Chicken Coop — It Begins

So, my wife decided one day that she wanted to keep chickens.  Friends of ours about a mile down the road have 10 acres, a nice attached barn (key here in the Northeast), and plenty of room.  They decided to get some chickens, , and raise them for eggs.  We went over with the kids when they chicks arrived, and stopped in from time to time as the chicks grew up.  They had not started laying, and one day, we went to visit, my older son spent about 2 hours just sitting with the chickens in the coop petting them.  He loved them, and they loved him, because the next day the eggs started, and have not stopped for 2 years.  Well, I think that day was what sealed the deal, but it took my wife a few years to get things organized.  First she had to figure out if we could keep chickens.  Every town has its own ordinances, and parts of our town do not allow keeping poultry.  When she first called the town office, she was told we lived somewhere we could not keep chickens.  Undaunted, she went online, found the town maps for zoning, and realized we were zoned in an area where we could keep chickens.  After a few more calls, her persistence paid off, and I came home from work one day with the news we were going to be able to raise chickens after all.  What joy…yeah, joy.

Anyway, the first rule we agreed on is they will stay outside year round.  The next issue was were we going to let them free range, or keep them in a pen or a ?  Well, we were not sure how the tractor would work out with winter, so we nixed that.  We also have another problem.  We live with 2 large chicken predators, our dogs.  They are Golden Retrievers, and centuries of breeding make them want to retrieve the birds…or maybe just eat them.  So we need a pen that will keep the dogs and the chickens blissfully separated.   Thus, a stationary pen seemed the best idea.  Of course, this requires a decent size coop for the chickens in winter, and a fenced in run for outside time.  We also want to put a roof on the run as well as the pen, as our friends who have chickens told use they don’t mind cold, but don’t like snow, so keeping the run covered makes the most sense.

The first step was figuring out where to put this.  We have a bed off our deck that we were talking about reworking the landscaping.  It is behind a privacy fence, so the coop would not be so obvious from the street, and it is close to the house, so easier in the winter to service the birds.  So…the bed has become the new home of the chicken coop.

Site of Coop

One of the major issues with chickens is that so many things like to eat them, so we researched how to keep the coop secure.  Predators will dig under the coop, so you do need to either line the inside of the coop, dig down so the fencing actually is underground, or put up a “skirt” outside.  We decided to do the skirt, because it was easier then digging trenches, and would be easier to replace down the road when the hardware cloth rusts out.  We are using 1/2 inch hardware cloth for this project, chicken wire has too big of a hole in it.  It will keep chickens in, and dogs out, but it will not stop a raccoon from reaching in and grabing a bird, or a weasel from getting into the coop.  Hardware cloth will.

Laying down the hardware cloth

I used 16 x 8 inch pavers to be the base layer of the coop.  These will give me a flat surface to build the coop on, as well as provide a heavy anchor for the hardware cloth skirt.  The coop and run are going to be 18 feet long by 5 feet wide.  We left a gap between the fence and the coop so we, and more imprortantly our dogs, could get back there.  I think the dogs being able to more around the coop will help discourage predators.

In the subsequent posts, I will get into the framing of the coop, as well as the siding and roofing.

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