Saturday, April 8, 2017

DIY Chicken Coop: Dancing Feathers Farm Chicken Palace Reveal!

Hello my lovely readers. It's the moment we've all been waiting for. I've hinted at it for almost two months now.....and I am thrilled to share my big and beautiful news with you.

I have a brand-new, gorgeous, humongous, elevated chicken palace. 

A feather-friendly castle in the sky. 

An abode de' aviary. 

Do you remember me talking about a smart, gorgeous bearded man once or twice in my more recent posts? Yes? Well. His beard is not the only thing that's amazing about him.

Some of you may remember my chicken hoop house. It was a wonderful and very simple design that worked well for my girls, even in the winter. But you see...I have a problem, and that problem is chicken math. 1 hen plus 2 hens somehow becomes 14 hens...I have no idea how it happens. Some weird and crazy chicken mathematical anomaly. But the bottom line is I wanted something sturdier, warmer, bigger, and brighter for my girls to live in, especially during our long winters.

Enter, bearded man. "Don't worry," he said. "We can figure something out."

You guys, can we just take a second to express gratitude for not only beards in general, but for the wonderful men they are often attached to...? I am an extremely lucky woman. 

He didn't even use plans, people. This is how it went:

Step 1: Estimate square footage.
I knew I would eventually end up with 16 birds. We built this coop so it could comfortably house 16 birds, even in the winter with the doors closed and them all cooped up **see what I did there**.

Step 2: Gather supplies and try not to die when you see how much everything costs.
We definitely tried to re-use what I had...but bearded man was only in town for a limited time. Had we more time, I would've garbage-picked and gathered more pallets. We used leftover shingles from my roofing project all those many, many years ago. The previous owners left some single panes of glass in the shed. I had hardware cloth and chicken wire and baling wire. The wood, plywood, screws, and landscaping timbers were purchased from Home Depot...and they were not cheap. The total for our Home Deport run came out to a little under $500. I bought the net that covers my run online for $40. The roosts are branches from my yard. The nesting box curtains were cut from landscaping burlap I had in the shed.

***Side note about the pricing - when I left my other corporate job my wonderful leaders purchased a pre-fab coop for me - it cost a little under $500. It holds 4 birds and is currently my medical coop. The hardware is falling apart, the wood is warping (even after I painted it), and the overall quality is simply cheap, cheap, cheap...and not in the cute chicks-in-spring way. It was $500. $500. FIVE HUNDRED dollars. That should give a little perspective on the power and potential of building your own. This new coop was about the same price, yet it holds four times the amount of hens, is made from better materials, is more functional, is better secured, and is far more stable. Plus, it has everything I've ever wanted and is customized for my girls, my yard, and my needs. Worth it!

Step 3: Start building.
It took him a little over a week to build the coop. He worked an average of 5-6 hours a day on it and did most of the work alone. It probably would've gone quicker had I not needed to work and been available to help....but I had supplies to pay for so work, I did.

Step 4: Get more supplies.
Always get more screws than you think you'll need. We also went back for more lumber. The total for our second run was about $20, I think.

Step 5: Praise Jesus for giving handsome bearded men building skills. He made something come together out of air. It was pretty magical. I may've swooned.

Intentional Design
Passive Solar:I wanted the southern and western walls to have the most surface area. Those directions capture the most sun in my backyard and the greater the surface area, the greater the chances that sun will warm my girls.

Dark, Cozy Nesting: The east and north sides are smaller and I wanted the nesting boxes on the north side so the girls would have their preferred darkness while they sat on their nests.

Latches: I used special, raccoon-proof latches on the coop doors and the door to their run.

Elevation: I asked bearded man to build the whole thing off the ground, thereby reducing creepy-crawler pests and predators.

Sunken Cloth: He dug a nice deep trench (about 12-16 inches down) all around the three outside walls of the coop so I could attach hardware cloth and deter digging pests. One wall is exposed to the run and doesn't have that same protection, but the run has it's own protection around it.

Run Protection: I enclosed the run in a combination of chicken wire (aproned out about a foot to again discourage the diggers), cattle panels (because I had some), and a large, hawk-proof net. The chicken wire will not keep an extremely determined predator away but to be completely honest, I wanted their coop to be 100% secure (and I think I achieved that) at night when they are sleeping. The run has layers of security around it to prevent and deter (I have a wooden privacy fence around the whole yard, a layer of chicken wire, and a net), but the security around the run is not 100% perfect. I just can't afford that much hardware cloth!

Crevices: I used hardware cloth within the coop to cover any exposed ventilation gaps.

Nesting Box Weight: The door to open the nesting box is extremely heavy. No raccoons will be poppin in there!!

Sliding Floor Door: This is by far my favorite security feature. The girls are nice and secure at night because bearded man installed this amazing sliding door in the floor of the coop. We have little pieces of wood that prevent the door from being lifted from underneath when in the "closed" position and the handle to open the door is closest to the house, making it super easy to let them in and out every morning.

Ventilation: I am really, really obsessed with ventilation. It was something that was lacking in the hoop house and my girls did get frostbitten combs because of the moisture build-up. To combat this, I requested nice, large openings along the top of all four sides of the coop. Bearded man graciously obliged and I am pleased as punch. They will be warm without being wet! heh heh heh

Doors: I have a massive, huge door on the "run" or "front" side of the coop and a smaller, wide one near the back of the coop. I can climb in through the front if I need to; it's that big of a door. I like to open it in nice weather and let the fresh air in while the girls graze. The smaller door is used to sweep out pine shavings into my wheelbarrow. I can also open that puppy up and check on my sleeping ladies any time I want without needing to walk into the run.

Shavings: The floor of the coop is plywood and I really wanted something absorbent but pine shavings it is! I clean out the coop about 1-2 times a month. The poopy pine shavings go right into my compost pile - they are amazing and break down really, really well! I like to line new garden beds with poopy pine shavings too - it helps my veggies grow so healthy and strong.

Nesting Boxes: I of course have more than I need....this is what chicken mamas do. My girls use only 3 of the 6, and those are good numbers when compared to other chicken mamas. I wanted them deep and comfy and secure and dark. Bearded man delivered on all fronts :)

Food and Water: I keep the girls' food and water outside, under the coop. The elevation helps keep everything dry and gives them a place to hang out when it's raining or snowing. I love not having the food and water in the coop itself because it reduces moisture and messes. It also ensures my girls come outside for fresh air even when they're feeling lazy and don't want to. Mandatory henercise! hahahaha! ......mkay yeah that was bad.

Jen's Favorite Things
Roosts: I adore the roosts. They are so pretty. Bearded man selected and stripped and sanded some branches he found in my yard and then secured them in this amazing and spacious pattern - the girls love them and so do I.

Nesting Box Curtains and Toekick: I've found my girls lay better when they have nesting box curtains, so I cut these from landscaping burlap and stapled them over each box. They are cute and sweet and functional and I love it because they are all three of those things at once. Bearded man also installed a toekick so the girls don't kick their eggs out on accident. Things get crazy in those nesting boxes sometimes!

Greenhouse: The hoop house, in all of it's now-defunct glory, is still valued and cared for. I will grow things in here eventually and for now, the girls have a secondary enclosed-yet-open space to scratch around.

Didn't think a chicken coop could bring such joy to a Jen's heart, did you? Well, now you know. I am excited to try whitewashing this beauty over the summer - it should help protect the plywood from the elements. Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below! 

Would you like to see this coop virtually? Check out my very first vlog on YouTube!

As always, thank you so much for reading :)