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One for the birds

Posted by joeabbott on January 7, 2010

OK, I made references earlier to building a chicken coop so here’s the first substantial information on that project.

Not sure why chickens, but we do eat a fair number of eggs (either directly or in baking). And, after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, I was a bit concerned over industrial farming and how chicken treatment is portrayed. But it was Suzanne who took up the torch on this one.

She signed up for a “backyard chickens” class put on through Seattle Tilth and I had the time off so I joined her. From there, it snowballed into a project. Before you know it, we had three birds “reserved” for us from a farmer in Orting or something like that, and we were on the path to owning chickens! We then picked up the Raising Chickens for Dummies book and a pamphlet publication, Building Chicken Coops by Gail Damerow. The former is a good overall reference and the latter a fine primer on the essentials details to consider when choosing or building a coop.

I then turned to the Internet for my real design information. Heck, I don’t know anything about building a coop! And what a bust!

I’m sure there’s good information out there, I just couldn’t find it. I looked for free plans, detailed design information, or walk-thrus on putting a coop together. Nothing. I found a number of YouTube videos on building coops but I just didn’t connect with the design or there were too many details missing for it to be a complete plan. So I started looking around more and more, pulling the parts I liked from the many designs I’d seen, working through the different aspects with Suzy, and eventually we decided that we’ll build this:

There’s a bunch of detail to work out. Or, I should say, we have yet to work out most of the details, but there’s a lot here to work from. Over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll dig into the specifics, tweak the size of the materials based on what’s available “down the hill” (that is, at the local Home Depot, Lowe’s, or McLendon Hardware), and flesh out the dimensions. In all fairness, I will mention our design was strongly influenced by the Playhouse Chicken Coop by Dennis Harrison-Noonan … who, by the way, has his coop plans for sale for $35. Which is probably a bargain for novice to intermediate builders, those with little time or interest in designing their own, or someone with 35 extra dollars! 🙂

For my part, I like the challenge of building my own. I was starting to feel guilty about stealing his design but after Suzanne saw how much time I was putting into this, she felt it was starting to be our own. And, when I think about it, yeah … from the outside it may look like the Playhouse Chicken Coop but mine will stand up to a hurricane, will have woodworker-quality joinery, and probably cost about twice what it would take to put his together! I did find someone on the web who said they built from his plans (I heard in a video or read somewhere that he’s sold about 2000 plans … it’s a very popular design and must be a good product) and that it cost about $350 to build. That will be a nice benchmark for me.

So, how’s our design different from The Playhouse Chicken Coop? Let’s see …

  • I’m using 4×4 posts at the corners of the roost box
  • I’m planning on allowing access beneath the coop box from the sides
  • I’m planning on allowing the sides to swing out for cleaning
  • Our nest box is outside to enlarge the “living space” and keep the birds from pooping where the eggs will be laid
  • We’ll have windows on the sides to encourage light throughout the darker months
  • Our door is on the end to avoid hitting the roofing
  • We have wet weather here so our eaves will project a bit more
  • We’ll have a storage chest built into the back
  • And I plan to build some form of wiring into it so we’ll be able to light\heat as necessary

So, not staggering differences but a few. Most significant is the fact that we’re designing ours without his detailed plans … I have no idea how his is put together. He has a couple teaser videos on YouTube (outside and inside) but there’s just not enough detail to allow me to pull off sizes or specific joinery details. So, I’ll use what I know about woodworking to build a chicken coop. 🙂

Oh, and because I was so frustrated with the lack of detail plans on the web for a chicken coop, I’ll be posting my working specs and notes! Stay tuned for more details as we build this thing!


7 Responses to “One for the birds”

  1. […] « One for the birds […]

  2. […] you’d read One For the Birds you would have seen a picture of the coop from behind … and, thus, seen the nestboxes. Or at […]

  3. […] by joeabbott on February 8, 2010 Looking back you can see the coop has openings and doors all over the place. As discussed in the last entry, […]

  4. Brad said

    Gotta question – would you ever make a follow-up entry with all of the details including a “lessons learned” summary of building the coop? Just thought I’d ask. No big deal though; a person could go through your current entries and pick out the parts that work best. Thanks!

    • joeabbott said

      This is a great suggestion. My “lessons learned” list is long. The biggest thing that’s bit me here is that I failed to consider how I’d attach the chicken wire (or hardware fabric). Some places were just tough because of the semi-lapped joinery, other places revealed big problems as I couldn’t open the top vent without a quick mod to the door after attaching the wire. I just didn’t think it through enough.

      I’ll make a post on this sooner than later as I will probably start to forget things and items like this are very helpful. And, now that I have hens in the coop, my walkway is finished, and I’ve built\installed\loaded the wife’s raised garden beds (oh, she helped a bunch on that project!), I should have time soon!

  5. […] Michael Pollan shares in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma … I wrote about this book twice: here and here. While Dave hadn’t read Pollan’s book, he did enjoy the movie Food, Inc. … which is a 2008 […]

  6. […] The busiest day of the year was February 27th with 82 views. The most popular post that day was One for the birds. […]

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