The Chicken Cottage
I'm really happy with what we now have to house our chickens. It provides lots of space, is easy to clean, and fits the landscape here in a functional way. Behold! The Chicken Cottage!
However it took us a while to get here. Allow me to share the stages with you, and maybe I can save you from a few of our mistakes.
First off, the big (and costly) mistake. Buying a pre-fab hen house.
It was a raised housebox with a screened in run, a very popular configuration.
Now I'm not saying it was an entirely bad house. It was easy to assemble, and could be an okay housing option if you have a few chickens. I think the biggest issue with things like this is they are advertised as being able to house more birds than they really should. I can not imagine this amount of space working out long term for more than 2 or 3 birds- let alone the "up to" amount the seller was claiming.
The other things that I didn't like you may want to watch out for- The pull out tray for cleaning. It seemed like a good idea, but the track kept getting clogged. This house had external egg boxes like side wings, but being at a raised height from the inside floor, made them a tempting perch for hens. So they frequently roosted in or at the edge of the nest boxes. Which resulted in a lot of poop falling along the edge of the tray, clogging that track, or in the nests making them gross. We tried adding curtains to discourage them, temporarily blocking the nests off, and raising, lowering, and switching out the roosting perch that came with the setup. Maybe not everyone's birds get stubborn about roosting anywhere but the perch provided. Maybe this could be your ideal hen house for a few chickens. It just turned out to be a valuable learning curve for us.
So we sold it.
And decided to build our own bigger, better coop!
One major advantage to building your own structure is you can make it whatever dimensions you want. The other thing that was a revelation was realizing how to fit a structure to our landscape. Flat land is scarce here so we made a platform. This creates not only a roomy hen house footprint, but also an area underneath to set up a dust bath that stays dry.
Here's our floor. After we dug in foundation posts and made sure they were all level, we could make a flat floor to span them. We used 2 x 6 to give the frame enough support without bowing. Covered that in heavy plyboard, and topped it off with linoleum stretched and stapled at the edges.
This linoleum is a touch I am especially glad we tried, and I recommend it to anyone building a larger hen house. It allows me to clean easily- the messes have nothing to stick or soak into and you can just sweep out with a broom with ease. It is important to note that you never want to use linoleum near a heat source like a brooder lamp. It can release gases under the heat that are not healthy for the birds to breathe.
Not sure how well this photo demonstrates, but the framing covers that edge area of the floor platform where staples were put in to secure that floor covering. Helping to permanently anchor that linoleum and securing shiny staples away from curious beaks.
Another cool thing about building your own is getting to decide where windows and doors go, and how big they get to be. I was happy to design a large window overlooking the mountain view facing East so the birds can enjoy the morning sunrise. A coop with a view!
We also added a perch bar that is in front of the window, of course.
To keep costs down, the outer walls are MDF. Once painted, it's a decent enough thing.
The inner walls are OSB. There an insulation gap between them that's the width of the 2 x 4 framing. If you live in a climate that gets very harsh winters- insulation may be a good addition. I painted the inner walls with two heavy coats of latex paint to seal out moisture or any dirt. I chose white to keep the inside nice and bright.
The roof is framed, covered in OSB, tar paper, and then it was time to shingle. I have to confess that the majority of the framing work ends up being done by Stephen. So any less heavy work is done by me. Here's where I learned to shingle a roof.
Here is the house finished up. Affectionately dubbed "The Chicken Cottage" It is walk in and has next boxes inside the house, and lots of perch places including a wall to wall bar by the window with the view. As you can see, I had some moral support as I finished up all that painting.
If I were to do a project like this again, I would seriously consider pre-painting the outside before assembly. Sure, it might get scuffed up a bit, but it would have been much easier (and safer) than having to worry about the ladder and everything on uneven ground.