It takes about a thousand curse words to complete a chicken coop like mine.
Also, it isn’t “finished” but it’s complete enough that the chicks have been living in it for a week. 6 week old chicks can make a huge mess, by the way. I’m still cleaning up chicken droppings from my porch, but that’s another story.
The coop: I liked the plan because it appeared to be simple and straightforward, with an enclosed run below and a coop above for sleeping and laying eggs. I learned a whole lot. I’m not a total stranger to woodworking, but it has been many years since the last time I smelled sawdust.
It’s particularly important to measure. Everyone will tell you that when you’re working on a wood project, especially when you’re a woman and they’re a man. But it is important. I measured everything except the space I was putting the coop into. I just eyeballed that. Whoops.
I’m raising urban chickens, so space is at a premium. That was another factor for the coop selection. In my mind, 5.5 by 8 feet is easy to estimate and not so big. Not only is it big, its heavy.
So the space was an issue, but only by a very very small margin, I’m talking a couple of inches (turns out I’m pretty good at eyeballing measurements!) in the wrong direction. The “landscaping” in the “backyard” here is odd: a mature chestnut tree is immediately surrounded by painfully rough and jagged but uniformly white rocks, and then a narrow long raised flower bed with bricks bordering it goes around 3/4 of the perimeter and opens up to a little garden bed. The rest of the functional “yard” is a concrete slab. I planned to put the coop in the unusable portion of the “yard” behind the long narrow raised flower bed, between it and a (commercial) building which butts right up against this property line. That space, without the bricks on the far side, is about 5.5 feet wide but it has variations that didn’t allow the coop to sit on the ground.
Luckily, there was an abundance of concrete blocks lying around (and also on the backside of the flower bed, where nobody was looking so it didn’t need to be the pretty/expensive scallop shaped brick). I decided to make a perimeter (hah! That makes it sound homogenous) of concrete blocks, and rest (hah! That makes it sound easy) the coop on top of that.
Problem 1 with this plan was that the coop was already over in the spot, teetering on little protrusions, somehow balanced but NOT FALLING APART BECAUSE ITS A STURDY…THING. I’m still amazed by this, as you can tell from my use of the caps lock button.
My help (limited to 2 minutes in between watching the kids and leaving for work) from my partner was getting it over there from the slab where I built it. I could not have done that part alone. The rest (save for that one side he was available to help on) I completed alone. It can be done.
So there it was teetering, and I’m thinking I have the answer in the form of concrete blocks so I start tossing them into the coop, then I enter the coop and lift the coop by the crossbars with my back while simultaneously shoving the concrete block “perimeter” in place under it. This was by far the hardest part of the project, and while the pain of it did not compare whatsoever to giving birth, I’d like to avoid repeating it. Some areas have extra blocks in front of them – a halfhearted attempt to disincentivize predators.
I had to finish the front and back (2 triangles) after the placement. I was unable to procure hardware cloth and unwilling to use more chicken wire (many urban farmers were telling me horror stories), so I chose instead to go “off-plan” and build doors. I stand by this modification, though it is still one of the least complete parts. I was freehanding the circular saw to cut the plywood, which resulted in uneven sides of the doors – wavy, even. I kept having to take them back to the makeshift table (a slab of thinner plywood on 2 plastic sawhorses) and shave off a bit more. Once I was able to fit them in while the coop was on the slab, I expected to be done with that part. However, the weight distribution along the concrete block perimeter, coupled with the blocks themselves sitting at slightly different heights (undetectable to the human eye) meant that the doors did not fit perfectly once the coop was in its place. Lots of shoving, and bits of lifting later, and one door had 2 hinges. The other is just jammed into place, but it’s on the side I don’t need to open.
Funny thing, today the heat lamp bulb exploded, so I had to open that door I thought I wouldn’t have to open. I used a hammer. Don’t worry, it’s still in one piece.
Oh there was one other thing I didn’t measure correctly: the placement of the center stabilizing bar on each side. I didn’t see the measurement so I assumed t was halfway up. Later, when the cross bars went in (the ones cut at 30 degrees, which hold up the coop floor), they didn’t sit flush with the stabilizing bar – it was a couple of inches too low. That, of course, meant the side doors (the primary access points) were not the right size anymore, so I had to add a custom trim of a 2×4 on top. It came together in spite of these challenges and I’m proud of my work.
Here are the things I’d like to fix/finish:
Front and back doors: trim, add hinges.
Side doors: add hinges to far side
All open spaces: add hardware cloth.
Add nesting box
Make ramp more accessible
Waterproofing: silicone sealant for top gap, ?for other areas around doors.
The chicks love their coop, although only one can get up and down the ramp. They also love papaya seeds and finding worms. They’re cute chickens.