Chicks New Digs - Shed-Conversion Chicken Coop
One project that could not be ignored is setting up a new chicken coop and run for our growing chicks, now eight weeks old. While we love our chicken tractor, and will keep it around for potentially housing meat birds, it didn't allow for a lot of run room and we wanted a coop we could walk into.
We researched options and ultimately bought a plastic shed kit because it was cheaper and easier than making something from lumber. We designed all inside fixtures as freestanding items so that we can potentially reuse the shed for another purpose if we need.
Alex, Lil, and I worked together to put the shed up in a few hours one afternoon. We outfitted the inside with an old ladder and scrap-wood roost bar. Alex built a free standing nest box from scrap melamine sheet and lumber, though our only laying hen isn't choosing to use it yet.
The coop rests on a base of treated lumber atop cement blocks. When the chicks are a little bigger, we will add a few more layers of cinder block to raise the coop and allow a shady spot underneath.
Building The Run
We debated whether to invest in electric fencing or wire. Ultimately we choose 72 inch welded-wire with metal posts because it was slightly cheaper, reusable and less breakable, and will hopefully help prevent deer from intruding the run to nibble at the fruit trees planted inside.
I began the fenced run by setting stakes to represent the corners and squaring them up using the 3-4-5 method. When the corners were finally in place, I ran a string around to guide placement. I dug a six inch trench by hand to settle the fence in the ground.
The next day, Alex set metal posts in the ground and attached the welded wire to the posts using zip ties. Classy.
I filled in the trench with mulch. Mulch is quickly becoming our favorite ground cover material because it's free from the tree service we're using. Finally Alex built a gate.
Arial and ground predators are a significant threat to chickens. We have seen possum, raccoon, fox, deer, and hawks in our yard, all of whom would love a bite of chicken.
To prevent the nocturnal predators, we lock the chickens in their coop using a two-part latch every night. This is actually a rather comical event because the chicks don't yet know when it's time to roost so we have to catch them one-by-one to put in the coop. They don't seem to be using the roost bars yet but maybe they will when the are bigger.
The old umbrella, table, and branches strewn around the run are not debris - they're intentional. We strategically placed them to give cover from raptors. Chickens do have an instinct to run for cover; the girls have been spending a lot of time hiding out under the umbrella. Our plan is that the fruit trees will grow to provide shade and predator cover eventually, but in the meantime the run looks like a junk pile on purpose.
This is our fourth chicken coop and hopefully our last for a long time. It's isn't as glamorous as some but we expect this set-up to be weather- and predator-tight and easy to access. So far, the chicks seem to dig it.
PS. If you're a blogger, check out my guest post at Be Up & Doing about the technical mechanics behind switching from HoundsInTheKitchen.com to HarmoniousHomestead.com.