Chicken Coop 2.0
After living with our starter coop for a little too long, I finally have a chicken coop that meets all of my, and the chickens’, needs.
I purchased some basic chicken coop plans online and asked my friend, who builds things for a living, to construct it for me. (Thanks, Andreas!) After discussing the design plans, we made some modifications to suit our needs better, such as adding the henhouse windows, the small, external chicken door, and the large, henhouse door that opens fully for cleaning purposes.
The main reason I decided to build a new chicken coop was because I wanted to be free from having to be awake every sunrise and at home every sunset. The new coop is completely predator proof so the hens can come and go from their henhouse to their enclosed yard at will. The human-sized door, external egg door, and automated watering system are just bonuses to the freedom and flexibility this coop offers, schedule-wise.
I sited the new coop in a spot in the yard where the swimming pool used to be. This was a good location because it was already level, in need of soil remediation, close to the shed that stores the hens’ food, and close to electricity if it’s needed in extremely cold weather. This spot also met the city ordinance requirement of being at least 50 feet from neighboring residences.
I oriented the coop itself north-south lengthwise in order to take advantage of the southern, summer winds. The henhouse is on the northern end of the coop to let the winter sun into the enclosed yard and, hopefully, act as a windbreak, protecting the hens from the cold, northern winter winds. I also plan on planting a couple of evergreen shrubs on the northern side of the coop to help protect the hens from the cold winds.
Here in Austin, keeping the hens cool is a much higher priority than keeping them warm in the winter and so I designed the coop with cooling in mind. The windows are on the north and south sides of the henhouse in order to channel the summer southern breeze through the henhouse, across the roosting perch. The ceiling of the coop is open hardware cloth to release heat. The trusses of the roof are spaced such that, when it gets cold, I can slide a piece of plywood between the metal roof and the hardware cloth ceiling of the henhouse, closing it in for winter.
An annual garden was placed right next to the coop, making it convenient to shovel the shavings out of the coop and into the garden for mulch and fertilizer. I can also easily let the chickens out to weed and till the garden prior to re-planting.
My favorite feature of this system though, has to be that the coop roof catches all of the chickens’ drinking water and dispenses it, on demand, via a a PVC and poultry nipple automatic watering system. The 125 gallon raintank fills in one, 3″ rain event and held more than enough water to keep my seven hens hydrated all summer long.
A big thanks to Bock for being such a great spokes-model for her new home. Totally unprompted.