Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Finally I just decided to order the chickens that forced me to just build a coop. We were having trouble getting local organic eggs, so I pulled the trigger and ordered the chickens.
I really liked a design that Darcy from The Stumbling Homestead posted. http://stumblinghomestead.com/blog/2011/04/the-hoop-chicken-tractor/
I like it because it is portable. Or at least movable. I decided I wanted to be able to move my chicken coop around. Partially for the chickens and partially for my soil. My other parameter was that I didn’t want to spend any money on it. This is my instinct with most jobs, but one of the reasons we took so long to get chickens was because we kept saying “well, by the time we house them and feed them, it’s probably cheaper to just buy eggs from someone else.” That probably is true if you buy factory farmed grocery store eggs, but not necessarily if you’re buying locally raised organic eggs like we do.
Our neighbor Don Garrett keeps a scrap pile of his off cuts from his millwork business and I find some amazing wood there. It’s not consistent, but it’s in great shape. There are usually all different sizes and wood varieties, but I’m not into looks – I was just looking for good, free wood. This spring Don had a load of western pine that he wanted to get rid of that he offered to me. Turns out it had been on the original train station in Belleville. The boards are insanely wide, presumably from a time when the trees used were older and bigger and wider boards were available.
I had mentally worked out a few designs and then one day I was behind my horse barn and I noticed my pile of pallets. Most pallets have spaces between the boards, but we had a few pallets that came with shipments of our books that were solid – no spaces between the boards. It seemed to me that one of these pallets would make a good floor for a coop. I wanted the floor raised off the ground so that it didn’t rot. I also wanted it off the ground so that it would serve as shade for the chickens on hot days if they wanted to be outside. Then I started to figure out how to add a roof. Then one of those compact fluorescent light bulbs went off over my head and I realized I could use another pallet. Voila! Instant coop!
Now I’m not a builder, but I know flat roofs are to be avoided if you can. I know this, but like water flowing downhill in your plumbing pipes I followed the path of least resistance and knew I could whack these together in minutes and I’d feel great about how much progress I made. Sort of like answering the easy questions first on an exam. Of course later the questions start getting harder to answer, as was the case with the coop.
Next I added a window. It was one I had rescued from the
dump. I believe a rural dump is less a dumping place for trash and more one big
free garage sale. I wanted to put a window in the coop so that we could see
what the ladies were up to since we’ve never had chickens before. Then I needed
a door, so I build a little ramp that we pull up like a drawbridge so that the
chickens can walk up and down and we can lock them in at night. I also put a
hinge on the back door so we can easily access the eggs with minimal disruption
to the chickens.
We had a few rains during the construction of the coop,
since it rained constantly this spring, and of course the roof leaked. So I
grabbed a leftover piece of rigid insulation from when we had the siding redone
on the house. To screw it on I used plastic washers I made out of some old
blinds I found at the dump. Then I put on another layer of that western pine
for aesthetic value.
I know I will get lots of feedback about my coop because my blog readers are fantastic. And yes, I expect to be told that this is a dumb design. But, so far so good. The massive windstorm that came through last week didn’t budge the coop. So the weight of it is an advantage in that sense.
One thing I was hoping for was to be able to drag it around the yard when I want to move it. Well, as I kept adding stuff the dragging was getting harder and harder. And using a piece of rough, unplaned scrap wood on the bottom just made for even more resistance. Finally I screwed on an old pair of cross country skis from the… you guessed it… the dump. Then I used a good “glider” wax on the bottom of the skis and I can drag it quite nicely. With skis on the bottom I’ll be able to drag it in the summer and drag it even more easily on snow in the winter!
The design has lots of “ventilation” right now that I will
have to correct before winter weather arrives. With the amount of work we have
around here at this time of year my attitude is that I’ll cross that bridge
when we come to it. I’ve put eyehooks on the door and on the egg trap door, but
I’m not sure they’re raccoon-proof. Right now the coop is in the front yard
close to where Morgan the Wonder Dog likes to sleep, but he, like me, is
getting older, so I’m not sure he’d even notice a raccoon sneaking into the
I’ve noticed that the “girls” like to perch on the boards
that I have dividing their “nests” inside, so I’ve added a wooden bar for them
to roost on. The coop is very much a work in progress and I’m sure there will
be quite a few refinements to be made. For now the ladies seem happy. Now all
we need are some eggs.