Coop Construction Recap

Hand me a fork, the coop is DONE. Well almost done. It still needs to be painted/stained but we will have to wait until spring or until the weather clears up a bit. Doesn’t matter though we are done with spending every day of every weekend out there. It has taken us 9 weekends, including 4 days over Thanksgiving, to construct the palace de pollo. This does not include the hours of prep time collecting materials from the Rebuilding Center, and friends’ cast-offs etc. I would guess that at least 50% of the project is reclaimed and recycled materials. Scott would say it is more like 75% but I think has repressed how much we had to get retail. We (I) also spent a considerable amount of time researching coop designs, the basic requirements, and drafting the plans. Our efforts were not wasted, the coop is a beautiful structure and we are very proud of it.
The stats:
Total Area – 50sq ft (5′x10′) the height varies from 7′ to 6′.
Hen House – 20sq ft (4′x5′x4′)
According to the books there is enough room for 5 hens. You need less room if you have bantum hens.
run = 10sq ft/ standard hen
house = 4sq ft/ standard hen
Portland city ordinances will allow us 3 hens (no roosters) with out a permit. If we want to suffer a site inspection and pay a $30 application fee we can apply for a permit for more birds. We will probably apply for the permit to keep a total of 5 hens.

Most of the structure is cedar. We chose cedar instead of pressure treated or landscaping timbers because we didn’t like the idea of the chemicals used to preserve the lumber leaching into the soil. The roof joists are landscaping timbers. We figured the girls wouldn’t have access to the roof and there is no ground contact.
We were lucky that the coop site is relatively level so no site leveling was necessary. We did not want to dig post holes or use pier blocks to anchor the coop to the ground. Basically we are lazy and we wanted to avoid any ‘permanent’ remnants should we need to remove the coop in the future. The 4×4 cedar skids are secured to the ground with 6 pieces of 2 foot rebar hammered through the lumber and into the ground.
The run is covered in 1/2″ welded galvanized hardware cloth and secured to the structure with heavy duty staples. We folded the wire at the bottom to create an 18″ skirt around the run and secured it to the ground with landscape fabric staples. The skirt should help deter any critters from trying to dig in to the run. The original plan was to dig down 12″ then out 12″ more inches making a moat to lay the hardware cloth in. But again we are lazy and don’t like to dig giant holes if we don’t have too. In the spring the grass will grow up through the hardware cloth and you won’t even see it. In theory I should be able to mow right over it. We’ll see.
According to the books and the forums, chicken wire is is useless for protecting your hens from predators. The holes are too big to keep hungry grabby predator hands out and it will not stand up to the teeth of a raccoon.
House Details:

There are 3 nest boxes, 18″x12″x18″ in the hen house. The books say you need 1 box per 4 hens. We put in three because 3 fit nicely across the width of the house. We may end up closing at least one off and using it for on site storage.

The floor of the coop is plywood covered with self sticking linoleum tiles. The floor is also hinged and will drop away for easy cleaning.

We went nuts with the doors on the hen house. There is a GIANT door on the front for easy access to the birds and for cleaning. There is smaller door on the East side for easy feeding. There are the sliding doors also on the East side for access to the nest boxes. And finally we have the window on the North side. The window opens and the opening is covered in hardware cloth. In the summer the window will provide plenty of ventilation.

Ventilation is super important in the hen house. Even in the dead of winter hens need good ventilation. Vents provide fresh air and a way for the ammonia fumes, condensation from respiration, and dust to escape. There is a difference between ventilation and drafts. A draft is bad. A draft is a breeze that disturbs the birds feathers. The vent should move air across the top of the hen house not across your bird. Unfortunately our vents do both. We didn’t do enough research and the ventilation but not drafts was confusing so our vents were an on the fly installation. I think we did all right though. Our vents are placed on the West side of the coop and in the roof. The vents on the West side are old heat registers that can be closed and opened as needed. The roof vents are just hardware cloth stapled across holes in the roof.

To make sure the hen house is as draft free as possible we used old bicycle tubes as weather-stripping around all the doors and the window. It works surprisingly well and we have a never ending supply from our bike crazy friends. Win-Win for everyone.

Our hen house is not heated or insulated. We have a heat lamp hanging from a rafter just in case it gets too cold. In theory they won’t need such a thing next winter because they will be older and fully feathered. We will have to see about that.

The hen house is sided with C/D grade plywood, a layer of roofing felt and scrap pieces of high grade cedar fencing boards. We scored the cedar scraps from a friend of ours. We are lucky our friend has such nice taste in fencing materials and was willing to part with scraps. The siding is what makes the structure so nice to look at. We have plans to stain it in the spring/summer once the weather dries up a bit.

The entire structure is covered in a metal roofing material we found at the Rebuilding Center. The roof is a super important component of the coop. Not only does the roof provide shade and protection from rain it helps keep the birds safe from predators and disease. There are quite a few predatory birds in our neighborhood who would love a tasty chicken dinner. And wild birds are carriers of all kinds of avian diseases and parasites.

Because we have a roof we needed a gutter. Without the gutter we were getting a lot of water splashing into the coop. We found most of the gutter parts again at the Rebuilding Center. The specialty joint pieces and end-caps we purchased from the hardware store.

It is super dark in that corner of our yard so we installed a solar powered light on the coop to help us and the hens find our way. It isn’t as bright as we had hoped but it is better than nothing at all.
We could not have completed the coop as quickly or efficiently as we did without the help of our friend the hobby contractor. Not only does he have all the fancy fun tools we needed he gave up two full weekends to help us get the frame and roof completed. He also braved the wrath of his girlfriend for spending all that time working on our project instead of their own. So thanks all around.

Threes Company

It is becoming very clear that Ranchero is a rooster. Perhaps we should rename them Jack, Chrissy and Janet. That would make us Mr. and Mrs. Roper.
I don’t know how I feel about that.


After three full days out in the run the ladies have mastered exiting the hen house via the chicken ladder. Getting back in is another matter. I came home from work, in the dark, to find three distressed peepers huddled in a corner of the run. They hadn’t figured out how to get back in to the hen house before it was too dark to see. Chickens are night blind and navigating up the ladder in the dark is a little tough. The new plan is to turn have the brooder lamp turn on at dusk so they have a beacon to follow in to the house.

Lights Out

The ladies spent the first week home with a brooder light on all night to help keep them toasty. The brooder lamp was keeping the hen house at about 60F which is nice and cozy if you have a down coat on. The weather has been mild but it won’t last for long so we stopped using the brooder lamp a few nights ago. The ladies are almost fully feathered and if they are too warm they won’t grow a full winter coat. So we need to get them hardened off and ready for winter.

Big Weekend

Saturday was the annual Practice Thanksgiving pot-luck and the ladies had lots of visitors and probably a few too many treats. Oh well.
Sunday we were able to finish their run and the hen door so the ladies can go outside. The first time we let them out they weren’t sure how to use the chicken ladder. One would start out, get a few rungs down then scramble back for the door. Running over her roommates in the process. It took them a few tries to finally reach the ground. Once they were outside there was lots of wing flapping and chest bumping. They didn’t figure out how to get back in so we had to catch them and put them inside. Perhaps they just need practice.


We got the girls a handful of crickets as a treat. At first the girls were so frightened of the crickets they were backed in to a corner. I kind of felt sorry for the girls but they figured it out soon enough. It was good fun watching them chase the crickets and each other around the hen house.


We drove to Salem to pick up three 5 week old Sliver Laced Wyandotte chicks. Salem is kind of far to go for your run of the mill hatchery chicks but you don’t have a lot of options in November and we are too impatient to wait for spring.
I thought we would spend a lot of time trying to choose our chick but that wasn’t the case. When there are 25 hens running about you really can’t tell one from the other. In the end we took home the first three we could catch.
Scott has named them (juevos) Ranchero, (chicken) Fajita, and (chicken) Torta. In the spring we would like to get 2 Speckled Sussex chicks. Speckled Sussex mostly brown in color so Scott has decided to name those (chicken) Mole and (chicken) Enchilada. Sigh.