we, I mean my husband. What we expected to be a long two day project turned into more of a really long 5 day project, but damn it looks good.

To start we purchased and printed out The Garden Coop building plans. If you're a first time coop builder it's nice to have at least an idea of how someone else has done it before you go designing your own - and for the $20 the plans cost, it was well worth it.
Exterior hen boxes on The Garden Coop

Some fine lookin' hen boxes
I wanted just a little more room for the chicks, so instead of building nest boxes on the inside, we modified the plan so they would be external, which also looks super cute. Because we are in a cold climate, we also modified the plans so the 'pop door' would be on the side of the coop instead of the floor. This design modification will limit updrafts in the coop keeping my chicks just a little warmer. Keep in mind I have no actual idea what I am doing, I am regurgitating all of this information from other blogs and opinions on the internet. In theory it sounds legit though.

1 foot trench dug to bury the hardware
cloth around the coop

Get an idea of the open air top of the coop before
placing the metal roof sheets on the roof supports
Access door wide open with a view inside the coop.
The wall for the hen boxes is not quite complete and
the 8 inch drop door is currently up. You can also see the set in
2 x 4 we painted red in between the access door
and the drop door to control drafts.
We're trying out the 'deep litter' method in this coop. Basically this means we will have about 6 inches of pine shavings on the bottom of the coop and using a rake we will continually turn the chicken poop under, adding more shavings as it breaks down and begins to compost. This makes it so we will only actually clean the coop out twice a year - once in the spring and once in the fall. The shavings on the bottom of the coop will keep the chickens warmer through the winter and with proper ventilation will theoretically keep the coop dry and free of any ammonia from the poop (I am tempted to see how many times I can use the word 'poop' legitimately in this post). We can use these shavings to put right into the garden which makes an excellent compost. You would think I've been chicken farming for years with all of this knowledge I'm throwing at you; google is limitless in it's wisdom.

Because we are using this deep litter method, I added to the modifications an 8 inch drop door under the main large access door. The access door is the full width of the back of the coop allowing you to easily open it and reach in and fill waterers or feeders. When it is actually time to fully clean the coop we can simply open the access door and then use the lock to drop down the 8 inch drop door making it easy to rake out all of the bedding. The downside to this large of a door is that this is the only side of the coop that is not double walled. The doors are only made of particle board with a 2 x 4 set in between as somewhat of a door stop to block any drafts. The other problem is that this access door is on the north side of the coop which generally is the direction most cold strong winds come in. In the future we may have to consider insulating the access door and the drop door for a little more protection from the elements. Any spaces left in between boards and around the hen boxes we have filled with some type of outdoor caulk. The overall goal is to control where air is coming in and where it is leaving to have controlled ventilation and not just open drafts. Time will tell how well we have done in the execution of this.

handy man
The Garden Coop offers a really unique design - some people seem pleased with it, some think it's a terrible idea. Essentially the top of the coop is open air - between the roof and the top of the coop is a layer of hardware cloth (1/2 inch metal fencing). This allows for a maximum amount of ventilation in the coop. Of course this could be a problem in the winter - to be honest, I'm not sure if I will have to add some type of covering to the top to keep extra heat in or not. I assume we will have to make modifications as we go to retrofit for what works best for us in our area with our specific flock of hens.

Finished coop

The angle of the ramp for them to come out into the run
was a little steep so my brother added a platform halfway down

I guess the benefit of finishing my mom's coop first is we can learn from any initial mistakes. My coop is currently in the garage half done. The weather just has not been cooperative. My chicks are getting impatient and the backroom of my house is covered in a thick layer of chicken dust. What chicken dust is actually made of I have no idea, and frankly I don't want to know.


craig said...

Nice work!

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