Beau June 28th, 2010
Finally… the chickens are in their new home. Seven weeks… arrrgghhh! The coop is, for the most part, about finished. It’s been mostly done for a week or so now, but I’m still fiddling with the little things. Remind me not to custom build something ever again. I’m still deciding where to put the roosts, and need to build nest boxes by the end of August. Between the measuring, cutting little pieces, painting and trimming out… it just takes time. But it’s kind of cute…
I’m soooo glad it’s about done. Except for the windows and the chicken door (and the roof), it’s totally insulated. Yesterday I spent the entire day building the little chicken door! I feel like such a klutz sometimes, because it takes so dang long. For whatever reason I think I should just be able to zip through it. But the simplest, smallest things seem to take forever sometimes.
If I had it to do over, I would research more thoroughly and investigate various plans and details a little more! But I’ve enjoyed putting this one together.
That little door has nine small pieces of trim and wood all around it. I thought about making this on the inside, but decided it would keep rain and critters out better if it was built on the outside. It slides in a wooden track, with the horizontal trim pieces moving up and down. The bottom has trim in front and behind… when you push on it, it hits a lip on the coop and is blocked from pushing in.
The top has a trim piece and a cap… the door hangs from that top cap piece so it’s slightly raised and won’t sit on the outer trim and rot when it gets wet. I’ll put a hook-eye scew in the top to attach the pull cable, which will run to the left and outside the fence. We (the boy!) will be able to walk up and open and close the door with the cable.
Someday I’d love to install a battery operated, light-sensitive automatic chicken door with a solar charger… there are a few of those for sale on the web, but I’m not inclined to spend $200-$300 on them! If I learn a little more about electronics maybe I could make one. Big learning curve for me… For now, I like the idea of personal involvement with the chickens in terms of responsibility, and helping the boy to learn the same. Hope that lasts :)
I designed the outer nest box door to open down, and it has spring loaded hinges to help stay closed. But the door is double-wall insulated and weighs about thirty pounds, so it will need a chain to hold it flat after opening it.
It’s cool though- because you can peek inside and say hello to the chickies. Maybe even fill their feeder with a little reach. I’m thinking about putting in 2-3 roosts going across from above and to the side of the big door, across to the back wall… what do you think? Any other ideas for roosts? I’d like to make them removable… easier to clean and get around inside.
They should start laying by the end of August or September, so I’ve got a little time for nest boxes yet. And I don’t want them roosting in them now. The windows have 1/4 inch galvanized hardware cloth as screens, and are built open for ventilation. After that tremendous rainstorm last night the inside of the coop stayed dry, hooray! I’ll need to make hinged windows or something by October, so they can stay cozy in the winter. Any ideas?
I didn’t run electrical wiring into the coop, which I may regret… but an extension cord will reach to the coop from the house if I need to put a light or heated water bowl in there. It wouldn’t be hard to place an outlet box and run some wiring out the bottom and underneath, but we’ll see how it goes this year first.
Overall it should be fine, ’cause it’s the only coop we’re going to have! At least for keeping less than a dozen chickens. If we had more chickens like a lot of folks, I would definitely build it full size (taller), and a good ways back from the house. As it is, we’ll end up with about eight hens and a rooster- which should work fine to keep within a hose length from the back of the home. After living in a smaller space in the shed next door, they don’t smell at all. Just a little dusty normal chicken odor. I’ve heard the key is keeping them dry, so we’ll see. But we can easily crawl inside from the two doors, although that skinny one is kinda tight for you-know-who… But it will make access for the nest boxes easier as well as helping with clean-up.
The doors are heavy… built with 2×4’s and insulated with two walls. They weigh between 30-60 pounds (14-27 kg), so I used 2 -1/2 inch lag bolts for the hinges into the 2×4 frames, and they swing beautifully. Again, if I did it over- that left door would be a little wider. It provides decent access, but I have the laying boxes in there and it’s a tight fit. The idea was right, but I ran out of room by putting the door in towards the left so far. Lesson learned! You can get a better start than I did by reviewing some excellent plans online :) But overall I think it turned out pretty well.
One of these days I’ll build the run… I’ve been letting the chickens have “the run” of the garden, which they love… but our plants are suffering a little from their stomping and pecking around.
I like watching them wander around, although the other day they came sauntering up beside our little Shiba dog while he was asleep… He was on a cable, but I didn’t expect them to come out to the front side of the house. It seems and they wanted to see what I was doing… I froze and waited for them to get past the dog and come to me. Just as they moved out of reach, the dog woke up and stared, eyes wide, as if to say, “Oh man! I could have had one!” He licked his lips and whined… he would grab one of those chickens in a second if he could.
So I locked the dog in the garage and went back out to herd the chickens into the garden/coop area. The yellow lab is definitely not a herd dog… he thinks it’s great fun to run around with the chickens which is probably why they weren’t afraid of the other dog. Here’s the motley crew…
Oh, and I figured out that Captain Jack the black rooster is an Australorp. He was in a bin mixed with other unknowns from the hatchery. Have to say he’s becoming a pretty decent fellow and is already crowing in the mornings at 12 weeks old. So is Little Red, the other rooster, but he sounds kind of sick when he tries to crow! We’re going to give one of the roosters away, but haven’t decided which one for sure. They are both beautiful birds… but Jack seems a little more calm than the New Hampshire Red rooster.
It was great to have the boy helping yesterday… and at the end of the day we put the chickens in the coop for the first time. He stayed inside with a little scratch (corn, millet, mixed seeds) which is like candy to chickens. Most of them ran right inside, but I had to catch a few more. Just as we were cleaning up, we heard thunder in the distance… (something Ed has experienced too much of lately!). He said “Dad! Look at the clouds and take a picture!” And he wanted to put it up here to share…
No sooner had we gone inside than a huge storm came through. We really needed the rainfall and it helped cool things off a bit. Good for the chickens because they’re going to stay inside their new home for a couple of days!