After buying a house last winter, one of my first projects was getting chickens. Having grown up on a farm with chickens and fresh eggs, I always wanted to get my own flock. Having backyard chickens and producing your own eggs is great. I get a real sense of satisfaction when I eat something delicious right out of my own backyard, be it eggs or fresh veggies from the garden. The best thing about the chickens is that the eggs keep coming all winter, unlike the garden which is long dead and under snow. Not having to buy eggs, and selling a few extra dozen on the side, is a valuable step toward financial independence as well.
But first we needed to build a coop for our future egg machines to live in. I started with selecting a spot in the backyard. It’s a big yard on a steep slope with lots of trees so picking the best spot took some planning. I didn’t want to have to cut any trees down and I wanted to keep the open feeling of the space. So the coop would need to be near the edge of the yard. After deliberating for some time, I decided on a shady spot up away from the house, where I could just fit the coop in a stand of Ponderosa trees. The Flagstaff city code states that “Twenty-five female poultry may be kept within the City limits provided that said animals shall not be kept within fifty feet (50′) of any residence building.” I was able to meet the 50ft distance requirement due to the large (14,000sq ft) size of the property, but this code somewhat discriminates aginst people with small or even normal sized city lots.
Building the coop took longer than I had expected, probably because I went a little overboard on the size and wanted to make it kinda fancy. There is an ongoing joke where friends, and most recently my Dad, ask if they can live in the coop after the chickens move out. Before the first nail was pounded I had to dig into the side of the hill and make a flat spot for it, as well as level a bunch of gravel and cinder blocks for the foundation.
After the foundation was all squared away I started on the coop. I had already made some plans for the design. It was about this time that further motivation was added to the project when Chase went out and bought 8 baby chicks from the farm supply store.
These little peeps were tiny, about the size of an egg, cuz they’d just busted out of one. For the next two months they needed to be inside under a lamp to keep them warm, but after that those little buggers were going to need somewhere to live, other than our living room, so I was working under a deadline so to speak.
The building of the coop was done mostly with recycled lumber and scraps from construction sites. I kinda have a problem where I can’t drive by a decent piece of wood if I see it laying on the curb or by a dumpster, and I always have a random supply of lumber laying around for projects. This is a habit I’m sure I got from my father, a man who has never bought anything new in his life.
I started with the floor, which was made with pressure treated 2x4s, plywood, and linoleum for a nice waterproof surface. The coop floor is 20 square feet, enough for 10ish birds at 2sqf per bird; though mostly they will be outside. The walls were made of individual panels and then carried up to the foundation for assembly. The roof was perhaps the hardest to build, there was more measuring and angled cuts, not to mention the whole being on a latter thing. Having drawn my own plans there were a few areas that needed to be improvised, but overall it all went pretty smooth. Later on, I added wall and roof insulation and a light, in preparation for winter, though for the most part we have not needed to use the light unless it’s really cold.
In the summer the monsoon rain drains into a large tub, this means the chickens almost always have water. In the winter water is more of a challenge as it is prone to freezing even in the insulated coop, which is the main reason we leave the light on during single digit nights.
The final touch for the coop was the Automatic door. This thing is the best part of the setup, because it means we don’t have to be home to close the coop up at night, or let them out in the morning. After reading a bunch of reviews, I bought an ADOR1 Automatic door online for 200$, which effectively doubled the cost of the coop, but is so worth it. There are lots of chicken eating critters out there, so I just look at the door as a way to protect the investment in the birds themselves. Which after raising them from chicks is a substantial investment in both time and money, not to mention those little buggers are cute and I’d be pretty sad if Dexter the fox had pulled all their heads off because the door was left open. Click on the video below to see the ADOR1 in action.