Enter The Maven Team. My son-in-law, the architect, is so patient with me as I try to explain my girls' needs. (By the way, those of you who don't have my-son-the-_____, or my-daughter-the-______ yet, look forward to that day! Having successful children is the greatest joy of all!) Anyway, architects are trained to see the needs of people (or, in this case, chickens) and design a building around that. My husband, the engineer, knows how to take a vision and make it a reality.
I was frustrated with designs I had seen online for a number of reasons: some held too few hens, some were too heavy to move easily, some were too flimsy, some required a lot of bending and reaching to load and unload food and water dishes. I wanted the food and water to be self-contained, and I wanted the resulting coop to be secure and yet movable by little ole me. Today, I will show you pictures of the project in progress. Many of you will be handy enough to build this coop with just these pictures. I'll work with the ever patient architect to provide line drawings if you let me know there is a big need. Here we go:
|The end result to help you see the vision along the way!
First, we made a 4 x 8 rectangle out of pressure-treated wood to go next to the ground, then made a second box from 2 x 3s. We then made a 4 x 4 box to make the 'second story'. The corners are 'glued and screwed' for stability, so you see the aluminum foil to keep the glue contained.
Next, we separated the 2 large rectangles to make a 24" high box. We used the same 2 x 3s and 8" strips of plywood on the back to make the opening for the door. You can see the scrap wood we used to hold the smaller square in place so we can measure in place to make the supports. The roof is 48" high in the front and 41" in the back.
Next, we added a plywood shelf to make the nest boxes. Each box is 12 x 12. You see here the lip in front to keep eggs from falling out. You can also see one of the perches, made from a split 2 x 3.
Here's where things got a little 'creative'. We wanted a strong support for the wheels, so we added a 1 x 6 board on the left and right, then a filler 2 x 4 to make a solid wheel support. This, in turn, made an attachment for a 2 x 3 used to support the waterer. The waterer is a craft box with a snap lid and nipples attached underneath for the chickens to reach up and get the water. 11" is a little low, but the girls have been doing fine and the upper clearance allows you to lift the box in and out without damaging the nipples. *Note: stick with the Avian Aqua Miser brand - other, cheaper nipples might not drip well enough for your girls*
You can also see that we attached a scrap piece of wood to keep the box from sliding forward and to discourage the gals from perching on the brace and soiling the feeders. The feeders are simply 2 rabbit cage feeders screwed into the back. They load from the top and hold a quart of feed each.
Here's the whole back apartment showing the 2 perches, 2 waterers and 2 feeders. We finished the back with vinyl siding to keep it lightweight. and covered the top with wavy poly vinyl. Ask the guy at the hardware store about the vinyl edge pieces and corners, so you know how to finish your corners. I painted the exposed wood white out of pure pride-fullness.
We stapled on the chicken wire and attached the wheels with carriage bolts. We had some ancient Yazoo lawn mower wheels that we spray painted blue, but Tractor Supply carries wheels of all sizes. Here you can see the back flap made from 3/8" plywood and covered with vinyl siding. I had a broom handle that I use for a prop to hold open the trap door while I add feed, gather eggs and slide out the waterers if needed. You can see the supports for the waterers from this angle. The wheels need to be a little lower - it pulls fine on a level surface, but is hard to pull uphill.
Here you can see my happy gals munching on weeds. The 2 8 foot poles give me enough leverage to easily move the house and the door in front is available if needed. The gals walk along as I slide the house forward and they hop on the perches at night.
I absolutely think this is a viable way for people in the Southeast U.S. to keep 5 - 8 hens year round. Other areas with snow fall may want to use this in the summer months only, but it allows you to have the 'pastured' eggs without the negatives of predator loss and chickens in your garden. I'll come back to more particulars later (like adding additional light, choosing feeds, and using this system on a larger scale) because, as you know, there's always a whole lot more!