It all began with a brilliant idea: Get some chickens, and you can have fresh eggs. As with all new endeavors, I began reading and searching the net for all the information I could find. I talked with people that I know who have chickens, picking their brains, and listening carefully to their insights. Finally, I chose what I thought would be a great hen-house kit. Boy was I wrong.
The kit arrived, but one of the boxes was missing. I carefully opened the top of the box I received, and could see that at least two of the structural members were broken. Under the circumstances, I was able to send the kit back for a full refund, and I leaned a valuable lesson: If you want a hen house that is going to last, you are probably going to have to build it yourself.
Thus I began a project that cost twice as much as I had planned to spend, and took far more labor, and time, than I thought I could invest. Stealing from scores of designs I found on the web, I started a project of my own design. It is my hope that some of what I learned might be helpful to others who might be thinking about building a chicken coop.
Your design will probably be different than mine, but it will be helpful for you to understand my parameters. I am 6′ 4″ tall, and I wanted to be able to stand, inside the run, without having to bend over. From everything I read, the most labor intensive part of raising chickens is cleaning, so I wanted to make it as easy to clean as possible. Since I am almost 64 years old, I wanted a coop that will last, because I am not sure I will be able to build another one as I get older. I chose a metal roof, and lots of open space in the area around the roof, for good air ciruculation. Finally, and most importantly, I wanted a comfortable, and safe place for my hens: at least four square feet per hen in the house, and at least ten square feet in the run. This project is designed for three hens, with a little extra room for comfort.
The body of the coop is four feet by four feet, and the screened in run is four feet by eight feet. I used quarter inch hardware cloth on all openings, screwed, and stapled, to keep critters out. I used all pressure treated wood, accept for the walls, which are made of OSB board. These selections caused some problems. I build most of the project in my garage, and the weight of the pressure treated wood made the unit much heavier than I had anticipated. After I had already screwed on the OSB board, a friend raised a concern about its ability to stand up to the weather, over time, and the potential for water, and waste, to accumulate on the floor, soaking in, and providing an environment for mites. I could have avoided these potential problems had I built the coop on site, and used plywood rather than OSB board.
The solution for the weight problem was to add wheels. My first attempt was terribly inadequate. I finally settled on purchasing two trailer jacks, with dual wheels, rated at 1500 pounds of lift. Even with heavy duty equipment like this, moving the chicken house through the grass, and soft sand, of NW Florida, proved to be a challenge. I had to get some help to move it to the backyard. To protect the OSB board, I applied several coats of oil based Kilz paint. I also painted all the other wood surfaces, inside and out. Time will tell whether or not the painted OSB board will hold up.
Another problem I encoutered was the length of the ramp going into the coop. The floor of the coop is about three feet off the ground, and I was afraid, with the amount of room available in the run, that the angle would be too steep for the hens. I wanted also to be able to easily remove the ramp when cleaning. My solution was to build a small table, about thirteen inches high, to lift the lower end of the ramp. By attaching a small piece of wood on the top of the table, the ramp now rests naturally between the table and the entrance door, and the angle is much better. (see first photo) Now the ramp, and the table, lift right out for cleaning.
Chickens roost when they sleep, and need at least a foot of roosting space. I built the roost out of two by fours, and designed it to fit inside the coop.
There are actually two roosts, one at seven and a half inches high, and the other at nineteen and a half inches high. They are both three feet long and provide more than enough space, even if I decide to get an additional hen at a later date. The three foot length will allow the hens to cozy up on cold winter nights. The double roost gives them space when it is hot, or when one of them is cranky.
I provided two nest boxes, even though they will probably only need one. Its better to have two, just in case, than to wish later that you had built two. The floor, and the bottom of the nest boxes are covered with “Pollywall”, a poly vinyl material that lifts out, and is easily cut with tin snips. Everything comes out of the hen house in order to make it easy to clean.
With everything closed up, this view shows the door where the hens will come, and go, as they forage in the yard. So how much did all of this cost? I can’t say for sure, but if my three hens lay 350 dozen eggs, and I don’t incur any other costs, (like that is going to happen) I think I will break even. But, this project was never about saving money. It is all about raising chickens, and having fresh natural eggs on which to feast. I pray that you have enjoyed this article, and it has been of some help to you.