chicken coop design, from homeless to fancy hotel
Charming, quaint, functional, traditional . . . they can all be used to describe our new picket fenced parterre vegetable garden and chicken coop area and why I love them so much.
Hello my very favorite Farmers!
For the first twelve years of my life, I called a well worn (that's being generous) shingle style home in the middle of acres of green pastures my home. It was there, I believe, where I had my first romance with charm and character. The love was strong, and it left an indelible impression on me. The cedar shingles, the double hung windows, screened in porch, interior moldings and built-ins. The gravel floor basement riddled with salamanders, the cob web infused attic bejeweled with vintage finds, and the black pot-bellied stove off the kitchen. It was a playground for an eager, enthusiastic student of character. I remember lying in my bed on many late summer mornings gazing at the highly textured ceiling staring at fantasized characters created by the swipe of trowel, left behind by the finisher.
It’s no wonder, that as an adult, I still ooooh and aaaah at architectural designs, and when I have the opportunity to create something with character, I take it.
During the renovations here at the farm, the need for a pint-sized dose of wooden creation became a necessity. After stumbling upon a large homeless encampment on the property, I ended up being the proud owner of four chickens.
A coop had always been in the plans, however, suddenly the timeline needed to move up, pronto! We were still living in our previous home where we had no coop, and in a neighborhood where no roosters were allowed. Luckily, we had awesome, patient neighbors who allowed us to keep them there in dog crates until our coop was built.
I searched Pinterest for chicken coop ideas and it wasn’t long before I came across this coop.
It met all the criteria, and there was even a set of plans available to purchase HERE.
It was a little on the small side, so I had my carpenter double the width to make it 8 feet wide, plus we made a few other modifications including adding a small garden closet. We have many predators to the chickens up here at the farm, so I had a concrete perimeter foundation installed extending18” below grade to ensure no one could dig under.
Above is a progression of the build. We were so excited to finally have the coop completed and to welcome the chickens back to the farm.
I think they enjoyed having a "hen's eye view" as the adjacent raised garden beds and picket fence were installed.
Even though they had a new coop, I let them roam free during the days. They enjoyed roaming the job site as the project continued. They would travel all around - from the main house to the Taj Ma Garage, and everywhere in between. They particularly loved following the landscape crew and picking off bugs and worms as they were unearthed.
Winter progressed into Spring and before I knew it I was in the garden planting my first vegetable crop at the farm. I was in heaven. I went all out and planted everything I thought we could possibly want. As quick as I was at installing all the plants and seeds, just as quick did the frustration set in. (Insert brakes screeching, some "Oh no's", and "This is a disaster". It was right then that I labeled the chickens "little landscape terrorists"! They either broke every plant off or dug them up. How could they have been such gems during the project, especially during professional plant install in the rest of the gardens, and now destroy everything? Well, they are chickens Sandy, and that is what chickens do. I thought about just keeping them locked in the coop, but ultimately I decided I just couldn't do that. It was too small. So instead, my husband and I settled with just getting about a dozen tomatoes and nothing else.
Not only did they destroy vegetable plants, they demolished every tidy little corner of the new picket fenced garden. It was really hard to watch.
I was determined to come up with a solution this Spring 2021. I did and I knew just who to call. My plan was to build a chicken run onto the back of the coop. I staked out the size, and designed it in my head to match the coop. I then called my new friend Wilson. I first met him during the time I was getting my Mom's house ready to sell. My late friend Catherine, whom this blog is dedicated to, introduced us and I immediately knew he was a great person and an extremely hard worker. There was no question, if he wanted the job, I wanted him to build it. Right away, he was in. I hadn't seen him since Catherine died just a couple months prior. I'm not going to lie, it was tough seeing him because all the memories came flooding back. However, one of the first things I told him was that, in a way, I felt like we were honoring Catherine by us working together again. She was such a relationship person and always connecting people. And by us continuing our friendship, I felt like we were honoring one of the many great things about her.
Wilson and I brainstormed on the run design, and within days the work began. (I don't know what I was thinking? Obviously I wasn't, because I didn't take photos of the beginning.)
Here are the steps we took in case you'd like to build a run too. If not, just skip ahead to the video below:
I staked out the size and location. It's approximately 20 feet long by 10 wide.
Wilson first dug a full perimeter foundation 18" deep by approx. 6" wide.
He installed 4"x4" pressure treated posts around the perimeter approximately 36" apart to accommodate the width of the wire mesh. Next he installed 4"x4" pressure treated lumber across the top from side to side at each post location. He then used 2"x4" lumber to frame out each section.
All posts and framing were painted.
5. He then installed 1/2" galvanized metal mesh on all the surfaces, except for the two door locations. (Note: Many people use typical "chicken wire". I did not want to use that here because things like snakes and rodents can get into the coop; and raccoons have been known to reach in and decapitate chickens.)
6. Next step was to pour the 18" deep concrete foundation incorporating the posts and wire mesh to ensure no critters could go through or underneath the structure.
The chickens just had to put their foot prints in the wet concrete threshold.
7. Once the wire mesh was installed, lumber primed and painted was attached on the exterior at each framing location to in essence "sandwich" the wire mesh and make it more stable.
8. Wood thresholds were installed and then two doors were constructed and hung in place.
The next to step was to open the original wire mesh between the coop and the new run and let the chickens explore their new space.
It didn't take them long to enjoy their new run.
This is how we connected the run to the existing coop. We cut a section out of the picket fence at the back of the coop, and joined the two structures with a narrow wire enclosed section with access doors on each side.
Once the chickens were no longer in the picket fenced vegetable garden area, I quickly began a lengthly clean-up, and then got busy planting.
First I tackled the area around the fountain.
The chickens had destroyed every plant except for the chives, and they left the square planting bed almost unrecognizable.
I love putting my hands in the dirt and making something pretty. I can picture myself on my death bed sometime in the future and saying, "Wait, hold on a second. I need to put my hands in the dirt one more time while listening to the birds sing me one of their orchestral masterpieces. That was good. Okay thanks, now I'm ready to go."
I truly do love this space. I had dreamed of having a parterre garden for years, and now to have one with the sights and sounds of water as the focal point is really quite lovely. It's a special place to just dally around in.
I found five of these charming hose guides in the mountain of muck in the old storage/shop area when we first bought the house. I knew I wanted to use them somewhere. It turns out they are both charming and functional here around the fountain planting bed.
I may have had an indelible romance with charm and character as a youngster, but my not so youngster self now felt like there was something missing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE THIS SPACE AND THE COOP! I just felt like it needed something more. A little something extra.
Entrance was a little blah, and the birdhouse just wasn't working.
I looked at the pile of scrap lumber Wilson left behind and I had a "aha" moment. I quickly got out two saws, an electric screwdriver, a brad nailer, four colors of exterior paint, sealer, four paintbrushes and a sheet of plastic, and suddenly this student of character was ready to go!
I'd like to introduce you to Rock Haven Farm's Rock'hen Hotel.
These chickens had a rough start in life, and I've been so happy to share the farm with them. They deserved to go from homeless to fancy hotel, and to have a checker board stoop all to themselves.
I could not have done this chicken coop run project without Wilson. He's one of the hardest working people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He's got a ton of integrity, and he loves what he does. If you're looking for someone to build anything from structures to fences, decks or anything in between, feel free to reach out to me and I'd be happy to give you his contact information. I can't recommend him enough.
Thank you for joining me. I hope you have a wonderful week my friends,