Chicken Coop III: My Frank Lloyd Wright Moment

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

-King of Swamp Castle, Monty Python and the Holy Grain

We have chickens. Hens, never roosters. They provide eggs, but also a kind of spiritual sense of wellness. You walk out and look at these weird feathered lizards, who so mercilessly whallop one another while meanwhile regard the world with such bland incomprehension, and you cannot help but think:  Hey, it could be worse; at least I’m not a chicken!

At our old house, we built a coop which was near the house. The coop had a small mesh-enclosed area, but was attached to a large open run. There were a few problems:

  1. Chickens, even hens, can be loud. There was one chicken named Buffy (her breed was Buff Orpington; and also, she was a bruiser like the vampire slayer) who was particularly obnoxious.
  2. Raccoons are chicken-killing monsters. If we forgot to close the coop at night, or if a chicken decided to roost outside instead of going in, all hell could break loose at 3am.
  3. Somehow, chickens would somehow find their way into the yard and cause trouble. They would eat the strawberries. Or once, a chicken roosted on the tap handle for a keg of beer, dumping its contents everywhere.

After several years of fortification, experimentation, and frustration, we gave up on the old coop and built a new coop. This structure was shaped like simple shed; 7′ x 9′. I can’t find the pictures right now, but suffice to say it was the Fort Knox of chickens. The only real nod to whimsy and aesthetics was that we installed a nice chandelier which was solar powered.

When we moved, there was no way the coop was coming with us. So it was time to build yet another coop! This time, I wanted a fun structure which could fit into an odd corner of the yard:

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I wanted something which could wrap around the pine, in a vaguely trapezoid shape. For bonus points, I’d incorporate a stained glass window we had found on the street several years ago.

I started by placing some posts in the corners, and attaching them with level cross-lumber.

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Then I put down plywood. The right area would be the box for laying eggs; you want this to be dark and protected so the chickens think it’s a good spot.

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From there, I started framing the structure. There would be one big swing-out door in the front for cleaning the coop, and a smaller door on the egg box for easy collection. The framing itself was done organically, simply attaching pieces of lumber as they seemed fitting.

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Once the framing was in place, I started attaching cedar boards to the sides.

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I got a pile of cedar shingles and tossed them on top. Certainly not a pretty job, with so many angles, but hopefully it came across as whimsical…?

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The last step was the enclose the entire area in 1/4″ mesh to keep raccoons out!

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The Ladies quickly set up residence and got to work laying eggs!

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