In 2007 we would daydream about owning an island with a double shower. We thought we wanted to lay around on a beach all day. Over the years, we have realized that we like to work. We like to build, maintain and improve the things around us and to then share our spaces with great friends and family. (Not that a week or two on the beach doing nothing sounds terrible…) Cultivating the right vibe in both of our apartments and now our home has definitely been a lot of work, and a bit of a pain at times, but overwhelmingly, it has been such a joy. This chicken coop is a crucial part of our vision for the farm. The idea of walking down Fruit Tree Alley in the morning to check on the birds and bring in fresh eggs for breakfast is a dream. One that should come true in a few months. The chickens are now three months old and thriving. Here’s some photos of how we built it! Roman designed it in his head, drew it out so I could understand and we built it together.
Of course, in building our chicken setup we did more than daydream about collecting tasty fresh eggs. Many common aspects of keeping poultry were considered, and the design, placement, and end execution was a result of all these factors combining with research. We have a fairly small flock (12 at the time of planning the coop), but birds come and go. Since then, we ate two of the roosters and have separated the Star Spangled Hamburgs for breeding (which means more chickens 🙂 ) — so our solution had to be flexible. We went with a yard that was 12×16 feet, and a coop that’s 6x6x6.
Chicken poop stinks, and roosters don’t just crow in the morning. Because of this, and the ease of access our gravel road provides, the coop is placed in the back corner of the yard, with the coop’s lay box access butting up to the road. After tending to the garden each morning, Roman ends up at the coop to refill water and feed, and snag some eggs. This placement works perfect for us, but may not be right for everyone… when picking a spot for your coop, make sure it’s easily accessible. If tending to the birds is a hassle, I know I’m less likely to do it and so would Roman.
The lower part of the coop is cut out inside the yard, to provide shade, and as a place to hang the food and water, while the other side acts outside-accessible storage for feed, wood chips, feeders, and other accessories. Keeping feeders and water off the ground inside the yard makes a huge difference in how fast the chickens will foul them up, and having extra supplies on hand is great.
The upper portion of the coop is where the chickens roost. We covered the floor with adhesive linoleum, and use 1/2″ chipped wood floor covering. There’s a 8×10 inch door cut in the side, with a ladder they use for access, and the roost itself is completely off the ground for easy raking of the wood chips. When Roman rakes out the coop, he just adds the soiled mulch to the flooring in the yard. In the yard we use the “deep litter” method for substrate, and our chicken yard has become the intermediate stop for all edible greens before heading to the compost. The chickens do a great job of breaking it down, and turning over the mulch. There’s just about zero smell from this as well! The back of the coop is lined with 5 lay boxes, which are accessible through a sizable door on the outside. We have realized… this is way more than enough lay boxes and currently all our hens prefer to use the same box, leaving the other 4 completely unused. Roman had read from many sources that you don’t need that many lay boxes – and we probably should have taken the advice. Live & learn.
The yard is surrounded by 7 foot tall fence, covered in 1×2 welded wire mesh. It’s fine enough so even small birds don’t squeeze out (chicks probably could though), but beefy enough to keep predators (and an excitable mastiff) from busting through. At the time of writing there is no solid roof, just shade cloth covering the top, but before winter comes a hard top will be added to keep the yard from becoming a mud pit once the rainy season starts.