As a first time chicken owner, building a coop that fit my ambitions for chicken husbandry and their needs was a difficult nut to crack. The months of research, looking at what felt like every style on the planet, trying to track down suitable materials, drafting a plan and finally building the thing was a large task.
As Gail Damerow eloquently put it in Raising Chickens, ‘if you’re looking for the definitive, perfect, all-purpose chicken shelter, dream on.’
I was looking for a shelter that could be moved with relative ease over hummocky terrain by one person and be suitable for the pasturing of chickens. As we live on over an acre and have adequate space to do this, it was something I was eager to plan for. The trouble was, the vast majority of ‘coops’ that moderately fit this description are ‘tractors’ that are generally designed to accommodate a small number of birds. I was interested in keeping a moderately large flock of 24 birds that could happily peck about over the whole property with a moveable fence and, likewise, a moveable coop.
The following is the result of many months of dithering, researching and drawing, erasing and beginning again. I’m sharing it with the hopes of inspiring or helping others who might have been looking for something similar but couldn’t quite find it.
These progress photos show bits and pieces of how it was put together – I now know why so many people who build coops don’t provide a comprehensive plan of what they did – it’s complex and often one has to wing bits and pieces as it goes along. Unless one takes loads of notes all the way along then these sorts of details are hard to describe. I would have taken more pictures, but I had to keep an eye on my 2.5 year old boy the whole time I was putting this together so any breaks I was taking were primarily for water (or an ice cream sandwich).
Close to the top of the list for this structure were excellent wheels making the thing easy to move. The coop is relatively large at 4′ x 7′ and in order to successfully roll the beast along it needed 4 of them. These are no-flat 13″ wheelbarrow wheels (I used these) and they were just the thing. Making the axles took a great deal of elbow grease and many swear words.
…getting the tar paper in place after walls and roof plywood set.
Roof sheet metal in place after much wrangling, swatting of deer flies and additional shouting at inanimate objects.
Shutters fitted – made with the window cut outs and leftover plywood scraps.
Priming plywood is the devil.
Painting the inside.
Outside painting finished, the shutters fixed on, 1/4″ window mesh in. I plan on adding rare earth magnets to the inside of these shutters to keep them closed.
Quickly cobbled together roosts.
Large access door on, pop hole mostly done, bedding in and ready for chicks that were extremely ready to be out of their brooders.
Insofar as building complexity, I tried to make this as straightforward as possible. I put the entire thing together myself, cut the bits, heaved all the boards, screwed in every screw. And I was 4.5 months pregnant. What I am trying to say is that it’s not difficult to make something like this, just takes time.
I’m not kidding myself that this coop doesn’t need improvements (something I will be assuredly doing over time as problems present themselves) some major ones I haven’t gotten around to are handles for lifting the front wheels off the ground to pivot the coop, properly fitting the pop door with it’s automatic Chicken Guard timer (have to modify my fence first in order to make it work) and putting earth magnets on the shutters to keep them closed when need be.
Presently, the chickens seem to enjoy their housing and it’s pleasing to see how readily and eagerly they’ve taken to snatching mosquitoes out of the air, scratch with abandon in the dead leaves and chase each other when one of them finds an earth worm.