by Jennifer Sartell
Photos by author
One of my favorite types of articles to read in magazines like Grit, Mother Earth News or here on Community Chickens are posts about different styles of chicken coops. It’s fascinating to see how each family takes a different approach to housing their animals. Whether it’s a collection of recycled bits and pieces placed together to make a chicken shelter, a movable chicken tractor with form as well as function, or some of the adorable chicken coops that rival a Hansel and Gretel dollhouse, each coop has a story, a moment of creation, and a design element that makes it unique.
It’s especially important to research different types of coops when you’re starting out with chickens for the first time. When you build your coop, it’s an investment, and you want to get it right to make sure it fits your specific needs.
The great thing about sites like Community Chickens is that we can all learn from each other, share tips and interact with stories of our own experience. And that is exactly what I’d like to invite you to do. We want to hear your Coop Story! To make things easier, I’ve created a 10-question form to help you talk about your coop, and would love for you to send at least five photos to my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to help us visualize your coop story!
So here’s our story …
We are the Sartells. We live in Fenton, Michigan, and we raise all sorts of poultry.
What types of poultry do we raise?
We have three Pekin ducks, nine Black Spanish turkeys, and more than 50 chickens. The main breeds that we raise are Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, French Black Copper Marans, Lavender Orpingtons, Coronation Sussex and Araucanas. Our farm has four main coops, but today I’d like to talk about our big coop. This area houses our Araucanas, and a smodge podge of different breeds of chickens that we’ve brought home out of love, picked up at farm swaps, or adopted from friends and neighbors that found chicken keeping wasn’t for them.
What do we raise our birds for?
We raise poultry for all different reasons. The main reason being, because we love them. I am a true chicken addict, have been for years, and there’s no cure in sight! The chicken addiction has brought other things into the equation like our ducks, for whom I have a real soft spot, our heritage turkeys and our goslings (which are due to hatch any day now). But beyond pure joy, the main reason we raise them is to sell chicks and to hatch eggs. I have always been fascinated with breed standards and hatching for breed improvement. My goal is to encourage healthy, beautiful birds.
We also enjoy the pleasures of delicious, farm-fresh eggs. Especially from our Marans. The yolks stand at attention with a deep orange richness that makes you feel as though you’re eating a slice of sunshine and fresh green grass.
Does our coop have a name?
We used to call it “The Little White Barn” but it is in the process of receiving a much-needed makeover via a bucket of red paint, so now we call it …
“The Little Red Barn.” Hmmm … brilliant … I know.
When was our coop built?
It was originally built in 1994, then moved and rebuilt in 2011.
What are the dimensions of our coop?
The main part of the large coop is 10 by 12 feet. It’s a small two-story barn/shed with a loft for storage. The coop sits on cement triangle forms that we leveled with 2-by-6-inch boards. Once we had a level surface, the floor frame was constructed and 2-by-6-inch supports put in place every 18 inches. The floor is laid with 4-by-8-inch sheets of plywood trimmed to fit. Once we had the floor in place, we took advantage of the level surface and built the roof trusses. There are five trusses, made from 2-by-4-inch construction. The walls are also 2-by-4-inch construction, covered in a pressed paneling to imitate a “barn wood” look. The ceiling of the coop/floor of the loft is built with 2-by-4-inch supports and plywood laid on top. The roof is vented with two vents, and has a layer of tar paper and shingles.
Our coop has two inexpensive storm windows that we purchased at Home Depot, covered in fine wire mesh, so they can be opened even at night without fear of predators getting in.
We now have a wonderful set of aluminum egg boxes, with bottoms that can be removed for easy cleanup. These were given to us by our neighbor, as they replaced our wooden system. That worked great, but didn’t make the move.
We have two perches. One is a single perch that resides under the window, and the other is a perch system similar to a ladder.
We have two feeders in this coop that hang from the ceiling, and a large rubber waterer that empties and fills easily. The black rubber also helps keep that water above freezing temperatures in the winter.
Our coop has two doors: The back door leads to a large, fenced-in run, and the front doors allow us to enter or let the chickens free range in the whole yard.
5 things that I LOVE about our coop!
The first thing I love about our coop is the linoleum floor! It is super easy to clean and makes for a healthy coop. (To learn more about our linoleum floor, read my post For Love of Linoleum.)
The second thing I love is the storage loft above. We keep all our extra chicken supplies up there. Multiple bags of pine chips, straw bales, extra feed bags or oyster shell, extra waters and feeders, incubators, brooder supplies and anything else “chicken” related. I love that it’s all in one place, organized and right with the chickens.
The third thing I love is our abundance of perches. Since we added the ladder system, the chickens no longer sleep in the egg boxes, which makes for cleaner eggs.
The fourth thing I love is our window boxes. I haven’t had a chance to plant them this year, but there’s just something quaint about window boxes. It’s totally a visual thing, but it’s one of my favorite elements.
The fifth thing I love is our egg boxes. The aluminum is wonderful! The nonporous surface is scrub-able with soap and water, doesn’t harbor mites or other creepy crawlies, and the removable bottoms make for easy cleanup.
Two things I would have changed.
If I had it to do over again, I would have laid the linoleum down before the walls went up. It was difficult getting the linoleum to fit perfectly in the corners, where the walls met the floor. If we would have laid the linoleum down first, it would have been an easy trim all the way around the floor.
The second thing: I would have made the back door large enough for a person to walk through. Often I would like to enter the chicken coop from the back, and I have to crouch down and crawl through the small door.
How is our coop unique?
Our coop is unique in that it holds a great legacy. We often refer to it as “My Dad’s Barn,” as my dad built it for me when I was just a teenager, and we moved it to our new home after he passed away two years ago. It is near and dear to my heart in so many ways. (To read more about moving our barn, read my post Moving the Coop, 40 Chickens, 40 Miles West.)
I hope you enjoyed our Coop Story!