I like chickens.
Maybe because when I was small, I remember walking out to my mother’s chicken house, and gathering eggs…I’m not sure why I like them so much, but every spring I look at the signs that say: “Chicks here!” and want them so badly. We recently got a Murdoch’s Farm & Ranch store in our town. I love Farm & Ranch stores, by the way. Anyways, so when they started advertising ‘Chick Days’, I stopped in a few times to let the kids look at the chicks. At least that was my excuse! It was actually a good excuse for ME to get my chick fix. I have tried 3 times to keep chickens here, and they always get eaten – either by fox, coon, or skunk. I had told myself firmly that it was a waste of time, money and energy to try again. But on the third trip to Murdoch’s, I caved. I got 3 Red Star, 3 Buff’s, and 3 Wyandottes. I like variety. I also was trying to get cold-hardy birds, since they will be living in a drafty coop most of the year. If they survive.
I knew the set-up I had been using was not going to work, so I set out to build me a coop. Now, as you know, I am not a carpenter. I do, however, believe anyone can do anything if they want to bad enough. I think more ‘skill’, and ‘talent’ is in our hard work, than in natural ability. I think anyone can be a musician, great cook, cowboy, writer, or, yes, even a carpenter, with enough learning, perseverance, and hard work. I know certain people can naturally do certain things alot easier than others. But usually its more experience or desire than actual talent.
Case in point: My Cowboy never wanted to be a carpenter. Never enjoyed it. But he is an excellent carpenter. He can build anything, without a plan. And it lasts, believe me. Why is he so good? Because he started when young, and worked with his dad, who taught him all he needed to know, little by little, hard day of work after hard day of work.
Me? Why, I had a dad who despised carpentry, never built anything he didn’t have to, and therefore most of my family is slightly lacking in carpenter skills. (except for a few brothers who actually enjoy it, and learned later. ) So I had no examples, and certainly no help building things. But I have built my first freestanding, semi-solid, totally un-square, sorta-kinda-cute, and totally functional structure! It held my chickies for the first time last night, and despite the multitude of cracks, they (the chicks) are still all there this morning! I hope the critters don’t find a way in – cause I have certainly tried to make it critter-proof, if not weather proof. It does keep out the rain, thankfully, as it rained last night. Here is how to build a coop on the cheap frugal, with minimal zero expertise…
I dug about 24 of these 1×4’s out of the ranch dump. They are from a fallen windbreak, I think. They are 8 ft. each. I had to jerk out about 4-6 old nails out of each one.
Then I got 3 old pallets that were sturdy, and nailed the boards over the cracks. Instant studs! Yay!
I cut out a section of the one pallet for a nest-box entrance, and made a nest box out of scraps I found in the barn.
I missed taking pics of whole sections of the process, but anyways, here it is – the nest box isn’t finished yet, and it need some paint. The roof is longer in the back to help protect the nest box from rain/snow. (that sounds good, anyways…the real reason was because i didn’t want to cut metal, and this piece was basically the right size.)
The front. I did have to frame this, since I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to cut/fasten a door in a pallet. It was pretty easy, tho. Took me two tries to get the angle right on the door cross-support. Just being honest here.
The inside. here you can see the pallets. I used some corner braces to fasten it to the floor. I couldn’t think of any other way. Didn’t have long enough screws to screw through the oak stringers.
Check out my skylight! I wasn’t sure how to build a window, so I found this piece of clear roofing, and it works great as a skylight. Some days I will have to leave them in the coop all day, and I wanted them to get light.
Frank painted it last night. Well, some of it. See the nest box out the back? It missed getting painted, but I will finish it soon. I am quite pleased with my little coop. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but functional, and not totally sloppy-looking. And I didn’t have any help from the master carpenter, aka: My Cowboy. The cord is for the heat lamp, in case you wondered. Its still pretty cold here at night. (30º – 40º)
I was so worried last night, I kept waking and wondering if the fox/coons had found a way in to the coop…I went out this morning and there they all were – hale and hearty. I got that Tom Hanks/Castaway moment of “I can build! I have made a chicken coop!” Ha ha!
I had several things I wanted in my coop.
1. Easy access to the nest box from the outside. Check.
2. Natural light source, so I wouldn’t have to run a light. Check. I have to have a heat lamp, but don’t want to have to run a light when they are grown.
3. Door big enough for an adult to get in, if necessary. Check.
4. Somewhat rustic/cute. Check.
5. Critter-proof. Check.
I am satisfied.