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Lessons on Carpentry, 5 Detailed Designs
on September 10, 2010
For <$20 one gets chapters on where to build, how to build, what materials, lots of info on general carpentry and 5 coop plans. It's written by 1) a do-it-yourself writer, 2)an owner of Horizon structures and 3)the co-author of the excellent companion book, 'Raising Chickens For Dummies".
Building a chicken coop is very personal. I've scanned the internet endlessly. There are tons of plans, a few graciously offered freely, but most you have to pay for the so-called schematics. I know what I want in a 'home': 3 chickens, easy clean, well protected-weather and pest, room for me to go inside the run, easy access to nest, cute appearance. Absolutely must contain slideout drip pans for fast cleanout! That's me.
The 5 plans are at different skill levels and needs:
1)the Minimal Coop- box shaped with single, sloping roof, simple hinged door, ~4'X4'X4', no adjoining run, good it states for 4-5 birds. Price tag ~$200 for building supplies. Easy;
2)the Alpine A-frame- 4'wide X 10'long X ~4'tall,, 2 nest boxes, screened run with door, 2-4 birds, looks cute, ~$300, not too hard, but you do have to cut some simple angles;
3)the Urban Tractor- 3'X6' with peaked roof 5', 2-3 birds, 16 sq.ft. run, tow chains to pull around the yard(put wheels on!), ~$400, looks neat and tidy; will take some work to build but totally doable for a novice like me;
4)the All-in-One(my choice & a similar version pictured on the front cover)- 8'X4'X7'tall, 4-6 birds(I prefer 3-4), one can enter the shelter and the run through short doors 3 1/2- 4' tall, 3 boxes, A real sloping roof(shingle it), ~$750 cost, add wheels and removable drip pan, nice doors, a small window, it'll take a few weekends to make unless you're Joe the Builder.
5) and finally, the Walk-In- 8X8X9'tall, 30 chickens?, 10 boxes, no run given, $1000, need some skills or help.
The designs are well done, easy to follow with step by step instructions. They list the materials needed, give lots of Tips and Warnings as expected by Dummies. They also include a few chapters on doing things differently: like water supply, electicity, storage spacefeeders, removable drip pans- highly recommended, retractable roof, automatic doors, etc. These are stated with general suggestions, not actual specific plans.
The book itself is larger in size than 'Raising Chicken for Dummies' which makes it easier to lay out. Very readable.
I'm not a carpenter. I have very few building skills; however, last summer, I dove in and constructed an A-frame treehouse on stilts from Stile's 'Treehouses and Other Cool Stuff'(see my review). It was a lot of fun and hard work, and a great learning experience. The plans here are much more comprehensive than Stiles' basic but adequate diagrams/instructions.
You will need some basic tools: circular saw, jig saw, drills, level, square, etc. They mention that a table saw and miter saw sure would be great, but you don't necessarily need them. Just take your time and have fun. Even if you don't use or like their specific plans, the rest of the book is immensely helpful. If building the coop is frustrating or too bothersome, just carefully choose and buy one, and enjoy your chickens!
Update(8/2013): I've built both the All-In-One(as pictured above, modified) and recently the Urban Tractor which I really like. Lumbar gets heavy fast as you add pieces of 2X4, 2X3's, etc. and the All-In-One is quite heavy even for 2 men to try to move on a rough service(I hooked mine up to a tow chain and jeep to move it). The urban tractor is much easier, of course, but still a bit heavy trying to pull through the grass. I added 10" wheels which really help, and I or my wife can roll that around by ourselves; however, tough to go up hills alone.
I did find one error with the Urban Tractor design in the measurement of the height of the front wall/nest box. Significant if one isn't paying attention and carefully reviewing the dimensions before cutting; also there are lots of little details one learns while doing, e.g., when screwing a 1-1/4" screw through a 1X3(on the 3/4" side) to a piece of T1-11, the screw will protrude if one screws down flush with the board. They do warn about this since they want you to use this length screw, but I was surprised about how much I had to back off the screw for just 1/8".
Overall, I enjoy building the structures. They may be heavy, but they're solid, protective and cute looking. Not being a carpenter, this is a great instructive book.
Coop update 2015- I love our All-In-One. It's almost(it is) an obsession for me to automate it as much as possible for our 4 cute and very different chicks. We use automatic tube(pvc pipe) feeders, hung waterers made from gatorade bottles and nipples, an overhead heat lamp in the coop with a thermo-cube, drip pans made from plastic boot trays(the ones that sit by the door for people to place their wet shoes on coming into the house)- my wife loves these because cleaning's so much easier- just remove, dump off the shavings, hose off, and slip back in(I cut them to fit).
We lay straw in the run, and I recently purchased from England(best one I've seen) an automatic door opener, which I placed inside the coop and raises and closes the door(a lightweight plank on the inside) by timer or sunlight- absolutely super, although it's a bit costly.
Finally, for our harsh winters, especially this one, and to keep the run dry, I've added removable 'Hurricane Shutters' that I can put up before a storm, by sliding siding over hooks around the run, and, later, can easily be removed.
I call the coop "Chicken Fort Knox" because nothing can get into it, e.g., raccoons-which we have many- just be sure to use hardware wire(no chicken wire ever!).
Do some research and have tons of fun with embellishing, but no matter what, have fun. Update 10/16- I've put pics of the modified All in One and Modified Tractor and the storm shutters. I've added a heated water bottle in the coop and the run- getting ready for our cold snowy winters. Also, I would say, the girls like fresh grass clippings best(no fertilizer or pesticides) for their run cover. Best wishes!