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Expanding a chicken coop

Posted by joeabbott on May 23, 2015

The three hens we had remaining were getting to be old ladies; happier to enjoy dust baths and lolling in the shade than giving us eggs. We’re comfortable providing a home for old hens, but we want the eggs, too! So, we brought eight new chicks into the backyard. Part of that plan was to ensure we had enough coop space for everyone so Suzy’s and I planned out the coop expansion.

I’m very happy with how this turned out: the chickens have an enormous amount of new space (meaning everyone can roost comfortably which leads to less chicken stress), the extension blends pretty seamlessly with the old coop, and the construction is up to the quality I was hoping for. What’s not to be happy about!?

This post describes the build-out of the coop extension.

The coop

Coop Terminology. I’m not sure if this is “official” or respected by others, but here’s how I call it: our coop is the combination of a shelter and a run. The shelter is the fully enclosed portion, the place where the hens roost at night and lay eggs in the day; the run is also enclosed but is open to the elements and is on the ground, both in front of and below the shelter. We almost never close the run but our shelter has an automatic door that closes nightly (and opens the next morning).

Our original coop had a 4’x8’ floor plan: the shelter was raised and accessed by a ramp, allowing the chickens to have all of the 4×8 space as their run. The shelter had two roosts (each about 24” long) and two nest boxes. Suzy covered the floor of the shelter with a thick layer of pine shavings and the run was 4”-6” deep of fine sand.

Our plan was to pull off the back of the coop, add another 4’ of space, extend the roofline an additional 20” beyond that (a shelter for people standing back there) and to enclose the bottom as part of the run. Inside we’d extend the existing roosts the length of the shelter addition (they’d now have two 6’-long roost), we’d add another roost above these, and we’d give them three nest boxes.

Both shelter and run extensions were to blend with the original coop.

Prep work

To start with, we had to level the ground where we were extending the coop. It was a lotta work. Additionally, we had to move the power line that ran to the coop; we’d reposition it to the new back.

In the pictures below, Suzy is digging out the foundation (we border the coop with a foundation of brick and then have a rockery border around that). A lot of the digging involved removing stones from the area. We have a LOT of stones in our yard. The next picture shows our planning for the roofline extension, and the final picture shows the coop with the sides and back removed … just the nest box to take out and it’s time to build!

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Extension basics

The extension really just came down to adding an extended floor. The original back would be removed and tagged onto the back of the extended part and the sides were just two new doors and some siding. Then add a roofing section and we were done. It was a lot of work, but really that simple.

In the first picture, you can see the “helper” I borrowed from my woodworking shop to be an extra set of hands. Trasper, also in that picture, did nothing to help. But he stayed out from under foot and it was fun to have him with us.

Keys for this step were getting the floor level across the length, the new posts to be properly supported (we have concrete pavers under each), and to get a tight fit. In the last picture, Suzy was doing a deep clean and touching up with paint where it was needed.

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You can see I also borrowed the pipe clamps from my wood shop to help out! Between the two floor sections is a thick layer of anti-microbial silicon (typically used in bathrooms), a couple “biscuits” (plate joined), and they’re held together by the upper and lower trim parts … not installed yet in the picture below.

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Oh, you’ll note that my “helper” is still sitting in the run area below the new shelter addition. Yup, mistake! I had to both lower the support head and then take one of the legs off before I could collapse it and remove it from beneath the new shelter. Not a problem but definitely an oversight!

Roof

Next we put on the new roof. It was easier to do at this stage (thanks for thinking of that, Suz!) and I had a few problems getting angles and the bird’s mouth cuts just right. Not sure how real roofers do it, but this gave me fits.

Below, the first picture shows the roof needed for the shelter, and the next shows the extra area to shelter the humans out there during the Seattle rains!

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And then magic happens

Sadly, I don’t have many additional interim pictures! We’d built the new doors and siding in the shop, and the back was already built from the original coop. There was a bit of fiddling to get hinges to line up but, for the most part, it just came down to screwing the parts onto the sides and back.

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Still more, folks!

What you don’t see in the pictures above, is the work setting in the foundation around the bottom, adding the run barriers and doors, and adding gutters. All little things that we knocked out in the weekend days that followed. We also had to add barriers to the various openings under the roofline, build a proper box to hold the extension cords and connections, and adding roosts.

Here Suzy is digging the trench for the extension cord. We were prepared to lay proper conduit through the yard but, after 3 years of being buried, the cord still looked new … dirty, but new! Because we do a lot of projects in this area (although I can’t imagine we’ll need to do any more), we covered the section of extension cord between the gate and the coop in some hard conduit; and then buried that ~9” deep.

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Scenes from the construction

Here are a few stray shots we captures that help us remember that day!

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Coda

I’d planned on taking a week off work to do this project (and likely a few others) but, because we had chickens living in the coop, I need to tear the walls off the old coop and add the new extension in one day. That was a long day.

We did it, though!

All the pictures above area “day 1”; day 2 was spent getting the hardware cloth up, trimming various doors to fit, and other touch-ups. There was a day 3 but it as a pretty slack day. I ended up taking Friday off to build the coop and Monday off to recuperate. I still need to get the gutter extension up!

The thing I like the best is that, because I built the original coop, I was fearless tackling this part. While I hit a lot of problems, I hit nothing that I couldn’t fix or work around. It was a fun and rewarding project.

But, thanks for dropping by our little urban farm and seeing how we’re doing. We have a bit more catching up to do so come on back soon!

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3 Responses to “Expanding a chicken coop”

  1. Mom said

    Splendid! I’m going to email Laurel/Fred and Chelsea/Ray to be sure they get to see this. Quite the chickie lodge. Mom

  2. labird24 said

    Looks great Joe. We both follow your blog just don’t often comment. Keep up the good work. The chicks love it I’m sure

  3. Jay said

    Nice coop Joe – looks great!!

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