Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Chicken Condo

I have always wanted chickens. More accurately, I have always wanted to live on a farm--chickens, a cow or two, big veggie garden, that sort of thing. When we moved to Pinckney from Ann Arbor three years ago I was not thinking of "farm" per se, but just looking for more space and a bigger house from which to run the business. There wasn't a barn on this property, but there were a few outbuildings, and one was an old chicken coop.

The existing coop was rather small, and had pens attached to each end. I didn't really think we'd ever get chickens so I removed the pen from the south (left) side and built a woodshed.

Now, whoever built this coop was not too concerned with making it level. The property is pretty hilly, and this coop was plopped right on the ground, without a concern for the slope. Walking into it was like walking into one of those mystery spots--your brain expected the floor to be level, so when you stepped in you immediately felt like you were falling off the edge of the earth as the floor tilted to the left.

When we got our chickens in the spring of 2008 we planned on using the old coop. But as it turned out it was really pretty inadequate--too small, too unlevel, and the pen was above the coop so when it rained the water would pool up against the side of the building. The pen top wasn't sloped so we couldn't put a roof on it without re-building it. So, after a year of making our chickens suffer with the Hoopty Coop, we decided it was time for new digs.

We had never built anything from "scratch" before except for a huge deck at the house in Ann Arbor. But decks are pretty easy, once you get past the post hole digging part. Erecting a structure that has to be square and level and plumb, where walls have to stand up and hold a roof, and doors have to be hung...well, that's another story. But we were up for the challenge, so we chose a site up the hill from the old coop, drew up a plan, scrounged as much reclaimed material as we could find, and made our first trip to Home Depot.

First, we built a foundation. It is recommended to elevate a coop to keep critters from nesting underneath, so we put the lowest corner at 9 inches, which made the far corner nearly two feet off the ground. Oops, gonna need stairs. Back to Home Depot.

We laid a sheet of vinyl flooring (for ease of cleaning!) on the deck and trimmed it to size, then started framing in the walls. We needed to slope the roof away from the pen, and wanted it tall enough to walk in without bonking our heads, so the near side is 7 feet, the far side 6 feet.

Once the walls were up we added the roof. We started with one bundle of shingles, but upon reading the package realized that was not enough. Back to Home Depot for another bundle and some more 2x4's. Near the end of the second bundle it was clear that wasn't going to be enough, so back to Home Depot....

By day four the roof was done, and we were putting siding on.

Once the siding was up we could prime and paint. We used OSB, which is not for exterior use, but it's cheap, so it had to get painted.

Here's the coop, primed, painted, at the end of day four.

The next steps were to build a door, finish the interior, and add the pen. Here the door is installed (but not the steps, and let me tell you that is QUITE a step!), as well as the pen roof. Keeping the pen dry was one of our biggest objectives with this project, and in the winter the pen will be wrapped in plastic to keep out the snow and wind.

We did a lot of researching online and found some great ideas for the interior of the coop. We installed the nest boxes along the back wall (they are the drawers from Lori's old dresser with dividers nailed in the center) and put a board over the top with a perch attached. This keeps them from roosting on top of the next boxes and pooping in them--a problem we had in the old coop. The roost to the left is for our bigger girls who cannot get up to the higher perch.

And here the coop is (very nearly) finished. Lisa installed vents in the rafters (coops require good ventilation) and we have an extension cord running from my studio to the coop for a light and a heat lamp, if needed. All that's left is some caulking and painting the door and trim. We're very happy with the results and proud to have managed to build this on our own.

Now we're ready for more chickens!!


  1. You sure ambitious!! That is awesome!! What do you do with all those eggs now??

  2. We only have 5 chickens right now and three of them are moulting, so only 1 or 2 egss a day. Those are some expensive eggs!