Friday, January 11, 2013

The Chicken Coop Remodel

We've been keeping chickens for about 6 years, has it really been that long?!? We began by buying 6 laying hens from a farm in southern Washington then moved on to brooding our own chicks. The largest number we ever had at one time was 60 chickens including chicks and full grown birds (we sold a few of the chicks and slaughtered some of the grown roosters shortly after). Right now we have about 25 (mostly old hens and a few chicks), which is probably more than we really want to have. It's nice to have a large supply of eggs coming out of the hen house every day, but now our chickens are old and not laying like we would like. And we haven't replaced them with new chicks like we should have. So we have a dozen plus chickens eating feed and producing nothing while the rest are still too young to lay. Yesterday we got 1 egg...yes, you heard that correctly, 1 egg...from 25 chickens. How pathetic is that? So we have a plan to revitalize our hen house and reduce the size of the flock in the process.

 (this is the original coop before paint)

When we started keeping chickens we built a cute little red hen house that is perfectly sized for about a dozen chickens...then we got more chickens and outgrew that cute little hen house. It got pushed aside to use as a brooder and we bought a 8x10 metal shed to use as a coop and expanded their run space to be a good portion of the back yard. That shed was plenty big enough to for our largest flock, but feeding, watering and egg gathering got to be a messy production after almost no time at all. All of those things lived inside the metal shed with the chickens, which means they got covered in chicken droppings, mud and such. Hubby's morning routine of feeding and watering the chickens got messier and messier until he was ready to throw in the towel and throw out the chickens. So I got to work on a plan to remodel our original cute little coop into something easier to use and much less messy, and since our goal is to reduce the flock down to about a dozen chickens again, the size is perfect. After remodeling and adding a nice sized outside enclosure it could probably house closer to 20, but I don't really think we want that many anymore.

The original coop had a few problems that I planned to address this time around.
  1. It had no indoor space for feed - the feed usually sat outside in the run which made it hard to reach and it often got wet even though we had a large roof overhang. 
  2. The egg boxes sat on the floor inside the coop under the roosts and often got pooped on from above.
  3. The coop sat on the ground and made a perfect place for rodents to burrow under to make their homes. With the ready supply of food just above, they had it made.
  4. The large door on one side of the coop that was supposed to be used to clean the floor and add/remove chickens when necessary wasn't large enough and was hard to get into and out of easily.
To remedy these problems I made some modifications to the coop design.
  1. We put the whole thing up on stilts so it wasn't sitting on the ground. The new site was on a slope, so hubby had to do some work to get it level, but he made it happen.
  2. I wanted a few additions built onto the original structure. We added a bump-out to house the food and water and doors on the outside of it to easily refill the containers each day without having to step in any mess. This bump-out also puts the food and water out away from the roosts so it doesn't get pooped on at night either. And we added another bump-out with 3 egg boxes for laying. These have doors on the outside as well for retrieving eggs.
  3. We also took off one whole wall and replaced it with double doors that open completely to easily clean the coop and rearrange the chickens when necessary.
  4. The roof was having some water seepage issues that Hubby discovered when he removed the tarp that was covering it. So he put a shingle roof over the top and over both additions. So far the inside is staying nice and dry. 
  5. Lastly, we cut a small chicken-sized hole in the floor of the coop and wrapped the stilts in chicken wire so the birds have a place to scratch at the ground and walk around outside while still protected from the numerous wild animals we have walking around our back yard. Eventually we'll put up some more fencing to make a larger enclosure for them to walk around outside, but while snow's on the ground they aren't really interested in going outside anyway.

Bump-out to the right is for food and water. One to the left is for eggs. Notice the nice roofing job on all horizontal surfaces!

New front door that opens completely on both sides. Everything needs a red coat of paint, but otherwise it's pretty well finished.

"Chicks" in their new home. Soon to be joined by a few select old ladies. Not sure if you can see it in this picture, but we put hot pink zip ties on the legs of these gals. When it comes time to eat the old ones we need to know which ones really are old. If we put a different color band on the legs of the chicks each year we can keep track.

Girls going for a walk under the coop. I put a couple of roosts down there as well, but I'm not sure they are using them. 
So far, it seems this newly remodeled coop is working pretty well. The chickens drop down to their outside space to peck around, and they sleep up on their warm dry roosts every night. The real test of how user-friendly the coop is will be when we tell the kids they are now in charge of the food and water refilling and the egg gathering. If they can manage to do all of those things without getting messy, then we will know we've succeeded!

1 comment:

  1. I want to build a shed but have no idea where to begin,
    I love everything you have to say, I guess I will start by searching through your site.

    Feel free to visit my page; claire



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