When we realized there was a sizable chicken coop on the property we were buying, I think we just assumed we’d get some chickens and commence chicken keeping. I got a subscription to a chicken magazine and bought a book. I bookmarked a couple of websites and a blog or two. And, after actually reading a good bit, I realized there was going to be a whole lot more to this than just sitting back and waiting on the eggs to start rolling in.
A much closer inspection of the nesting area of our coop brought the realization that the original owners weren’t nearly as generous with housing of their animals as they’d been with themselves.
The outer coop is a lumber structure with posts set in cement. The walls are hardware cloth and, for the most part, it is a sound building. There’s one gaping hole in the roof that can be easily repaired as soon as we figure out who will be climbing up there with the hammer and nails. One wall has need of some patchwork. The entry door is warped and needs a new pair of latches. And something must be done to alter the path of the sand that lost its grass anchor to the big trucks that tore up the hillside during the building of the new barn.
The inner building, where the chickens nest and roost, is the area of most concern. It has metal walls on two sides and hardware cloth and timber for the other two. There’s a heavy door, with two locking latches, and both knee and noggin knockers. The floor is mostly pave stone, although these are uneven and there’s a low spot near the door that tends to collect moisture.
The previous homeowner constructed a wood frame about four feet high and covered the area with heavy plywood. He went to the trouble to cut quarter circles of heavy plywood for the walls of the nesting box and even glued the parts together with water-proof epoxy. The problem is that the frame and nest box took up the entirety of the space, except for about four inches on each end. And it was just one big box with a deep corner. No privacy. No ceiling. And, worse yet, a sheet of cabinet-grade plywood was bent into the space to form the back of the box. Behind that, leaves and spiders and whatever you can imagine collected.
Above that, the gaps where the metal sheeting met was filled with foam insulation. But otherwise, there was nothing to deter the cold wind of winter or the stifling heat of summer.
We started by ripping out the floor of the box, intending to leave the frame. But there was so much wasted space. So, we ripped it all out.
I power-washed the building from ceiling to floor. Then disinfected it with a solution of water, vinegar, dish soap, and tea tree oil. I wanted to pull up and reset the pavers, but the corner ones are set in cement.
Next we covered the inner walls with sheets of styrofoam insulation. Then we covered those with plywood sheets. It isn’t our finest work. But it’s a lot cooler in there now and my guess is that winter won’t be nearly as fierce as it might have been.
We finished this part today. Next we need to fashion our nest boxes. We’ll have three rows of four boxes, each one twelve inches square with a perch for easy entry and a ladder along one side to make reaching the top row easier.
Those will only take up one wall, so the roosts will be on the other wall. I’m hoping to repurpose an old wooden ladder we brought from the farm. The back legs are gone so it is ok for leaning up against something, but not so good for standing open and climbing on. It will make a great roost. If it fits. Under it will be a poop catcher of some sort. I still don’t know since the roost itself isn’t quite finalized.
Meanwhile, we bought a mini coop so the chicks can start spending time outside. It’s a bit crowded, especially after the feeder and waterer go in. But they’ve already learned how to climb the little ladder and fly back down. They like to huddle up on the upper floor when they are chilly. And at least one chick has already started taking dust baths.
We’re about three weeks away from moving them into the big coop. And, after last night’s almost three inches of rain proved too much for the sand floor of the outer coop, I think we’re going to need every day of that time to get this place ready!
Here’s to sunny days that aren’t too hot to work outside.