February 21, 2014

The Master Plan and The Chicken Coop

Detail from our 2014 master plan.
Everything in red is proposed. 

If you've been following our master plan revisions, then you know that the thing about which we've been the most indecisive, has been the barn; it's size, shape, and location change on every revision. We've finally settled on what to do: build both a new chicken coop and a new goat barn. The chicken coop must be first so that we can use the old coop area for storage when we tear down the existing dilapidated coal barn. I'm pleased to announce that building the coop has commenced.

The idea for our new coop came from the poultry shed plan (page 59) in Carol Ekarius's How to Build Animal Housing.  It includes a feed storage area which we liked, but I didn't like the arrangement of the doors, so we modified the plan. I wanted a straight shot into the chicken area for a wheelbarrow. We also moved the location of the exterior door based on the arrangement of our own buildings.

Very rough sketch of the new chicken coop floorplan. I'm thinking
of putting a Dutch door between the chicken and storage areas. 

Before you look at the project photos, I'm supposed to tell you that this is not conventional construction. This is get-er-done construction. If some of it looks a bit unconventional, well, that's just how it is.

Corner posts were sunk and concreted in.

Dan dug a trench and used cap block for a footer. It needed to be buried
deep enough to prevent critters like dogs or foxes from digging underneath.

Cinder blocks are dried in on top of the cap blocks. As you can
see, the new coop sits across the chicken yard from the old coop. 

Anchor bolts and concrete trowel for the next step.

Anchor bolts were cemented into some of the cinder block holes

The sill plate will be attached to the blocks with the bolts.

First, however, an in-between layer of flashing. We didn't have metal
flashing so Dan used what he had, asphalt flashing. It prevents moisture
from wicking into the wood sill plate and keeps termites away, hopefully.

Folded over the cinder blocks, the flashing makes a drip edge.
Sheathing on the outside will cover the flashing so it won't be seen.

First wall framed out. The entry door is on the right
& a window to light the storage area is on the left.

The chicken entry will open into the existing chicken yard. The real challenge will be convincing the chickens to use it.

Continued in "Evolution of a Chicken Coop."


Anonymous said...

Good luck for your new chicken coop.

Michelle said...

I love it!!!

Farmer Barb said...

Framing makes me swoon! That is the cleverest idea I have seen for the foundation. I have a question about the corner posts: are the walls also toenailed into the bottom of the post or is it an overlap at the top and the cinder block anchors only? The right hand post is not overlapped. Will he be cutting that down to height?

The solution for my chickens (when they were alive) was always the same: black oil sunflower seeds. It was Chicken Crack.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

What a well thought out construction. The flashing is a good idea and the sunken foundations imperative. It's good to build from scratch after a few years of "making do" and mistakes. We spent years turning old sheds and barns into housing for hens , in particular. The Chicken houses we built last year from scratch are SO much better. D. calls them "The executive hen houses"
Re. the new fencing to the left of the new hen house on your map - is this to provide an enclosure or a holding place/ safety break for stock between fields?

Nina said...

You're lucky that your climate allows for that sort of foundation. Even when we were building our Saxon Long House, a play house that sits above the ground, we had to sink deep cement sonotube supports to keep the building from heaving from the frost. It looks like it will be a functional and useful building. Isn't that what a chicken coop should be? As long as the birds are happy!

Leigh said...

W-W and Michelle, thanks! So far so good.

Barb, LOL. 1+ for chickens and BOSS. You've got me envisioning a trail into the new coop, which they'll madly fall in love with and never want to leave.

Dan did a lot of research on pole barns (yay for YouTube) before deciding how to make this one. The right hand post is taller for a slanting roof. I'm not entirely sure what he has in mind, but I'll take a good photo record and we'll see together!

Gill, I confess to being tired of making do with these old outbuildings. The current chicken coop set-up actually isn't too bad, but the old roof is leaking again (after covering with a tarp about 4 years ago.) Plus we can use the old coop for storage while the new goat barn is built. It's actually the goat set-up that I'm tired of dealing with.

Nina, it's true, we don't have a deep frost line! That makes things considerably easier!

Ed said...

Looking good. We've taken to building our small buildings up on large timbers used as skids. We build them in the shop on flat concrete, hook them to the tractor and drag them up onto a pad of crushed limestone and then enclose the ends to prevent critters from crawling underneath. It gives you the advantage of being able to move them in the future which we have done several times over the years as plans change. We also sold one that was dragged five miles to its new home after serving us reliably for nearly 20 years! We used one for chickens, one for farrowing hogs and the one we sold as a bee supply storage building.

Renee Nefe said...

It looks great! I'm sure you'll figure out how to move the chickens into it.
It will be nice to have a critter proof home for them.

Perry - StoneHillRidge said...

I've read that if you will lock the chickens in the new coop for a week, that they will learn to roost and lay there. Then you can let them out and they will return each night.

Sarah said...

Looks awesome! Can't wait to see how it turns out!

jewlz said...

I was tickled to see your new outbuilding, so imagine you're thrilled! Will be adding this to my "this is how dan did ----" file.

Sandy Livesay said...


You and your husband do amazing working, I love all the work you put into your home. This chicken coop is going to be nice enough for one of your blogger friends (like me) to move in.

On a serious note, great work so far. I know when it's done it will be just totally amazing.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive! I am enjoying watching this, and you are inspiring me. I doubt our first coop, which we are going to start assembling next week, will be nearly this nice, but it's a start. Can't wait to see the progress.


Leigh said...

Ed, the plans in the book called for this to be put on skids. but, since we don't have a tractor, it wouldn't get hauled anywhere anyway. :)

Renee, quite a few of the chickens roost in the tree in the yard anyway, so I doubt those will care less!

Perry, I may have to resort to that, assuming I can get them in in the first place, LOL

Sarah, thanks!

JW, I am thrilled! Will be moreso when we get started on the goat barn!

Sandy, Dan gets all the credit for this one. One thing that helps is knowing it doesn't have to be human snug and perfect. Just safe, dry, and draft free for chickens.

Stephanie, the real fun is getting the first chickens!

Leigh said...

Gill, I realized I forgot to answer your question about the fencing. Yes, the small triangular area is meant to serve as a buffer between bucks and does! It's closed off now with a cattle panel; a gate would be much more convenient.

Cro Magnon said...

I'm not allowing my hens to read the above. They may well go on strike, and demand better accommodation!

Quinn said...

Well, it's becoming clear to me what the missing element is in my many plans and projects and constructions.
It's Dan! ;)

Ellen and Adrian said...

Very informative pics. A few of the areas we may move to allow for buildings, 10x10 and under, to be built without permits. I will be watching your progress :) I like pasturing during the good weather with a moveable A-frame, but a more permanent structure for broody or sick hens, and for the flock when we need to supplement heat
will be in the plans.

Ngo Family Farm said...

Wow, you guys are moving quickly with the frame up already! Forgive my ignorant question (I have zero knowledge about construction), but I was curious about the flooring - will you keep it as dirt? We have an old barn with a wood floor that the rats have made holes in, but it seems critter-proof otherwise. I've heard of cement flooring in coops, too, but not everything I've read is in favor of that....

Chris said...

This is very promising and I like the invent-it-as-you-go style. Use what you've got and make the design clever.

Quick question though, is the frost heave going to be an issue with blocks able to move independently to each other? Or is it going to help with frost heave?

Leigh said...

Cro Magnon, LOL. Fortunately, chickens in the US can't read very well (although they have been known to figure out pictures).

Quinn, I don't know what I'd do with out him!

Ellen and Adrian, seems lots of folks do well with the portable buildings. We are thinking of something like that for turkeys when we get them.

Jaime, good questions. We discussed the floor quite a bit but decided to leave it dirt, except in the little feed storage area to keep feed containers off the ground.

The old shed we've been using for chickens and goats has a concrete slab floor. I have mixed feelings about it. For the goats, I find it very easy to shovel out and hose down to keep clean. Also, the goats love to lay on it during summer. For the chickens it doesn't matter because I keep the litter deep all year long. The problem has been the pecan trees which shade it. Their roots have grown under and broken the concrete into huge slabs. Last summer we had rats burrow under and set up an entire community! Our baby chicks became easy pickings because they could easily get into the coop.

Interesting about your wood floor. Our rats gnawed entries for themselves in the shed framing at the walls, so I know what you mean.

Chris, we've definitely had to do some adapting! More on that soon. :) Re frost heave, our ground rarely freezes. This has been the first winter we've been here that the temps have remained below freezing for several days. Even our 90 year old house has no conventional footer. The foundation is just a brick wall built on the ground! Not that we would build a house the same way, LOL.

Unknown said...

Looks great! We are anxious to start on our chicken coop this spring and get our first flock!

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Dan....such a handy guy! ;) Nice coop....I'm sure they will love it! :)

Unknown said...

I pinned this. We are becoming small farmers soon. Gleaning information and inspiration! Thank you.