I spent a ton of time looking online at various coops, probably too much time, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and what was feasible for my new chicken coop. I debated different spots in our backyard, didn’t want it too close to the house, but not too far either. Cut down a few trees to make additional room; and dug up countless rocks and roots to plant the corner posts and bury the wire a foot underground. It’s not an overly impressive structure … anytime I show it to someone, I ask them not to look too closely, or they’ll see my errors and shortcuts. But the ladies have been in just over a month now, and it seems to be keeping them safe, and that’s all that matters.
Walking down to the coop ... as you can see, it's not too close to the house and I have a nice path going down to the front and back of the structure.
The structure is an 8x12x7-foot run, with a 4x4x4-foot coop. This gives my ladies plenty of space for each to be comfortable, and allows me some room for expansion should I decide to add to my flock (to which I ended up adding two more shortly after completion, but that’s another story). The sides are all wire mesh, while the top is chicken wire partially covered by a few 6x2 polycarbonate panels to shield from rain, snow and sunlight. Even though the wire mesh is more expensive, I wanted it on the sides to help deter snakes from crawling through. A small snake could climb right through the holes in chicken wire, while the holes on the wire mesh are much smaller (and I just eliminated a copperhead about 10 yards from the coop a few weeks ago). So far, I haven’t had any issues with predators, though they have definitely made their presence known. I found a raccoon’s footprint on the back door of the coop, and a game camera I have set out about 15 yards away recorded a black bear moseying around. A bear also got into our compost bin a few nights ago. In addition to the usual predators, our neighbor saw a bobcat in the neighborhood about a week ago and just a few days ago, it was in the news that an individual was attacked by a bobcat not even 10 miles from our house. I have seen a bobcat before in the area, but wasn’t too worried about those as a predator because they are so rare here, but three different sightings in just a few months makes me wonder maybe they aren’t as uncommon as I thought.
There is nothing fancy about the coop, as it’s just a box, with a roasting bar about 12 inches off the floor. I have sand in the coop as my liter control, because I like how well it absorbs moisture, and it is so easy to clean. I haven’t added a nesting box yet, since my ladies won’t start laying until the end of July, but I think I will just attach one to the outside of the coop, which is in progress. Originally, I was using an old tire for their dust-bathing area, but they seemed to prefer bathing underneath the coop. So, I started applying peat-moss and ash there instead.
Time for a bath...
Their water source is probably my favorite part. Originally, I just had one of the standard chicken waterers that sit on the ground, but it was constantly dirty, and I was cleaning it out nearly every day. So, I did a little research, and found some water nipples online, and applied one of those to the top of a plastic two-liter bottle by drilling a hole thru the cap. I then took a metal pole and planted it in the ground, and fastened the water bottle to that. At first, I used zip ties to attach the bottle to the top of the pole, but that made refilling the water a real chore because you had to maneuver the bottle out of the zip ties. I also realized I needed a second bottle, as they were going through one pretty quickly (mostly, because quite a bit is wasted when they are drinking from the nipple). So, I built a small wooden box from some scrap wood, and drilled two holes in the bottom to hold the bottles. The nipples in the caps of the bottles fit thru the holes in the bottom of the box, and the bottles can be easily refilled and reinserted. So far it seems like a great system
The water nipple attached to the cap of a 2-liter bottle .... one of the better ideas I had throughout the whole project.
The first night they spent outside I loaded them up into their coop about 8:45 and shut the door. That was the only night I had to actually force them into the coop. Since that one night, every evening around 8:45, they head up the track into the coop on their own. It is amazing to me what creatures of habit they are sometimes; hopefully, it’s also a sign that they like their home.