This month’s “Cool Coop” is a great example of the importance of providing adequate space – both inside the coop and within the outside run area. I think a lot of beginning backyard chicken farmers purchase a pre-made coop and then soon realize it doesn’t meet the requirements needed for a flock to comfortably roam and forage during the day. Continue reading as Cindy Heyberger shares how she constructed a wonderful addition that increased the size of her set-up and gave her hens that much needed room to nest, roost and roam!
When we originally decided to start raising urban chickens, our main concern was safety. While we live within Peoria, AZ city limits, coyotes, hawks and owls visit our property frequently. Growing up on a farm, I am well aware of the risks that go along with raising animals, however, I also know that these hens will soon be a part of our family and I wasn’t about to lose them due to predators. As these girls cannot be free roamers due to the predator risk, they needed to be in an enclosed environment.
Our first step to prepare for our coop was to lay down wire 4 inches below the dirt to prevent predators from digging under the cage. Once the floor was prepared, we purchased a pre-made coop and placed 4×12 cement blocks around the outskirts to provide a walkway as well as further protect intruders from digging.
As I raised these chickens, it became apparent that they are more than just egg producers. They each have personalities and enjoy the time they get to spend with their humans as well. While the pre-made coop had ample nesting space, I quickly learned that the hens needed more room than a 4×4 space to happily roam as they showed frustration by attempting to escape when I opened the door and often just sat upstairs in the nesting space. The small space also made it difficult to clean as well as interact with the girls to keep them friendly.
I realized that I didn’t just want a pen to keep chickens. I wanted a creative space that added personality to my backyard as well as provided an inviting space to spend time with our hens. My father in-law, a retired Police Officer, who has built several houses and my husband, a General Contractor, drafted a re-model of the coop that was safe, spacious and aesthetically pleasing to add to our backyard.
The re-model included removing the existing 4 x 4 outdoor cage and building a 10×12 roaming area out of 2×4 solid pine wood. The roof was made out of corrugated metal to ensure plenty of shade and protection from flying predators as well as give it a clean, modern appearance.
A lesson we learned when wiring the side walls was to pay the extra money for the right wire the first time. We attempted to use fencing wire that had strength however quickly found that small birds were more than happy to also use the coop as a food and water source. This drove our hens crazy chasing them out all day as well as created extra work having to clean up after the birds that would perch on the wire all day. To solve this we added Hardware Cloth over the fencing wire which eliminated this issue and also made it additionally secure.
As Arizona heat can exceed 120+ degrees in a coop, it is important to ensure ample air flow, shade and water is available. To accommodate this, perches were added to the outdoor roaming area to allow them the option to sleep indoors or outdoors depending on the weather.
Air vents were added to the indoor coop to allow air movement without allowing rain or predators in. The sprinkler system connects to the water container to allow auto fill.
We also placed the coop next to a large tree and added a fan and misters to cool the coop during those summer months.
The too short, steep ladder was replaced with a longer, wider ladder with enough wood spacers to allow grip for the smaller hens.
Solar lights were installed for ample night lighting. Diamond Plate was added to the interior of the coop for no other reason than to make it a one of kind, super trendy coop the hens can cluck about!
We learned many lessons along the way in building the right coop. Safety, capacity, comfort and efficiency each must be taken into consideration to eliminate re-work. Lala, Pixie, Charlie and Frankie are now not only happy but healthy safe girls!
Thank you Cindy for sharing your coop with the Community! I know this DIY will be of interest to many of our readers. Adding the larger run to your existing coop was a creative way to provide more space for your colorful flock!
If you have a “Cool Coop” you would like to share with the Community, email me at RNickols@communitychickens.com
Click on the link below for previous entries in the “Cool Coops!” series…
To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop
If you enjoy bird-watching (in addition to chicken-watching), I invite you to follow my Facebook page: Rebecca’s Bird Gardens