Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

The plans were drawn, the chicken permit application approved, and the materials gathered.  Time to build!

The first step was putting the posts in that would support the entire coop.  The reason I wanted a raised coop was because it would give the chickens shade during the day in the summer, a space to dust bathe and hang out, and in the winter, straw bales around the perimeter would provide an area to be outside yet protected from the wind.

(I would like to make a note here, before going any further, that Richard worked tirelessly to make this coop actually come together.  He built it while I was at work, and I helped out in the evenings and on weekends.  He’d send me pictures at work when he’d completed a wall or framed in a window, keeping me updated with the progress.  He worked countless hours to make my dream come true, and I’ve never felt more loved.)

We marked where the posts would go and then used boards to keep them upright.


Uprights of a chicken coopThen we dug post holes, put the 4×4’s in the holes, and poured cement to anchor them.  We used great big bolts and nuts to connect the 2×6’s to the posts, and then framed in the floor.
We attached plywood sheets to the bottom of the floor, then laid insulation, and attached plywood over the top. The floor, walls, and roof are all fully insulated this way.
IMG_20130903_192152Richard sawed off the posts to the correct height.
IMG_20130909_182745We framed the walls and windows, and built the trusses.IMG_20130911_185030 IMG_20130914_164924 IMG_20130914_174155 The end trusses had aluminum vents (from craigslist; $20 for both).
IMG_20130914_174213In this picture, you can see the 1/2″ hardware cloth attached along the undereaves. We lined the truss vents, the roof vent, undereaves, and the windows to allow lots of ventilation while keeping out predators and rodents.
IMG_20130915_183418The steel roof paneling went up next.
IMG_20130916_191645Windows and insulated walls…
IMG_20130918_172908 IMG_20130919_180312Wiring and outlets…
Main access door and pop door…
The nesting boxes were made with repurposed wood from a teak outdoor storage cabinet.
Cleaning doors…

… and then we were ready to host a potluck painting party!

We invited our friends to come help the last weekend before we were scheduled to pick up the chickens.  We had a beautiful sunny day, a nice breeze, and everyone brought their kidlets.

Chrystal and Greg helped paint the coop exterior and support posts.
Russ and Heather tackled painting the interior walls and floor.
Katie paints the roof, with supervisors Jess and Lo.

Dennis puts the fence posts up.IMG_20130929_172856
Richard takes a break with little Eli.
Eli plops down with some toys in the yard.IMG_20130929_153620
Greg samples dip from the potluck spread.IMG_20130929_145228
Eli’s dad Ron takes a break in the shade.IMG_20130929_145221
Richard cuts trim pieces for me to paint before they’re attached to the coop.
The trim pieces are painted and drying in the sunshine before being attached to the coop.

Russ takes a break from painting and enjoys a cookie.IMG_20130929_155808
The sliding pop door is rigged.
Dennis pounds in another fence T-post.
The fence stakes are ready for fencing.
The interior is painted and drying.
Richard attaches decorative trim pieces to the main door.

The coop was finished. All that remained was hardware, fencing, and preparing for the chickens to move in.
IMG_20130930_181159 IMG_20130929_184948
In the week that followed the painting party, we got the fencing up.
IMG_20131004_074039 IMG_20131002_180032
Straw, feed, barn lime, heating lamps… and a roosting bar to put up yet!  So much to do before our ladies arrived!IMG_20131004_074123 IMG_20131005_115227 IMG_20131005_114955
And finally, we were ready. Next up will be the final post in this series of the evolution of our coop, when the chickens came home to roost!

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Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?  When I first heard that a chicken ordinance had been passed in our town, I immediately started planning a coop.  I took this pic at my desk one day in July, when I was knee-deep in graph paper and http://backyardchickens.com.  Thinking we’d be buying all of our materials, I was calculating costs of lumber, insulation, hardware, paint, and fencing.

Designing blueprints for a backyard chicken coop

By the time I was submitting my application for a permit, I’d drawn up what the finished coop would look like.  I’d also printed out a map of our neighborhood and marked the distance the coop would be from property lines of neighbors.
Chicken coop - north and south

While I was drawing up dreams, I started gathering materials from craigslist.  These windows were free from a couple who was remodeling.  I ended up only using the front two, but the others will be used for cold frames in a month or two.
Free windows for chicken coop from craigslist

Then, by a stroke of luck, a local business posted that they had a huuuuge shipping crate that was free to whoever would tear it apart.  I think it was 16′ x 8′ x 8′, and had contained a large piece of manufacturing equipment shipped from Germany.  It contained all the 4×4’s and plywood we’d need for the coop, which was a considerable savings considering that the walls, floor, and ceiling would all be insulated, requiring double the plywood of an uninsulated coop.  Richard spent two full days at the business with his chainsaw, a giant pry bar, tools and mallets and hammers, pounding that thing apart.  He came home with not one, but TWO loads, like the one below.
Repurposed shipping crate used for chicken coop

Then an irish dance company in Milwaukee posted that they were disassembling their entire dance floor because they were moving out of the space.  I got all of the 7″ thick insulation pieces, about 500 linear feet, for $40.  The steel roofing panels were used and posted in a different ad, and I got the entire roof for $65.
Used steel roof panels from craigslist for chicken coop

I wanted the back and side windows to let in as much light as possible without losing as much heat as even a double-paned window.  These glass blocks sell for $6 each at Home Depot.  I got 40 for $25 on craigslist.
Used glass blocks from craigslist for chicken coop

The run area attached to the coop is about 25′ x 30′, and we needed about 15 T-posts to attach the fencing to.  They’re $7 each at Home Depot.  I found these used for less than $1 each.  They’re rusty but perfectly sound.
Used t-posts for chicken run fencing from craigslist

Unfortunately, there’s really no such thing as used fencing on craigslist or anywhere else that I’ve found, so I ended up having to buy that from a farm store.  Same thing with deck screws and a couple of 14′ x 2″ lumber pieces for the frame, paint, and hardware.  All in, the coop cost around $650.  The kind of coop we built would go for upwards of $2500 if you were to commission a builder for it, so I’m ok with that cost.

The other part of the planning was picking which breeds I wanted.  Living in Wisconsin, these were my requirements:

  • Not breeds bred strictly for production, like Sex Links, White Leghorns, or Production Reds.  More like heritage breeds that lay less eggs, but lay eggs for longer.
  • Cold hardy
  • Heat hardy
  • Steady egg layers, from 3-6 eggs/week
  • Dual meat and egg birds
  • Bear confinement well (for nasty winter weather, when they won’t go outside)
  • Pretty birds
  • And last but not least, pretty eggs!

I decided on Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, Golden-laced Wyandottes, Easter Eggers, Salmon Faverolles, Plymouth Barred Rocks, and French Black Copper Marans.

We started building in August, and our application for a permit was approved on September 5th, 2013.  Next up, pictures of the coop going up!

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I haven’t posted in so long that I’ve never even posted about our chickens.  Chickens became legal in our town in April of 2013, and we got our girls in September 2013.  This is our coop that we built ourselves from mostly reclaimed/free/used materials from craigslist, and a few new things that I couldn’t find there, like a few pieces of lumber and paint.


And here are our ladies….







And that’s it for tonight.  I can’t wait to show you more soon!

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Aren’t they pretty?  These beautiful oblong orbs came from a couple who lives about 15 minutes away in Washington County.  They contacted us in response to a Craigslist ad Richard posted for some 2′ blue spruce trees he’d dug up out from our yard so he could plant peach trees in their places.  The couple offered to trade eggs for trees.  I asked Richard to inquire as to how the chickens were raised, were they pastured, free-range, etc.  It turns out their 16 chickens are friendly, hand-raised pets with benefits, and allowed to wander wherever their hearts desire as well as live out their natural lives.  The husband and wife, Dennis and Ann, were enthusiastic about inviting our family to come visit and meet their chickens and Shetland sheep.  They delivered our first dozen today, and we all chatted non-stop for almost three hours about all things sustainable and frugal.  We’re also taking the girls out to their house on Monday afternoon.  I can’t wait to see all of their chicken contraptions they were telling us about!

So of course now I want nothing more than a small, mobile chicken coop to house 4-8 lovely laying ladies.  The unfortunate fact is that all of Ozaukee County forbids backyard chickens on properties zoned as residential.  I’ve combed the last two year’s worth of my town’s meeting minutes for any mention of motions to amend the zoning restrictions on chickens, but I can’t find a single one.  Is it possible nobody has ever even ASKED for chickens in this town?  How can that be?

And is it coincidence that just a few weeks ago I was suddenly (and VERY inexplicably, especially to myself) inspired to become the secretary of the PTO board at Jessica’s school, when I’ve never attended a single PTO meeting?  A position that allows me to observe polished, assertive, diplomatic women deftly navigating the choppy waters of such a politically-charged group as a PTO?  Somebody has plans for our new sustainability endeavors, I’m telling you, and it’s certainly not me driving the bus here.  There are bigger forces at work.  With absolute gut certainty, I know I’m heading true north, where the air is sweet and sharp and impossibly, achingly, clear.

I’m so glad you’re here with me.

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