Once we had our chicks, it was time to put a rush on building the coop. They grow incredibly fast and within a few weeks we were already upgrading their plastic bin to the largest size they had at the store.
Then began the debate of do we build a coop or buy a coop? Do we buy the plans online to build it ourselves? Or do we retro fit one of our outstanding buildings into housing for the little ladies? Being first time chick parents we decided we best build it from scratch so that its fully protected from predators and set up as conveniently as possible since we both hold full-time jobs 30 min away.
We purchased two books, neither of which provided very friendly building plans, so my husband did what anyone would do and picked up a case of beer and loaded the truck full of lumber one Friday night and started building. We decided on 4 nesting boxes because we had 12 chickens. We added 3 windows, and 2 single hinge hanging doors kiddie corner from each other.
Other than that, we did not have a plan and used lots of trial and error. I recommend coming up with a plan before you start!
Simplified Coop Tips:
- Build it bigger than you planned. Always go bigger
- Use treated lumber only on the very bottom of the coop (chickens peck everything).
- Plan lots of ventilation points with windows and eves
- Use Hardware Cloth not chicken wire!! Very Important!! Chicken wire will keep birds in, but it won’t keep predators out.
- Use laminate/vinyl to cover your floor to make cleaning easier
- Lots of Latches! Our coop looks like a jail cell
- Make it as light weight as you can so it can be moved easily
- Make your roosts out of old 2×4’s not round branches. Chickens sit better on small flat surfaces and keep their feet warm better with these types of roosts.
- Consider the location of your coop. Make it convenient to get to.
We also didn’t plan on the fact that winter would soon come and we would need to put a heated base under our water to keep it from freezing. Not a big deal, we just ran an extension cord out to the coop. Problem is we predator proofed our coop so much we didn’t put any small holes to run a plug through and had to make one. Consider adding a small opening (which can be closed and is secure) so you can run an extension cord if needed.
Looking at the pictures you can see every door we have has at least two latches. On the bottom door and the nesting boxes we have 2 carabiner clips. On the side doors we have two latches with carabiners and one slide lock with a carabiner.
The reason behind adding laminate or vinyl to your floor is easy cleanup. We did not add it to the nesting boxes and we should have. Some of the shavings will get wet or an egg will break and soak down to the plywood floor. With the vinyl we added the base plywood floor stays dry and cleaning out the coop is much easier.
The windows have hardware cloth stapled over them from the inside and for the very cold temperatures we have small pieces of hard plastic (bought from home depot for pretty cheap) that we slide in.
There is a hole in the floor where the ramp comes down to the bottom. That is left open year-round to help circulate air. We also left the sofet/eves open by sealing with hardware cloth instead of bring the wall to the top. This increases circulation.
Making your coop predator proof is one of the most important things you can do. Multiple latches and locks to the door is a good start. If a 3-year old can get into it, so can a raccoon. Spend the extra money and get better more complex latches.