For the Love of Chickens – Building the Coop and Covered Run

We live in the country – wide open fields, green grass, pastures, hills, blue skies, and lots of wildlife. With lots of wildlife, you also get lots of predators. We are blessed to have two super watchdogs who keep guard over our chickens, but we wanted to be extra sure that nothing would happen to them, so we put a lot of thought into the design of our coop and run.

My husband is a really talented guy with a variety of skills and a creative mind, so my research paired with his ingenuity resulted in what (so far) has been a great design. He builds fences and decks as a side job, so we had a lot of spare materials from jobs where he had to first tear down an existing structure to make way for a new one. We have saved everything we felt might be salvageable, and it was becoming an eyesore, so we were happy to find a way to repurpose a lot of it.

We started with a basic size in mind and knew that we wanted our chicken coop to be positioned off the ground for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed the chickens to still walk beneath it, allowing us to utilize all of our square footage. Second, it seemed like it would be safer than if it was sitting directly on the ground. We wanted to provide every method we could come up with of security from predators. Once we had a basic design in mind, the first step was to build the frame. We decided on chain link for the run since we felt it would be easier to move from one location to another than wood. My husband began measuring, cutting, and welding poles together to create a frame.

Once the frame was in place, the next step was to add the chain link around the edges. After some discussion and trial, we decided that in addition welding the chain link to the frame would be the most secure method. We saw a couple of YouTube videos where foxes pulled the chain link out from the frame and got inside, and we did not want that to happen, so this seemed to be a good alternative.

In the following photo, you can see the reclaimed hardwood flooring inside the coop. By cutting it to fit snugly and leaving out the screws, it is easy to flip the boards over to clean the coop. You can also see the roost running the length of the coop. This is where our chickens sleep each night. The opening is their entrance. They fly up through the opening to get into the coop.

Our son (and one of our many cats) had to get in and try out the coop before the roof was installed.

Our favorite feature of the coop is this little spying window that my husband came up with and built. He framed a small piece of plexiglass and added a little shutter to the outside. This allows us to peek inside when the chickens are in the coop so that we can see what is going on. It is nice to be able to determine which hen is using which nesting box – and it is also just fun to turn the light on inside the coop and look inside when they are on the roost. When we build a fire on the porch and prop open the shutter, they look at us as much as we look at them. 🙂

Up next was the installation of the nesting boxes. Again, we were trying to save money and use what we had, so we decided on these little lightweight plastic crates. They are made for stacking, and we just screwed the top and bottom ones together but left the pairs separate so that they are easy to move. You can see where we cut a large opening in the front of each of them for the hens to enter through. We cut a smaller hole in the back of each to use for retrieving eggs from the outside. In this photo, you can also see the metal roof.

After the construction of the coop was finished, we painted it and painted all of the welded parts of the chain link. The little red rectangle is the window.

Here is a view from the end.

This is a close-up of the nesting boxes from the outside of the coop. We lined each box with a piece of cardboard then added hay. They are easy to remove through the opening in the back and clean out when needed. The door has two locks, and my husband welded a piece that drops down into the locked door latches to keep anything from flipping the latches open.

The last structural element was the lower fence that covered the portion below the coop on the back. You can see my hubby hard at work welding the chain link onto the frame.

We used some old metal roofing from a shed we tore down to cover half the run so that the chickens could enjoy walking around a pecking the ground even when it is raining. Steve is on top of the run, fastening down the metal. You can also see a couple of the extra items I added. There is a tire that I painted red which holds a dirt/ash mixture for their dirt bath. There are also two stumps at varying heights that they sometimes like to perch atop.

Below, you can see the tow straps attached or the four wheeler. We used these to move it close to where it needed to go then moved it the final few feet by hand. The metal frame is fairly easy to slide on grass. 

The last element we added was the compost bin below. I made this by taking the sides out of this wooden box and replacing them with screen for ventilation. We add vegetable waste, the pine shavings that we clean out of the brooder box, grass clippings, etc. It’s perfect because the chickens eat what they want and scratch and turn the rest. We should have a nice set of compost to add to our garden this spring. They get so excited each time we add something to the bin!

I would love to hear your favorite elements from your chicken coop and run. Let me know in the comments below what you like most from your experience because I love to hear new ideas!

Backyard Farm Project-How It All Began

I’m finally embracing my country roots. We have started this little backyard farm project, and it all started with chickens.Just look at that face! Isn’t Pecky hilarious?

I have wanted chickens for years, but my husband thought that they would be too much trouble. Over the Christmas holidays, a strange (and hilarious) set of circumstances finally convinced him otherwise. A friend of mine was raising chickens at her farm, but had grown tired of them. They were multiplying and, being free range chickens, were making quite a mess of her exquisitely decorated outdoor living space. She decided to load up the whole crew and give them away. Unfortunately, when she was on her way to pick up some Adirondack chairs that my husband built for her, they all ended up escaping and running loose throughout the town. One escaped at a gas station, prompting a call to the police department. Quite a few apparently escaped as she was travelling down the road. And, finally, when she arrived at the shop, the last of them escaped. You should’ve seen the videos! It was hilarious watching them run around and try to herd chickens back into a kennel. In the end, five remained loose behind the shop.

That evening, feeling concerned for their safety, my husband headed back to the shop to see if he could find them. He ended up catching one. The others ran into the woods, but he brought the one home in a dog kennel, and our adventure as chicken owners began. The kids and I were thrilled to have a chicken at our house! My six-year-old named her Pecky, and we decided that night that there was no way we were going to part with her. After a little begging, he agreed that she could stay. The following day (Christmas Day), after gifts were opened, we headed out to construct a makeshift coop and home for our new pet. When church was over, we headed back to the shop and sure enough, the other four were walking around. The three kids and I cornered them and kept them contained while he was able to catch each one and put it into the kennel. We took them home and placed them into their new (temporary) home.

That afternoon, we sat and watched those chickens for hours. We were hooked. We immediately started researching and learning everything we could about chickens. We have since built a much larger coop/run and are the proud owners of two-week old chicks in a variety of types. More on that later… Do any of you have chickens? How did your adventure begin? Follow me on Instagram @backyardfarmproject if you would like to see photos of chickens, dogs, cats, and various projects going on around our property. And stay tuned…the adventure won’t stop here!