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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Eggs have arrived!

My first egg.

Two weeks ago, my first egg arrived. Rose has always been a few weeks ahead of the others. At first we worried she was a rooster. But she has proven her woman-hood with the little baby.

My first egg next to a normal grocery store egg.  Very tiny!

I took a picture next to a grocery store egg for comparison. They are still working out how to lay eggs … so they are still small!

Hard working chicks

Today I was so excited to find my first blue egg. My Amerucana, Zeus, has also convinced us she’s no rooster.

I put the egg next to Penny for a cute picture, as me holding it in my gym clothes looked rather lame.

Penny poses with egg

Penny of course, only has one thing on her mind. Snacks.

Penny eats egg

So I washed it off again, and put it safely away with the others. I am a chicken farmer now!

I'm an egg farmer now!

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As previously discussed, I realized I couldn’t build my own coop from scratch, yet my DIY ethic prevented me from buying one outright. So I started with a large cedar dog house.

Step 1: Buy Dog House
The coop, when it was a dog house

Both my dogs can fit inside this doghouse — it’s huge! The measurements are 4ft by 3ft, giving me 12 square feet of indoor space — much more than needed for 3 chickens. (The average recommended indoor coop space is about 2 sq ft per laying hen.) I bought this used for $75, and the very nice guy selling it to me strapped it to the back of his minvan, and drove it 45 minutes on the highway to my house.

Step 2: Build Run

And Curious-er

Building the run is really easy, so I recommend starting here for novice builders like myself.

    A note on materials:

  • We chose lightweight cheap wood (1 x 2s and 2x2s) because I really didn’t want to spend much money and I wanted to be able to move it with one or two people later on.
  • Despite the warnings that hardware cloth is the only thing that is truly predator proof, I did go with twisted small gauge chicken wire instead. I had to drive all around the city looking for hardware cloth, and when I found it, it was just too expensive to use for the whole run. I bought a few feet of hardware cloth for my coop, and just stuck with chicken wire for the run. I do live in the city in a completely fenced in yard, this may not be a smart idea if you live somewhere with less protection.

We built the basic frame. (Don’t procrastinate, or you’ll be building in the rain too!)

Building a chicken coop in the cold, west coast rain

I spray painted mine black.

Adding the chicken wire

Then stapled on some chicken wire.

I can use a stapler!

We made some really basic plans for this, so basic they never even made it outside the hardware store. The run can be any shape you want — we chose to add a slant to ours but many people just make a straight box.

The run should be as wide as your doghouse and not too long, or else you won’t be able to reach the entire floor without crawling in there. When measuring the height, remember wooden doghouses will have to be propped up on cinder blocks (or something like it). You can prop it up to prevent the floor from rotting and to protect the chickens if your yard gets puddles like mine does! See the photo below to see how my run fits right under the roof with the house raised up on cinder blocks.

Finished run with unfinished coop

I read a lot about predator-proofing, which in the city is mostly my dogs, cats, raccoons, and hawks. I knew the run had to have a roof, because of the cats and hawks. With dogs and raccoons, you have to worry about digging. I have found that the “bib” approach works amazingly well and is a lot less working than digging chicken wire 1-2 feet down into the ground. With the bib, you just cut the chicken wire a foot or so longer than your frame. It lays on the ground, deterring digging. I watched my dogs trying to figure out how to dig into the coop, never putting it together that all they had to do was take a step backwards and dig from there. I think in this picture you can really see it:

Free at last

When the run was in place, I pinned it down with rocks and stakes so you can’t even see it through the grass anymore.

Step 3: Transform Doghouse into Coop

I started with ventilation. I did some reading and was convinced I needed about 10 times more ventilation than I thought I did.

I pulled off the front two shingles and covered them with hardware cloth.

Tons-o-ventilation

Then I cut out a slit at the top of the wall that was covered by the overhang of the roof. For paranoia’s sake, I also covered that with hardware cloth.

hardware cloth on the vents

Next came the roost. I found a branch on a hike since dowel rods were $$$. The chickens love it!

Roost from a branch

Cutting out the pop door was hard, since the cedar was so brittle. I had to put down the jigsaw and use a handsaw. I frame it out, since the cedar was starting to split. My door is on the tiny size, about 12in tall and 8in wide. Most people recommend something much larger, but my hens are OK so far with this. They just have to duck!

Framing the door

I liked the idea of using the door as the ramp.

Door folds down

At first I was going to just use latches, but then I read that raccoons can open anything that a toddler can. So I opted for locks. I bought a 4 pack that all open with the same key.

Raccoon safe

Lastly, I needed a “people” door. Putting on my sewing hat, I traced a pattern with some cardboard.

Tracing the door pattern

Cutting out the door

Apparently, this is not the way you do things in construction, but it got the job done. A pretty black door!

What a pretty door

Step 5: Add Chickens

IMG_3400

Snack on the ramp

Video of my chickens in their new coop:

Bonus: What I Learned

– I am really glad I went with a “mini” coop. I was worried about not being able to stand up in it for cleaning purposes, but for 3 chickens, a big shed like thing would have just been too much.

– You don’t necessarily save much money by building your own chicken coop, unless you have tons of time (months) to find discounted parts. My coop and run probably cost around $300CAD, and you can get some nice prefab things for not much more and save tons of time.

– Start early. This is going to take much longer than 2 weekends.

– I wasn’t counting on the high cost of hardware like locks, hinges, etc. I didn’t even think of looking for those on the cheap until it was too late.

– It annoys me to no end that little bits of bedding (straw, wood chips) fall out of my people door. I have no idea how to stop it. I’ve tried. Make it so yours doesn’t. Somehow.

Ok, happy building!

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Curious

Before acquiring chickens, I had only used a power tool only a few times. My major construction experience was building wooden giraffes from my dad’s scrap piles as a ten year old. Should I really be undertaking a chicken coop? I evaluated my options.

Option A) Let’s go shopping!
My online choices were attractive and functional. I wouldn’t have to borrow a drill, I wouldn’t have been stuck with 7 week old chickens, a week of rain, and no coop. Unfortunately, I would also have been poor … as most of them start around $500USD.

Where to Look
My Pet Chicken
Eglus
Local Craftsmen in the Agriculture Section of your Local Used Everywhere

Option B) Let’s get some plans and build from scratch
People who are really good at this sort of stuff hate plans. They just want to get started and “make it up as they go.” If you are minimally skilled like I am, you will agree with me that they sound crazy. Here are some lovely free plans I found. One is quite beautiful, and not that hard. The other is so simple that even I could do it, if I tried.

Free Plans
Mini-Coop Plan from a Dog House
A-Frame

Option C) Just get started
Plans are good, unless of course, the plans freak you out even more than no plans. Despite being minimally skilled, I learned that I was not really an instructions sort of builder. I did spend hours and hours combing over photos, to get a sense of what I liked and didn’t. Then I used one of my life-lines and borrowed a smart friend for two afternoons. He and I spent an hour sitting in the chicken wire aisle of Home Depot, making sketches — mostly to figure out how much stuff I needed to buy. We went home, he showed me how to use his jigsaw, power drill, sander, and staple gun, got me mostly through the construction of the run, and I was on my own to finish!

Inspiration
Coop Design Inspiration at BYC
Chicken Coops on Flickr


Option D) Mix and Match

I knew I did not have the skills to really build the coop and run by myself. So I bought an old cedar doghouse in great shape and decided to retrofit it. It only cost $75CAD, and there is no way I could have purchased that much cedar for just $75, let alone figured out how to assemble it.

The coop, when it was a dog house

Conclusion:
If you have no skills, no tools, no friends with skills or tools — save yourself a lot of hassle and just buy. Try to look local first, for better deals. Make your first DIY project something much simpler, like flower boxes!

If you have access to tools, someone to help you with questions, desire to learn, desire to save money — go for it!

Good luck everyone, let me know how it goes! Send me links!

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I was so sick yesterday and most of today. Yuck! Won’t go into details. However, I will share these photos of Evil Cat stalking my chickens. Evil Cat is not an outdoor cat, as we live on a very busy street, though she wishes very much we did not. I was trying to be sneaky, so I took them with my MacBook, so sorry that it’s rather fuzzy.

Photo 2

Here you can see little gray tabby Evil Cat staring down my chickens.

Photo 4

And there she is on the roof. Chickens remain unfazed. Evil Cat then jumped on top the mesh run, and it must not have been a pleasant experience as she quickly got off. I scooped up Evil Cat after she was done crawling around underneath the coop, coming out dazed, still hungry, and covered in pine shavings.

Coop is now certifiably cat proof, at least.

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Chicken Coop is Finished!

My tip about building a chicken coop is that take however long you thought it might take to build, and then multiple it by two. I worked every day last week, and much of this long weekend on it … but it’s finally done! Chickens are living outside.

I will post all my pics in a big coop tutorial … but for now … my rocking video tour:



Related posts from this blog about coop building:

The Coop: Weekend One

Here’s how I built my coop.

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So they chickens were making me feeling guilty, all cooped up in their way too small brooder.

Help me, I am too big for my brooder!

So they went outside for the very first time in their chicken-y lives!

Free at last

I just put the run against the fence while I kept working on their coop. And they were happy chickens.

And Curious-er

And Tuesday is officially the weirdest looking chicken ever, even outside.

Curious

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So the chickens continue to develop. Inside. Unfortunately.

Tuesday spends most of her time exploring … she is a bit ditzy. She is also smaller than the other two, which at first made me worry that I have two roosters. But I think the real problem is that she is busy digging in the corner, while everyone else is eating.

Poultry headbutt

She has no fear.

Piper scoping out the chickens

Rose is just your average bossy chicken. Happy to be photographed though.

Rose

And Zeus is developing her lovely facial feathers… letting me know she is a true Amerucana (Americana? However you spell it). Many chicks are sold as Americana, but are really “Easter Eggers” meaning that they lay blue eggs like a real Americana, but aren’t the real thing. Not that this matters to someone who adopts pound puppies … but just neat to know.

Look at my darling feathers

She is still a bit scary looking than the rest!

Zeus looking rather reptile like

And the coop … the coop is not done. And I am really earth-shatteringly tired of working on it!

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