Friday, January 30, 2009

More on Chicken Coop Construction

After writing about how our chickens thrive in their simple unheated, uninsulated house in the winter, I wanted to write a bit more about how our chicken coop is put together (first part of the story here).

A piece of 4x4 holds their yard gate open in the photo - it also holds the gate closed at night or during the summer. The gate has a wire-covered opening so we can look inside before opening it. The chickens are always looking to get out, and sometimes we don't want that, so it's nice to be able to see if anyone is lurking, waiting to make a run for it. In the winter, I let them out to roam the rest of our lot, but in the summer they'll do too much damage to my plantings so they're confined to their yard. You can see the sun shining through the ventilation gaps between the floor planks at the bottom of the back wall. In front, the unpainted skirting is easily removed when it's time to rake out the droppings pit.

The chickens have their own door, opening out into their yard. The door is hinged at the bottom and when open rests on a couple of cement support blocks. The blocks also support a ramp made from the end of a wooden pallet. Above their door is a rotating block of wood with a cantilevered part that can hold the door closed, but most of the time we use an invention I like even better .

In the photo above, a rope runs from the left side of the door and up through the wall. It's not for support. The rope continues through the building, passing through a support ring, and on out a hole on the other side. There, a big knob on the end stops the rope from falling back through. At night, once I'm sure everybody is back inside (in the summer the guineas are the last to come home to roost - they like it up on the highest roost next to the window, so I'll peer through that window to count little white faces), I close the door by pulling on the rope. Aries affixed a block with a vertical notch to the wall, right where the rope reaches when the door is closed, with a large screw that extends out from the block. A second block, with notch only half-way across, slides on to lock the knob into place, holding the rope tight. It's proved to be raccoon-proof, and I like it because a quick look down from the house lets me confirm that Aries remembered to let the chickens out for the day.

The "people" door to the coop is on the other side, outside the yard. Chickens are very messy creatures. They poop in their sleep, so walking into the chicken house isn't something we want to do on a regular basis. But we wanted the coop tall enough for us to stand up inside. We need to go in when one of the birds dies, to occasionally push droppings off the planks into the pit, at night when I want to catch our flyers to clip wings, or to place a feeder and water dish on the rare occasions the weather is too nasty for them to go out sometime during the day. To the right of our door, two hinged drop-down doors allow access to the four nest boxes. We can collect the eggs without having to go inside.

Chickens like dark little private spaces to lay their eggs, so inside the coop we've faced the nest boxes with some heavy upholstery material sliced into strips. Chickens like laying where others lay, so I use golf balls as nest eggs. I think both having the nest boxes dark, and the hard golf balls inside, helps deter egg-eating.

Part of the fun of having backyard chickens is designing a place for them to stay. I hope this post gives you some ideas you might like to use. I'm thinking about relocating our coop to up by the garage, just past the woodpile. Then I'd only have to shovel snow for only one path in the winter. It would put the coop farther from the garden, which might help save some of my plantings, but then we'd have to haul the droppings farther to get them into the compost. Decisions, decisions - I like playing around with our homestead design.


Annette said...

Thank you for more specifics on your coop design. I hope to have one constructed this spring. =)


Nancy M. said...

I would like to have a hinged lid like that so I wouldn't have to go inside the coop to get the eggs. Maybe I can talk the hubby into putting me one in.