Keeping backyard chickens has been an ongoing discussion in our home for over a year now. Denver lowered it's restrictions on keeping them and it's become extremely easy to do now. We can have 9 hens and apparently one goat kept in the back yard. We use a lot of eggs in our cooking especially things like pasta where you can use half a dozen in one recipe. Years ago we agreed to only buy local and organic eggs which on average costs $5, twice the amount of regular store brand eggs from a chicken factory, BUT WHAT A DIFFERENCE.
The reasons for getting chickens were numerous but it was the logistics that left me confused. I recommend a lot of research. In today's digital age where information is fingertips away, you'll be reading more material than you ever thought possible. Read it all, or as much as you can. In a short time you will read common things and know what's true and tested and what is just fluff.
In Denver we need 16 sq. feet per bird for a chicken run, and 4 sq.ft per bird in a house or coop. It must be in the rear 50% of your property (backyard), and no longer a need to get permissions from neighbors, just a limited livestock permit from the city.
Armed with this information I looked up several coop plans online and came up with what seemed to be inexpensive to build, yet customizable plan. I got the idea from this Youtube link. A 4x4 foot coop if thrifty because you can use an 8 foot 2/4 twice, and most plywood is sold in this exact size- so this used very little wood waste. For me this was perfect for my needs which was 3-4 egg playing hens. Another great thing I discovered was the 70% off bin at Home Depot which got me some good enough 2x4's for about $1. The framing of this house cost me about $50 total in wood. I'll soon be adding siding which will probably be another $40 and will hopefully use some trim we already have in the garage from past projects.
I love that everything so far has fit into the back of the Insight so no need to rent a truck from HD.
Over the weekend I started with the base which stands 1.5 feet from the ground. This gives them a covered area for shade underneath and meets our requirement of having the coop 1 foot off the ground. I then started on walls but really to sit down and draw out plans for doors, access ext but roof style. I started pre-fabricating the walls so that they could just be assembled onto the base outside because I was currently doing this in the garage.
It's been about three weeks since I started construction on the coop. Up until now construction has been confined in the garage as I worked on the pre-fabricated walls and roof. Another intention here was to keep the nosy neighbors at bay until absolutely necessary because I generally do not like confrontation.
One piece of the process that I kept putting off was the permit and license from the city of Denver. This is handled by Animal control and permits are issued at a city shelter. Permits are $25 and only requires a quick one page application to be filled out. The permits allows for 8 hens, 1 mini goat and 2 ducks so my 4 chickens were not an issue. I went down, filled out the application, paid the small fee and was soon on my way home with legal permission for my endeavor. Now any complaint would be thwarted by waving my permit in the air at any opposition. Done deal.
Along with the coop construction I am clearing away portions of the yard that will be home to the coop and fencing. This used to be an old garden that never did well so the land is already mostly dirt and just needed some brush clearing and general cleanup. I used cement pavers create a footing for the coop which technically still remains portable should the need to relocate arise in the future. Making the pavers level was crucial but the only prep before outside construction could commence.
I'm not sure if this was a good idea yet or not but planned on building the fence around the coop rather than doing the fence first. In theory this would allow for easier placement of the coop but time will tell. Finally on a warm day it was time to bring everything outside and start construction. Nailing the walls into the base was quick process and in under an hour the skeleton of the coop was up. The roof had been raised with the help of my partner, an easy two person job.
My coop consists of the following features:
I used 1/2 inch plywood sheets for the siding that are rated for exterior use. Because my vehicle could not transport large sheets or even 4x4 plywood sheets I had to purchase 2x4. This still meant little waste but just a little more construction. Because two of the sides had no angles I was able to add the siding to the walls while in the garage. The other two walls required custom cutting once the roof support was added so I saved that for when everything was put together outside. (A lesson I learned the hard way after wasting 2 sheets of plywood. Fortunately at $4.50 a sheet it was not a costly mistake and I could still use these scraps).
I'm overall happy with the results. The bones are complete and now I can focus my energy on the exterior finishes and fencing. There are some items I would like to research further such as automated waterers and feed stations that can be filled from outside the coop. I am thinking that if these were accessible from the nesting box section this would be ideal for both bird and human. I see quite a few varied opinions about feeding inside the coop vs. outside that I also want to look into. I figure that starting with interior feeders is going to be ok and can be upgraded later on if needed.
I do admit that the nesting box section needs some TLC, as there are some draft leaks. There are also some exposed nails in the roof that I will need to cut off with a metal saw so that the birds won't hurt themselves so leak proofing with insulation foam and filing down nails will probably be next on the interior. I also need to put down some vinyl tiles on the floor to protect the wood and make for easier cleaning. I figure that this is a great salvage item since I am only laying down 16 sq. feet of tiles.
After a short work trip out of state I returned to some pretty gorgeous weather that allowed me to get back to the coop. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do for the siding but at the Home improvement place I did spy some fence posts that were $1.20 each which I thought would work well for siding. It really was easy putting them up as the lengths were pretty standard until getting to the top but even that just required some custom cutting and it was done in a day.
Initially the idea was to leave this Natural wood but as I looked at some coop pictures online, I really liked the idea of painting it so I did. I really like the results and I think that the paint will make it last longer with the elements. I covered the open eaves with screen so that air can circulate inside but nothing can get in like bees or wasps who would quickly build a hive. I also sealed the cracks so everything inside is nice and snuggly. For a perch I installed a 2x4 post that runs the length and should be fine for the three birds but I will add a second if I find that they don't want to share.
Now that all I have left to do outside is the fence, it's time for chicks. I won't lie, this part was slightly stressful. I went to the closest place that sold chicks 2x and each time they were sold out. Each time I stocked up on other items I neede: Waterers, feeders, chick feed, a heat light, bedding etc...
Finally I found a Murdochs about 15 miles away and they had chicks! I bought three: A Delaware, Red Star and a Blue ANDALUSIAN. Pickings were somewhat slim but was told all were good egg layers and friendly. I was warned that the Andalusian was the most independent of them all, and not a snuggle in your lab kind of bird.
This part has been amazing. For three days I have been glued to watching and holding them.
Have had the chicks for 72 hours now and WOW I have seen them grow. They all have some wing feathers coming and the Blue has some tail feathers. Not to mention that they look bigger. It's insane how fast they seem to be growing. I did change the lighting for the heat bulb and went to a red one. They slept for a really long time after which makes me think that the clear bulb was just too bright. This is definitely darker and they seem happier.
I have been giving them crumbled egg yolk and they now know when my hand goes into the box that it's probably with food. They have started devouring the egg in minutes. What they don't gobble down they kick into the saw dust and peck for it later. Here in the photo on the left you can see some of the feathers on Fiona. She seems to be growing the fastest with the Red Star next and Delaware in last.