In the 6 or so years that I’ve had chickens, we’ve moved three times (such is the life of a student). Now that we’re paying a mortgage, I wanted to build a coop that was well thought out, comfortable for the birds, and that actually could be counted as an improvement to our backyard.
One day while browsing a google image search for “chicken coop”, I stumbled upon a really cool looking coop:
Setting the coop on a single post lets you easily put this coop on uneven ground, and we don’t need a fenced in run since we let our hens free-range in the backyard. Last weekend I sat down and really thought about how I could modify this coop for our set-up. Here’s the result:
The original coopsicle was located in northern California, where the summers are more mild than ours here in Austin. As such, their use of two re-used windows in either end makes a lot of sense and looks great…but we would need more airflow. I replaced the windows with 1/2 inch hardware cloth. I didn’t have any that would have spanned the entire 36″ x 36″ opening, so there are two panels with a divider. I’ll probably get a couple of plexi-glass panels to cover the openings during the winter months.
The end panels aren’t structural to the coop, so I made both of them removable to make cleaning the coop easier. They attach by sliding over two 5/16″ carriage bolts (one on each side) and are held in place with wing-nuts. In the picture you can see the recessed nut that lets the door sit flush when it slides over the bolt.
I kept one of the doors as designed, which allows access to the nest-boxes and the food. The other door I replaced with my previously built automatic coop door. Luckily this coop design is tall enough to accomodate the existing linear actuator I used, so it was pretty much a plug and play install. Check out the post on the door opener for more details, its been working great for over a year now, and is much more secure against predators than string-based designs. I chose to put the automatic door on the side of the coop you can easily see from the house so you can check on it with a quick glance. On the other side of the coop is a pop-open panel that gives easy access to the wildlife timers that set the opening and closing times
I put the coop lower on the post than the design called for in the book, and I used a 4×6 pressure-treated post instead of the 4×4 post they use (both modifications they recommended for increased stability). I really wanted to use a 6×6 cedar post, but I couldn’t procure one in time. The coop is still high enough to let me hang the 3-gallon fonts. Hanging them seems to keep the trough more full than sitting them on the ground. We use 2 just to be sure the girls have water when we go out of town for a few days.
In the book, Kevin calls for a thin-gauge aluminum roof. I kind of like the look of rusted steel, so I opted for 16 gauge steel instead. 16 gauge is a bit thicker than most roofing metal, but it is thick enough so that it won’t bend under it’s own weight. It should also rust nicely while staying structural and straight. I chose to make the roof overhang a bit further than the design in the book calls for. There were a couple of ramifications to that decision. My 6″ overhangs meant that I had to get two pieces of steel to do the whole roof (sheet metal only comes 48″ wide where I buy it). I chose to get 2, 26″ x 84″ pieces and join them at the peak of the roof with outdoor caulk. If I had a welder I would like to have welded them up, but I don’t so I didn’t. We’ll see how the caulk turns out.
The last change was that I didn’t do the circular stairs like they do in the book. My automatic door would have been difficult to turn into a floor-opening, and having a solid floor makes clean-up a bit easier (in my opinion). I put a jump-up platform under the door, and built a ramp to help them get used the the new digs. Its a bit high for our oldest hen, so I’m going to have to lower the platform if I want to remove the ramp eventually.
I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m thankful for the inspiration Matt and Kevin provided in their book.