Crafting a Chicken Oasis: From Ingenious Innovations to Abundant Eggs, a Journey in Backyard Poultry Living
I built a chicken coop for a family week before last. It was an interesting project for a couple of reasons. The size of the coop and run is by far the largest I’ve worked on at 20 x 20 feet square. The other reason was the amount of wire fabric we used to make it impervious to even mice or borrowing animals. Adding to this size is the actual coop (Nesting and roosting area) which measures six feet square.
The owner had purchased a chicken coop from China. A kind of kit. It was tiny. And while there were some interesting innovations – like pullout zinc-coated trays below the roost to speed up cleaning – everything was falling apart too fast for it to matter. We ended up incorporating the pullout trays.
After leveling the ground where the coop and run were going to be positioned, we laid down overlapping layers of wire fabric to keep rodents and borrowing predators out. On top of the wire fabric, we positioned 2″ 12 x 12-inch pavers to provide an additional layer of security to the perimeter for the coop and the run (fence). While it helps ensure the chickens are always safe (Except bears), the pavers provide a slightly elevated place (Dry) for the structure to rest on. The ‘bowl’ the pavers formed was filled in with topsoil from around the property, which the adult and pullets (Young chickens) loved scratching through.
We pitched a shed-style roof. It makes the roof math much easier and provides a simple profile that happened to match another shed on the property. I had the roof line match the back fence line so I could use the same cut for every angle that wasn’t 90. We built almost everything from cedar. The roosting rods are oak and the paneling is whatever it’s made from, but all the framing, roof joists, trim, etc. is cedar. Bare walls are wrapped head to toe with 1/4″ wire fabric which provides huge amounts of sheer strength. And over the top of each piece of framing (studs, blocking, etc.) we nailed 1 x 4 inch rough cedar trim. This did several things: the trim facing the framing at 90 degrees creates a more rigid structure. While not I-beams, they added additional strength while providing a “clean” wire fabric view by hiding all the staples.
The coop can be closed off from the run completely. It has a full-sized screen door (32″ x 76″) that also uses the 1/4″ wire fabric. Once inside the chickens are under a roof where they can do the same things they did outside, or climb the ladder to the roosting area. Their cozy home is about 72 inches square. There are nesting boxes (The owner had some cool wooden wine boxes) on either side. In the middle are two zinc trays laying end-to-end (24″x 72″) and above them are three oak roosting rods at varying heights. The trays expedite cleanup and can be removed without ever going into the coop or disturbing chickens. And because the epoxy-coated cedar frames are epoxied to the trays, they will last forever. This is a HUGE coop. These lucky cluckers are living it up!
The 13 birds will lay approximately 65 eggs a week once they mature. They have enough room for up to 24 birds if each bird is given 10 square feet. There’s no way 2-3 people can eat that many eggs so they will be giving them away to neighbors and family, etc. which is a win-win for the community. Plus, the owner gets to enjoy some beautiful birds. The waste from the birds going into his garden acts as a fertilizer.