Building a chicken coop (Coop Knox)

I grew up keeping poultry.  Mum took us kids to a local market every spring and each of us got to pick out a chick or duckling to raise.  We had a duck coop and a chicken coop, but no run; the birds free-ranged during the day.  It was the kids’ job to shut the coops up each night.  That was important, because in Australia, where I grew up, foxes were ever-present.  When – because kids are kids – we forgot, we woke the next morning to devastation.  Beyond that, I never gave a lot of thought to the birds – they were just “there”.

As a young adult, while house-hunting, we looked at a house that had a fabulous chicken coop in the backyard.  We bought that house because of the coop.  As part of the contract, the sellers agreed to leave some hens, so we had eggs as soon as we moved in.  I thoroughly appreciated being able to collect the fresh eggs, and between those and the vegie garden I started the day we moved in, I was able to feed my toddlers some pretty wholesome meals.

Then I moved to the US, to a city where I never saw any poultry and assumed there were rules prohibiting them.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I learned that they are legal.  I lost no time obtaining 8 straight run (unsexed) chicks from a local breeder, and a free A-Frame coop from a woman on “Freecycle”.  Of the chicks, 4 were male, and since the city ordinances prohibit roos, we were quickly down to four.  Not for long.  “Chicken Math” took over, and before I knew it I had 12 hens – the maximum I was allowed – and STILL there were more breeds I wanted.

So what does any sane person do in this situation?  Keep in mind this person has already bought one house primarily because of the coop in the backyard……you got it!  We bought a house on 10-acres, out in the country, where there are no restrictions on poultry.  (Having a wonderful HWA is a pre-requisite – I don’t know many men who would be so supportive of a wife who buys properties just to keep chickens.)

The property we purchased already contained a concrete slab (once the floor of a dog run) that seemed to be the most appropriate place to build a coop.  The slab measured 15’9″ x 10’8″.  I decided to stick with even numbers and build a 10×14 coop.  The front 10×10 to be coop proper, with the back 10×4 area to store feed, medicine, chick feeders/waterers, etc.

I started by building the walls one by one on the slab.  When all four walls were built, I spent a long, hot, dirty day drilling 34 holes in the concrete with a hammer drill and anchoring the walls using zinc-coated 5-1/2″ long concrete wedge anchors through the 2×4 treated lumber footer.  (Note: the anchors weren’t easy to find — I had to order them from eBay.)  

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As you can see from the picture, I did not yet frame in doors and windows, figuring it would be easier to build walls with studs 16″ on center, and then cut out openings for windows and doors.  If you have better visualization and carpentry skills than me, it would probably save time to build the walls with those elements in place, but I know my limitations. <smile>

HWA was too busy at work to be able to dedicate time to a coop build, so a friend, Rob, offered to come and help me.  I couldn’t have done it without him – some of the pieces are so long/heavy/unwieldy that there would be no way for one person to handle them alone.  The next step was to design and build the roof trusses.  We built one to make sure it was the angle we wanted, and once we were satisfied with it, used it as a template to build the remaining trusses.  Then I stood on a ladder and Rob passed one end up to me, then climbed up his ladder, and pulled his end up.  Triangulating and securing them took some time but we were pleased with the end result.  A few nights after installing them we had a storm with 70mph winds and the trusses stayed right in place.  At this point you can also see where we had cut out and framed the windows and doors.

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Now the fun part: sheeting.  I loved this part, because each sheet that goes up looks like huge progress yet only takes minutes.  I purchased a framing nailer which was a huge time saver, allowing me to nail each sheet of OSB up in 5-10 minutes.  In no time the coop went from framed out, to looking like a real building.

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Once all the sheets of OSB were up, we installed the doors.  There is a door at each end, as well as an internal door in the wall dividing the coop from the feed room.  I was fortunate that the doors were given to me by a neighbor who was doing some renovating.  They were internal doors at her house but two of them are external here.  Hey – its “just a chicken coop”!

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Having purchased an additional sheet of OSB we were able to add the triangle-thingies at the end of the coop.

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The windows we covered with hardware cloth on the inside using fender washers.

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Several sheets of metal roofing were donated to me and although metal wouldn’t have been my first choice…..free is free.  The first thing was to lay some furring sheets horizontally across the roof trusses, so we would have good anchor points for the sheets of metal.

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Next, we installed the first sheet on the roof as the foundation for the rest of them to line up on.

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We decided to alternate sides, doing one sheet at a time left and right.  That allowed us to get up on ladders from the inside of the coop and screw the sheets in the middle.  There was a LOT of getting up and down from ladders.  The coop is 12′ at the peak, and I had to get up on a high rung of the ladder in order to lean over the top part of the roof to affix screws.

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I found some sheets of metal siding in our pole barn left by the previous owner.  Our summers get very hot so metal wasn’t my first choice, but I decided to try it since it can always be replaced if necessary.  With OSB under it, lots of ventilation and a hedge-row on the west providing afternoon shade, I hoped the coop would stay cool enough. We had a heat wave after moving the birds in, with temps of up to 112, but the coop was never hotter inside than out.  

Here is a photo with the siding completed.  To trim the edges, I used $7 strips of galvanized flashing.  I don’t love the silver but it was better than paying $35 apiece for the metal corner pieces that are typically used.  If I really get motivated one day I might strip them with vinegar and paint them white.  For now they are doing their job even if they don’t look great.

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And the last outside step was to add a ridge cap.  I had one of the metal siding corner pieces in the barn, but instead of using it as a corner piece, I used it as the top ridge cap.  Since it was 10′ long and I needed 14′, I slid a 4′ piece of galvanized flashing under each end.  What I love about the ridge cap is not how it looks but how it performs.  Because the corner piece has 4″ sides, it sits up from the top of the roof, allowing hot air to vent along its entire length.  The flashing underneath extends 2′ under on each end, to prevent rain entering via this point.  We had a torrential rain 2 days after it was installed and the coop stayed dry.

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With 8-foot walls, metal roof and sides, a concrete floor, and heavy-gauge hardware cloth over the windows, it is an extremely secure coop.  A tornado or a grizzly could probably get in, but this coop — HWA named it “Coop Knox” — will protect against the largest of hail storms, foxes, coyotes, dogs,  and raccoons.

Lessons learned:
1) Reuse & repurpose to save a bunch of money; poultry don’t read Architecture Today or Better Homes and Gardens.
2) Drilling holes in concrete with a hammer drill is just one rung above cleaning septic tanks.
3) Friends are great to have.

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One thought on “Building a chicken coop (Coop Knox)

  1. Pingback: Poultry Coops and Interior Decorating Thereof | Self-Sufficiency and Assorted Hijinks

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