Building a Backyard Chicken Coop

Reader Contribution by Tammy Kimbler
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We were in over our heads building our chicken coop in the backyard. After finding our little hutch to upcycle (see the Part 1 in this series: Upcycling an Urban Chicken Coop), as well as an old 1960s night stand, we had no clue how to bring together our treasures into a real chicken coop. How in the world would we insulate the coop against our harsh winters. What about a roof? The coop would need a platform of some kind to elevate it off the cold ground. Didn’t we need to attached a chicken run? We needed help.

Our friends Mike and Meighan came to the rescue. Mike is a cinematographer by trade. Meighan is a producer. They are both big DIYers that are into gardening, home renovation and various bootstrap projects. And they have a wood shop in their garage. Eureka! With the promise of future eggs, Mike and Meighan graciously agreed to help build the coop in their garage. With my partner Christopher’s help they free-form patterned a shell to house the up-cycled parts. The bottom of the original hutch with the double doors became the front of the coop, the shelving became the back, while the night stand became the egg box. Starting with the floor plan, they built an elevated platform that was wide enough to include 2 inches of foam insulation surrounding the entire up-cycled structure. A canted roof was added that would allow the snow and rain to slide off. The entire coop was laid out in the garage, lightly tacked together, then disassembled and trucked over to our backyard.

We chose a sheltered spot between our garage and the neighbor’s garage that would shield the coop and run from winter north winds, but would still allow plenty of sunshine during the day. We put down concrete blocks under our platform legs so that the legs would not be directly exposed to the ground to discourage rot. We built the coop from there on up. There was a lot of head scratching and figuring, but the primary coop came together in a couple days. Accents, roofing, window, and paint came over the course of the summer when we had time. We covered the venting with hardware cloth to prevent the varmints from invading. The interior surfaces were sealed with waterproof sealer. The exterior got a coat of exterior latex. Our roof was two sheets of PVC green house siding.

My father Ted came through town one weekend and helped us frame up the chicken run. (Thanks Dad!) We have numerous birds of prey, like hawks, eagles and falcons, in our neighborhood because we are located on a tributary of the Mississippi River, which is only 2 miles away. We also have raccoons, foxes, coyotes and opossum that would just love to eat the chickens. Our run needed full protection. Christopher dug an 8 inch deep trench around the entire coop and then covered the run, the run roof and under the coop with chicken wire, burying it in the ground to stop the diggers. The final touch was a ramp from the coop into the run.

The coop was finished just about the time snow started falling in November in Minneapolis. The next installment will cover a winter of city permits and how we outfitted the coop, then finally, the arrival of our chickens!