Saturday, August 8, 2009

Building the Chalet au Poulet

Get ready folks, this is a long one!

Our chicks have been in the coop for two months now; the chicken yard is finished, the nesting boxes are in place, the eggs are coming, and I’m finally getting around to posting Kevin’s description of the construction. And here he is.

The chicken coop is sturdy and a little stylish for two main reasons. First, as a carpenter I like to have fun with whatever project I’m working on and I’d be embarrassed if fellow carpenter friends saw shoddy or simplistic work.

Second, a lot of the coops I've seen look like they were thrown together by a hog farmer in Appalachia smoking a corncob pipe in between pluckin’ a banjo and huntin' Opossum. No offense to all our hog raising, banjo playing, Opossum hunting friends out there, but you know what I mean.

The underlying philosophy: With almost any project I work on, especially those for myself, I try to use reclaimed lumber. Procuring and prepping reclaimed lumber can take a lot more time, but it’s well worth the effort and can still look very good while saving trees and money.

The design: I built the coop against the fence to save materials. I thought setting the posts at an angle would look cool and reduce mud splash at the bottom of the coop. I didn’t think the lower roof line would be a problem, but it is proving to have a disturbing fondness for the top of my head even when I duck as I approach the door. Because of that and the limited light that reaches the coop, I am thinking of replacing the plywood roof with clear corrugated roofing panels. (If I do, I’ll use the old roof for the new wood storage shed/compost cover.)

We have a lot of raccoons around here; at night I hear them skittering under our window, and folks definitely lose chickens to them. The wire mesh on the coop actually goes down about 10" into the ground and is bent at an outward angle, so even if a raccoon were to try to dig under the frame, it wouldn't make it inside. The cement slabs are there for extra protection against digging predators.

So, as with many things, but especially carpentry, one choice affects the whole process. For example, the "cool"-looking wall that leans out combined with the fence that is far from plumb made for some pretty odd angles. Even so, the framing of the coop wasn’t that hard, but when I chose to have the reclaimed fence boards meet in the middle of the door at roughly a 45-degree angle, that proved a bit trickier. Fortunately I had spent the previous four months doing the finish carpentry for a new eco home with curved walls and an arched ceiling, so my brain was already stretched out and primed for atypical thinking.

And finally, moving day!

We realized the chicks weren't going to get much direct sunlight, and since we had some space to the side of the coop, we added a fenced-in yard. You can also see the nesting box door open in the coop itself; it's hinged now and allows us to reach in to get the eggs from the outside. The lower door lets the chicks go in and out of the yard, and at night we can lock them inside (though it's just a hole in this shot).

The yard door allows us to clean out the yard easily. The mesh isn't as fine on the yard as the coop because the girls are only outside during the day.

We use the hole to reach in and latch the door. The chicks use it to get a gander at the yard.

Some visitor did try to dig under, so we put the bricks there.

Here's Big Mouth checking out the new doorway.

The girls love love love the dirt, especially surrounded by kale. The stump is there for interest. Really.

Here's the interior early on, when the chicks still had their little food and water trays. They sleep huddled up on the perch. Here you can also see the non-planed side of the wood; I like the rustic look.

And here's the interior finished, with the nesting boxes (a repurposed fruit box) and ladder,

the big hanging food dispenser,

and below Dinky in the nesting box, you can see the automatic water dispenser.

The long and short of it is I spent about four times as long building this as a rectangular coop would’ve taken, but as you can see it was worth it. By the way, check out how nicely the 30-year-old redwood fence boards look after being run through the thickness planer.

Here’s what we used:

Redwood fence boards
4x4 redwood posts
2x6 redwood joists
2x4 redwood studs
2x4 wire (outdoor run)

Rolled roofing
Roofing tar
Hardware cloth (1/4" wire)
Door hardware
Simpson ties
Roofing felt

Here's the trench dug for the pipes to reach the coop. (We had to muscle the squash out of the way.)

And here, below the hinges on the door to the nesting box, is the spiggot with a forked hose bib; one permanently runs to the chicks' water and the other we can attach a hose to.

Here you can see the squash really making a run for the coop!

Altogether materials (not including the waterer) cost about $150. The labor, a lot more. The peace of mind knowing our chicks are safe and sound in their fancy, eco-poulet home? Priceless.


patricia said...

It definitely doesn't look like a coop built by a banjo-playing opossum-hunter. It has more of a Dr. Seuss influence to me. It's fantastic.

Hope your girls know how good they have it!

esperanza said...

Its beautiful!

Michelle said...

Modern luxury accomodations, I love it! Beautiful work.

Just Jenn said...

What a beautiful coop! It makes me really wish we could have chickens (and you to help us built a chicken hut). It's really lovely and stylish!!

Stefaneener said...

Just Jenn, I keep trying to get Kevin to become the coopmeister to the stars, but he laughs at me.

Happy chickens, indeed. They are well loved.

kitsapFG said...

That is a thing of beauty! Wonderful craftsmanship and very workmanlike in it's efficient set up.

Heather said...

Wow- that is some coop! I love it and I can see that the girls love it too! Good job, Kevin~

Helen said...

One coop that I doubt will ever be flown.

Kristin said...

What a great design and resource for people wanting to build their own. You'll reap the benefits for years to come.

Zach said...

WOW, I know this is an older post. But recently I have been looking into getting chickens, and was really excited when I saw your blog. I will be re purposing the old sandbox that my dad built when I was younger. It is fenced in on all for sides, and has a ceiling. I was thinking it would be great for some chickens. Its 8x8 and I want to attach an outside run too.

Wood Storage Sheds said...

nice work! perfect for chicken :)