This is part of a series of posts about building a chicken coop designed to last for a long time, be easy to maintain – and look good. See Part 1 here
Basic framework, with rafters hanging upside down to mark locations.
- The entire structure was designed with the aim of making the best use of standard size materials, beginning with a 4′ x 8′ floor size.
- Use the straightest 4×4 posts you can find – it will make the entire project go more smoothly.
- A miter saw with a sharp blade is almost a must-have tool. If you don’t already have one or can borrow one, then this project will make it a worthwhile purchase.
- This photo shows a single 2×4 across the center of the floor. This was later changed to several cross pieces in order to better support the floor, but especially to hang things like the feeder and the ramp that goes from the bottom hatch to the ground.
Detail of rafters and corners.
- Simpson Strong-ties were used throughout the project.
- There were no nails used – only stainless steel deck screws and treated Hardie Board screws.
- Steel cable and turn-buckles were used to square it up and keep it square. Remember that it will need to be moved after completion, and the cables make the coop rigid enough to safely move.
The floor, with notches cut out to fit the corner posts.
- The floor had to be cut in half (not shown here) in order to fit it into the completed framework.
- After the coop was nearly complete and in position, a hatch was cut into the floor so that the chickens could get into the ground-level section. There is also a side door giving access to an outside pen, but that is not being used at this point.
- The floor is covered with a flexible sheet of white plastic that is far easier to clean than the plywood floor would be. It came in a 4×8 sheet, so no trimming other than the corner notches was needed. (We’ll look at ease of maintenance features in a future post)
Roof before the steel outer layer was applied.
- Note that the top ridge of the roof is open. This will have a ridge vent on top.
- The underlayment is an important part of the roof – it seals the screw holes from the steel roof. In addition, silicone caulking was added around each of the screw holes.
- Be sure that it completely covers the plywood and pieces overlap according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Also shown in this photo is the removable nest box. This turned out very well. The chickens had about five months before they started laying to get used to roosting where I wanted them to roost. In past chicken coops, they would try to roost in the nest boxes, and make a mess of things.
A chicken coop can be built from almost any kind of scrap lumber and they usually are. The cheap, light-weight coops are quite popular, and for good reason – but that’s not always the best solution. I have built a number of chicken coops over the years, and each was very different from the others.
I wanted to build a chicken coop that would be my last one. It would be designed and built for the long term. I wanted it to last the rest of my life and then be used for many years after that. This is the first of an occasional series of posts describing this project in the hope that others might get some ideas from it. These were my requirements:
- Long lasting – it would be built using many of the same materials and techniques that a regular house would use.
- Easy to maintain
- Aesthetically pleasing – it sits in the back yard and is part of the landscape
- Semi-portable. Though it is stationary, I wanted to be able to relocate it if needed.
- Well ventilated – in this area, protecting chickens from overheating is a major factor
In future posts, we’ll look at some of the features that make it work – as well as a thing or two that I wish I’d done differently. We’ll also look at things like the feeder that I built that results in near-zero food waste – far better than the commercial ones.
Nest box and water tank
Inside, looking toward the nest box
Underneath, showing watering station
Nest box. Divider panel is removable, as are the two nests made from rubber water bowls
The top of the nest box is completely removable, and has hooks to hang it in place.
End view showing removable nest box and 35 gallon water tank. Wire section below the nest box is removable for access. Feeder is at this end. Metal panel is to keep rain from being blown in and spoiling the feed. A hook provides a convenient place to hold the egg basket.
In the next post, we’ll look at some photos of it as it was being built.
The Little Egg Chicken Tractor from Gardner's Supply Company
I am fascinated by chicken coop designs. Gardener’s Supply Company has something called the Little Egg Chicken Tractor. Now, I tend to be very much a do-it-yourself type, so I see something like this and think about how I could make it better (and cheaper), so it’s the basic design that I’m looking at.
It looks like they are using parts used for chain link fencing as the framework for the run. I have used those same parts to build a hawk-proof top for the “chicken nursery” where my chicks stay until they are fully grown and able to fend for themselves in the main chicken yard. It looks like it should be a very sturdy and lightweight design. My previous attempts at something like this proved to be far too heavy to be practical to move. This looks like it would work just fine.
The description says it will hold two to four chickens. I’d say that two large hens, such as Rhode Island Reds or Buff Orpingtons would be about right. It should hold four bantams just fine also, but I have found that bantams do a lot more scratching than larger hens do, so I’m afraid that they would do more damage to the ground than I’d want to see in a grass yard. For a suburban family wanting eggs a couple times a week, this just might be what they’re looking for.
One change that I would make is to change the angles on the bottom rail of the run so that when it is sitting on the ground, there is not a gap on the end where it joins to the coop. Just a little bend in the pipes should do the trick. That’s really just a minor issue though, since the ground isn’t going to be completely level, and as long as you’re moving it around regularly, they aren’t going to have time to scratch around and dig under it.
The fact that the wheels are where all the weight is would make it easy to move around. Overall, it just looks like an excellent design. I’ll have to build something like that myself and see how it comes out. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to build it yourself, you can get the whole thing directly from Gardener’s Supply Company.