Building a Backyard Chicken Coop

It has been almost a year that our coop build was started. With a lot of help from family, the coop finally took shape and is now working very well. I will recap the process that we used to decide what coop to build and how we built it.

We wanted a multi use chicken coop. I personally wanted a coop that we could have separate breeding pens for different breeds, plus a main section to house our layers. Our end goal was to be able to be somewhat self sufficient and have the ability to breed, hatch, and raise our own chickens.  After weeks of looking at coops on the internet and purchasing a book on coop plans we made our decision on a plan.

We chose a coop that had a 10′ x 15′ center section with two 10’x5′ lean-to areas, one on each long side. The center section would be for our laying hens and the two side pens could be used for breeding, isolation, brooding, or acclimating new birds. We chose to use as many wood pallets as possible in the framing to cut down on cost, and to use a steel sheeting exterior to make it maintenance free.

We started our build with 5’x5′ wood pallets to make up the floor.  Our coop dimensions were limited by, and directly planned according to the pallets we had on hand. Our site was on a slight slope so we used cement blocks under every corner of every pallet as support and to level the floor. We nailed, and screwed the pallets together the best we could to tie the floor together. the struggle was in tweaking the used pallets into square so they would fit together. Not all of our pallets fit perfectly together but for the price they worked great.

Starting our Chicken Coop Floor
Starting our Chicken Coop Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then covered the floor with a layer of 1/2″ particle board sheeting.  This served to tie the pallets together and to give the coop a solid floor. We painted the flooring to help against moisture and because we know it would be in the elements until we got the roof on.

Finished Chicken Coop Floor
Finished Chicken Coop Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were able to use a few pallets in the walls as well, but we had to finish the framing with 2×4’s. Our pneumatic nail gun came in very handy and speeded up the process. The pallets used in the walls also determined the wall height of the lean-to sections as we attached the short end of the sloped roof to the them. We did use all 2×4 wood in the framing of the main section and the roof frame. We framed a slanted roof with the high end  towards the south to hopefully use the extra wall space for light.  (It was great in theory until raccoons found how to gain entry from climbing onto the lean-to roof and into the window that we didn’t think needed to be screened. They are smart little boogers.)

Chicken Coop Front View
Chicken Coop South Side Being Framed

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found some metal barn sheeting at a discounted price. We located a construction company that sold their left over sheets and cover sheets for small projects. The panels were mixed colors and sizes, but that is how our whole project was anyways. We put the darker colors on the north side and the lighter panels on the south to try to keep the sun from heating up the coop too much in the summer. We even had some silver ones that we used for the roof.

After all of the steel was up, it was time to finish the interior. We separated the 3 sections with chicken wire and put in doors, we added one outlet and Led light with a switch by the door, and hung the nesting boxes and roosts. All we lack are the doors to the outside runs that we have yet to build.

We have successfully hatched out 2 clutches of eggs collected from this coop. One clutch was a barn yard mix and the other came from one of our side breeding pens of pure Barred Rock Stock. I added a brooding box with a heat lamp to one of the walls. The box can be removed for cleaning and the lid secured out of the way when not in use.

Added Brooder Box with light
Added Brooder Box with light

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in All we are very happy with how are coop turned out. I know we will be able to use this for many years. And the 3 section design is perfect for our farm as we grow.


 

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Spring Rains

I love the smell of a good spring rain. We are on target to get a fair amount of rain in the next couple of weeks. It is welcomed and needed.

The farm relies on rain to refresh, clean, and feed the soil. The rain carries needed nutrients into the soil from the droppings of the pasture animals and from the added chicken litter that comes from the coop. It also washes away minerals or waste that have may built up over the winter.

Afternoon Rainbow
Afternoon Rainbow

I don’t look forward to doing chores in the rain, especially in the pig pens. Pigs love to dig and make holes that fill up with a good rain. With 12 pens to feed I don’t take the time to look at every step I take, and inevitably end up with a boot full of water. It is also great when a sow knocks your feet out from under you and you end up on your butt in one of those holes.

Even if you can escape the holes and the pushy sows, pigs love mud and love to share it with you. They rub against you, they wipe their nose on you, and they love to run between your legs to get the first shot at the feed bowl. So, no matter how careful you are, when it rains you get muddy.

Lost a Farm Truck- But Could Have Been Worse

Last Thursday on my way to my day job, I was rear ended on the highway. The morning traffic was moving fast as usual, and was fairly heavy with everyone trying to get to work on time. I was stopped behind a vehicle waiting to make a left-hand turn. There were a few cars and trucks ahead of me and two behind. I saw in the rear view mirror a truck with a trailer coming in fast and not slowing down. The rest happened fast and is a blur.

The truck hit the two cars behind me throwing one of them into the back of my truck. I had enough time slam mine  into park so I did not roll into vehicles in front of me, but my truck took a hard hit. When the parts stopped flying, there were 4 vehicles totaled. Although no one was seriously hurt, the aftermath will be felt hard on our farm.

My Farm Truck After Being Hit
My Farm Truck After Being Hit

 

 

 

 

 

MyMy Farm Truck After Being Hit- Profile
My Farm Truck After Being Hit- Profile

Because of the accident we are now having to deal with insurance, being short a vehicle, scheduling how to pick up our feed for the farm, locating a replacement truck, and wondering if we will be able to afford a decent replacement. We have always kept full coverage on every vehicle, it is expensive but a necessary evil. Without full coverage we would have to fight an unknown insurance company and try to not get taken advantage of. Being involved in an accident never betters your situation.

A farm is in perpetual motion, it does not slow down or adjust itself for your hardship. You have to make quick adjustments and hope it goes smooth. Luckily the trunk of my little daily driver is able to handle a few bags of grain, and we are not needing to purchase straw or shavings for bedding until the weekend.

We are still negotiating with the insurance about the value of our truck. I am not looking to gain from this because accidents are a part of life, but I do not want to be left with uncovered expenses. I was taken to the hospital to be checked out, and we will have to get those charges covered as well. Our insurance office has been great, and got things going right away. I am sure this will take several months to work everything out.

We always say, things could have been worse. That definitely applies with this as well. No lasting injuries and only material things affected make this situation a hiccup in life. The farm has taught us to  adapt and persevere, keep moving and get things done.


 

 

Pens for Sows, Boars, and Feeders

This weekend we need to wrangle some pigs around. We have some sows that need to get in with some boars. We have been trying to schedule a couple litters per month. In order to do that, each month we need to rotate sows to be with our boars. I have 2 sows that need to get in with the boar this weekend. In order for that to happen, we need to take 3 sows out.

Feeder Pigs needing to be sorted
Feeder Pigs Needing to be Sorted

It is going to be a struggle this year, we are growing our herd and feeding out more than we have in the past. We currently have 5 pens being used just to grow out pigs. We have pigs that range from 25 lbs. up to 230 lbs. We try to keep pigs together and grouped by size. As some of our pigs grow at different rates, we have to keep an eye on the pens and keep moving up the pigs that are growing quicker. If there gets to be too great of a size difference, there will be bullying,  and the smaller pigs will not get their share to eat.

We have split up some of our bigger pens in order to divide the feeder pigs according to size. This weekend we are needing to divide another one of our larger pens to make a new pen. I have a size difference starting again and no good option to separate them. So a new pen must be built. As we have been adding new pens,we have been struggling to keep up with building new shelters and water barrels.  Soon I am also going to run out of pens that we can split and we will have to start expanding out to new areas. Splitting a pen is a lot cheaper than buying panels to make an entire new pen.

We have designated farrowing pens, boar pens, and grow out pens. Soon we will be getting our farrowing pens ready to have little babies, but for now we are using them to house our breeding groups. I am short one boar pen, which I will need to create before we switch over to farrowing, but I am still not certain how I where I want it to go.

 

 

 

Building a Homemade Hoop Shelter for Pigs

 

My daughter and I made this hoop shelter for our pigs 5 years ago and it is still in great shape. It is fairly easy to build with just a little elbow grease.

Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering
Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shelter is built from common materials and goes together easily.

2- 16′ cattle panels cut down to 12′

2- 4’x8′ sheets of untreated plywood

4- 6″x4″x8′ treated posts

4- 1″x3″ untreated boards

1- 10’x12′ tarp

Misc: Screws, Lag bolts, metal plumbers strapping, and fence staples

We started by notching the ends of the treated posts. The notches enabled us to overlap the ends of the posts to be glued and nailed together while still giving us a flat surface all the way around. We notched the posts with a circular saw, we used multiple passes to create slices half way through the post. The slices were then chiseled out and smoothed. Update to our original build- We would at this point in the build add a sealed floor of some sort.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

In order to secure the cattle panels in a curved position, we put lag bolts on 2 alternate sides. The lag bolts were put in 2 inches from the outside edge of the posts. We used 6 bolts per side and spaced the bolts evenly along the post. The bolts were left out about 1.5 inches so that the wire panel had a good point of contact.

We wired the to cattle panels together along their length and put one end up against the bolts. The panel was then carefully pulled down so that the opposite end rested inside of the bolts on the other side. We have at that point a base and a hoop. The ends were secured in place with some large fencing staples, and all of the sharp edges of the panel and wires were removed to prevent injury.

The end panels were the next piece of the build to tackle. We held one plywood panel up to the end of the hoop and traced the outline onto the wood. We cut out the curved end piece and secured it to the wire with plumbing strap and screws. The entrance side will have a doorway cut out as well before it is attached. We cut two 1″x3″ boards that ran from top to bottom inside the end pieces. we attached them with screws to give the end pieces more stability. We double checked again for sharp points of screws and made sure to grind them down to prevent future injury.

Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the Interior Support
Attaching the Interior Support

We covered our hoop buildings with tarps secured with lathe around the bottom edges. This worked great right up to the point when the sows started their nest building phase. They tore huge sections of the tarp off to add to their nest even though they had plenty of straw. We have since corrected this by adding sheet metal strips to the bottom of each side, and we completely covered a few  huts and removed the tarp all together.

There is always improvements to be made, and the first version is just a starting point. These are great huts, but by all means not perfect for everyone. Like I mentioned earlier we would have added a floor to these, and when we build more we will add that option. We have had these huts for 5 years and have only needed to replace the tarps.  As are farm grows I will need to start building more.

http://burninr.com/portablepigshelter.html

 


 

 

 

 

 

Adding the Pullets to the Laying Flock

This last weekend we cleaned the chicken coop. . We have a three section coop. Section one is the main coop and it is 10’x15′ and houses the feed and water for the laying flock. Section 2 is 10’x5′ and it houses the roosts and nest boxes for our main flock. Section 3 is a section we use as an extended brooder, rooster pen, and isolated breeding pen. What we clean out gets spread onto our hay field as fertilizer.

We have had last falls hatch of chicks in section 3 for the winter. The little pullets are looking very nice and were ready to mix into the main laying flock.  After we cleaned the coop we left the pullets in with the older hens. I figured there would be a ruckus while they all got used to each other but they all blended in nicely. The young pullets did look a little confused, but started to eat well after a short time. The 2 pens were only separated by chicken wire so they were weren’t really strangers.

New Pullets with the Layers
New Pullets with the Layers

I am looking forward to the young pullets to start laying soon.  There are still 4 young roosters that need to go into the freezer. Hopefully this next weekend we can start to work on that. Fried chicken really sounds good about now!

I need to order some chicks or get some eggs set to incubate. I need to have a clutch of spring chicks so when my fall hens molt,  the spring chicks will hopefully carry us through. We are trying to decide which breeds to keep and if we would like to incorporate a new breed. We do not have Buff Orpingtons, and since we both are partial to that breed, we will probably add a few.

I will be ordering a few broiler chicks to raise to sell at the farmers market as well as to put a few our freezer. I have not decided which breed of those to get either. I am trying to decide between the red broiler cross and the Dixie Rainbow type chickens.  I do know that the White Cornish cross is definitely not an option. I need to get my chicken tractor cleaned up and ready to roll.