Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Hey guys! It’s Scott’s (my husband…otherwise known as the “.com” of Steamy Kitchen) first post! ~Jaden
When Jaden brought home 5 fluffy new friends in July of last year, I knew a chicken coop was in our future. I wanted to design and build it myself as a fun exciting project. Little did I realize that 5 months go by very quickly when you move into a new house! When November 1st popped up on the calender, we had less than 2 months before we were expecting fresh eggs for breakfast.
When I first started doing research on our new coop I spent a great deal of time on Back Yard Chickens looking for ideas and suggestions. We owe a great deal of credit to the people who were willing to share their coop photos. All of them gave me tips, ideas and inspiration. We are grateful for their willingness to share their passion and work. Our girls would not have such a lovely home if it were not for the sharing of these people!
In that spirit, I wanted to create a pictorial showing how we made our coop. If you have any questions on how something was done, please ask and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.
We wanted to make sure our coop met the following requirements:
I probably spent the better part of two weeks of late night web surfing to gather ideas and develop a plan of attack. I checked, double checked and cross referenced everything from space per bird requirements, Deep Litter Method (DLM), nesting box sizes, roost length, building codes, roofing solutions, predator proofing, waterproofing, drainage ideas, working with concrete, to using explosive nailers. I must admit the internet is a wonderful tool.
At this point I would like to add my *** Disclaimer ***: I am not, nor have I ever been an architect nor structural engineer. The plans and designs I created are from my understandings of things required to meet the objectives of my coop. They have not been approved by a certified engineer to meet certain hurricane, earthquake, volcanic, flooding, nuclear blast or other natural disaster sized forces. While every effort to make a safe environment for our chickens, some things may have been overlooked as we are novice chicken coop builders. Please note that no chicken was harmed during the making of this coop and all testing was done in very controlled manner were no chicken was ever placed in danger.
I spent a fair amount of time looking for plans online. It seemed I was unable to located any free plans that seemed to meet what we needed. So I decided to use Google’s 3D modelling tool SketchUp to create a working model for our coop. It allowed me to spin the diagram in any direction and adjust it as I saw fit. It did take a while to get used to it, but the time spent in the learning curve was more than worth it during the construction phase. I can send you two files from SketchUp with the plans for the coop if you are interested. The first is the rough framing, while the second is the finished framing after the hardware cloth is installed. Please leave a comment or send me a private message and I will email them to you.
Click here for a zip file containing the SketchUp plans.
If the zip file does not work for you, here are the two individual files for downloading. You must download and install Google’s SketchUp program for these files to work.
I decided on the following features for our coop:
The entire structure is 12 ft by 6 ft. The coop measures 4 ft by 6 ft. The roof has a 1 ft overhang on all sides which gives us a 14 ft by 8 ft roof. The coop floor is approximately 30 inches above the run floor.
One of the biggest concerns I had was dealing with the potential flooding of the area surrounding the chicken coop. This past summer we had so much rain that the ground in the area became completely saturated. The ground was like a sponge and when you walked on it, you would sink an inch and water would flow around your boots. There was a concrete pad already poured where we wanted to build the coop, but we wanted to use that for a future shed or work area for the garden that is part of the same area. I made the decision to pour a footer attached to the existing pad to build the coop up on. This would raise the coop about 6 inches higher leaving room for drainage, even if the ground became completely saturated again.
It’s important during this step to make sure everything is square and level. After framing the footer I added rebar and drainage stones to help facilitate water flowing out of the chicken coop.
I mixed and poured the concrete using a mixer rented from Home Depot. If you’re wondering, the footer was 6 feet wide by 12 feet long and 6 inches across. The 24 linear feet took over 1/2 ton of concrete. Mix it with a mixer, or better yet, call a concrete company and have them deliver your required concrete premixed. Your back will thank you!
When I went to remove the forms, I noticed this in the concrete.
It seems Jaden let the chickens out some time after I poured the cement before it had cured sufficiently. I found the guilty party not to far away with her concrete shoes. Even to this day she is claiming her innocence and blames it on Chicken Little.
Before I poured the concrete I had inserted a four foot section pvc pipe on the lowest part of the coop. I cut, drilled and assembled pvc pipe to act as a drain if a sever downpour occurred. The holes are about 2 inches apart.
Another view of drainage system.
I ordered a 1/2 cubic yard of gravel and a cubic yard of sand from a local aggregate company. They were kind enough to deliver it right to my driveway much cheaper than buying a huge number of bags at the local home improvement store (not to mention the numerous trips it would have taken to carry the weight). I used the gravel to build up the floor of the coop. Later it will be covered with weed prevention cloth and then the sand will be added. This put the “floor” of the coop at least six inches higher than the surrounding ground. Hopefully this will keep the ladies’ feet dry.
Framing was new to me. I had a general idea on how things were supposed to go, but no real framing experience. I did spend some time looking for nailing requirements and and how best to secure the coop to the foundation. During this research I came across a great deal of information on basic framing. I printed out images from the sketch-up and used them as a reference to cut all of the framing pieces. After cutting, the family pitched in to help pre-stain all the pieces. We used a good water sealant stain and made sure we had good coverage on all the pieces, especially the ones that would have direct contact with the concrete.
I was fortunate enough to have family help stain the wood.
The process of cutting and staining all the pieces took much longer than anticipated. Painting or staining after assembly might have been easier and faster. Might be something to consider.
Framing took several days. Keep in mind if you are working by yourself use numerous clamps and braces to keep everything where it is supposed to be.
After getting the initial walls and roof beams up, I used a powder activated nailer to secure the kick plates to the concrete putting a fastener about every foot. Probably more than I needed, but I was enjoying the process so a few extra fasteners never hurt. I had to vary the loads of powder if I was nailing into the concrete pad or the footer.
And another view from the opposite side. From this angle it is a little easier to see the coop floor is tilted towards the side where the door will go.
I cut the coop floor from plywood and then started installing the 1/2″ hardware cloth.
It’s a pretty straight forward job of measuring, cutting and then installing the hardware cloth. I used an automatic stapler to secure the cloth to the framing. Later it will be sandwiched between the framing and the finish framing piece. An automatic staple gun is an absolute must during this phase.
I then installed the finish framing pieces that were designed to hold the cloth in place.
These pieces help secure the cloth on the inside of the coop.
I also installed the roof sheathing at this time to help keep some of the rain out. I left some of the finish framing pieces off till after installing the walls.
Framed out where the hen door was going.
And also the nesting boxes. The boxes themselves measure about 14 inches across, 16 inches tall and 12 inches deep. You can’t tell from the picture, but the floor of the nesting boxes is tilted towards the coop so water will flow out when cleaning. Notice the gap between floor of nesting box and the retaining board. You can also see the sloped coop floor pretty well in this picture. Also note that the nesting boxes are up about 6 inches off the floor to allow for the DLM.
I picked up some very inexpensive vinyl flooring tiles from the local home improvement store. They were quick and easy to install and hopefully will help when cleaning out the coop.
Here is a picture of the removable stopper blocks.
And with them removed as if we were cleaning the coop out.
Built and mounted the main access door.
Other side of door.
I also built the access ramp.
It is secured using four eye bolts. The two on the bottom of the ramp have been cut using a hack saw to make hooks. The ramp can be removed and washed off with a hose. I didn’t install this till after I had the walls up on the coop, but I wanted to show it to you here.
The coop walls are built with simple siding sheets found at Lowes. They are shiplap boards that have an overlapping edge on them. I decided to build the panel, install them on the coop, trim and then stain the boards. Most of the trim pieces are 1 x 4 strip. I choose the strip over the normal 1 x 4 boards because they were much cheaper and already had the rounded edge. Surprisingly the strip boards actually had very few knots and were fairly straight. I had to cut two of the finish framing pieces to install the ventilation and siding above the coop door. I had forgotten the roof would hang down and interfere with the door opening. Using a skill saw set at the appropriate depth this wasn’t a major issue.
I also secured a 2×4 to act as my door stop as well as my support for the siding. The ventilation holes were created using a 2″ hole saw and covered with 1/2″ hardware cloth.
Next, I built the coop door and trimmed it.
Here is a close up of the back of the door showing the hardware cloth sandwiched between siding and trim pieces.
Then installed it on the coop.
Then the same process for the rest of the sides.
Back coop wall installed.
Nesting box side.
Chicken ramp side wall.
Stained inside and out. Seems Nathan decided he liked to pretend he was a hen checking out the new coop.
Built the nesting box cover out of siding and some trim pieces I had laying around. I used an extra trim piece that will attach to the wall to create an overhang. Hopefully this will help reduce or eliminate water leaking into the coop from the nesting boxes. I will also put weather sealing around the rim to help make it water tight. There is also a lip on the bottom of the siding around the nesting boxes, but it might be hard to see in this picture.
Installed the missing finish framing pieces under the coop. This is a good view of where the concrete pad and footing are connected. Using the pre-existing pad helped reduce the amount of concrete in this project. The coop height also gives the chicken’s adequate headroom.
I put weed block cloth down to prevent weeds from growing up through the floor and more importantly, preventing the sand from washing down through the rocks. It will also allow water to seep through into the drainage system.
Put sand around the edges to hold it in place.
Then I moved this cubic yard of sand…
Into the coop. In the end I think I ended up with a little less than 6 inches of base sand on top of a four inch rock base.
Built and painted the gutter. At fourteen feet, the gutter was going to be multiple pieces. It was pretty straight forward as far as assembly goes, but it did give me reason to pick up a pop-rivet tool. I always enjoy picking up new tools!
Installed it on the edge of the coop. I debated about building wedges to make the gutter parallel with the ground, but decided the 10 degree difference between roof and ground could be accounted for in the mounting. When I mounted the gutter to the coop I realized the lower end would be below the drip edge from the roof. I cut a piece of aluminum from the unused portion of gutter and painted it. It was installed overlapping the back of the gutter but will be under the drip edge from the roof.
Then I papered the roof and put down the 1×4 stripping to give breathing room.
Following a suggestion from this post on how to install a metal roof, I laid the metal roof out on the lawn to determine where the ribs would be in comparison to where the edge would be. I trimmed the roof on both side edges to ensure I would not have a rib where the edging would be.
Then installed the roofing on the coop. If you have never installed any type of roofing, plan for some extra time in this step. Be careful and think safety. Winds can be dangerous when handling these large metal sheets and the edges are very sharp.
The final stretch was finishing the nesting boxes and installing the roost bar. The chickens seemed to enjoy the temporary bar I was using for their roost, so I rounded the edges a little and left it unstained. No real reason why, I just liked it that way. I also think it was easier for the chickens to see. Seems they were having trouble accurately judging a stained one I had in there during hours of low light.
I used some trim pieces to give the nesting boxes a little more cozy feel. I am pretty sure the girls didn’t care one way or the other, but I like the look of them with the trim in place.
Here’s a view from the outside showing the trim pieces. My wife and kids added the fake wooden eggs to give the girls a hint of what they are supposed to do and where to do it.
Built and installed the coop door. The rope is pulled from the front to open the door and is hooked on to a cleat to keep it open. We leave it open most of the time, closing it during very windy or cold nights. I used some furniture slides on the door inside the track to help it move easily.
Close up of the door. When the door is closed it does extend a bit below the door opening to help prevent little racoon fingers from trying to open the door (in theory at least).
Here is the cleat for holding the door open.
We also hung a little child’s rake on the outside and use this to help turn under the poop or spread new wood chips in the coop. Very handy!
We moved the girls in and they seem very happy.
You can read about our first egg-perience here: Our First Egg.
And here is one of the recipes she used our fresh eggs in: Crepes with Salted Lemon Butter Caramel.
I’m really happy how things are going so far. I’ll keep you posted as we progress.