The Coop – Nesting boxes

It has been a very warm Fall here in Ohio and this week Gizmo, our silver lacewing, started laying in the new nesting boxes.  All the girls went through their molting process at the same time, and she is the first to start finally laying again.  This was exciting because the new nesting boxes had not been tested yet and we were not sure if the girls would use them or not.

The move to the new coop was abrupt, and for the first few months, the nesting boxes were just sitting on the floor of the coop.  This was a problem because it required going into the coop to collect the eggs.  The nesting boxes have had quite a few little tweaks since then, and it looks like are finally finished.

Box Bar

We mounted the nesting boxes to the outside of the coop, in the same way, we attached everything else to the new coop.  Using long bolts, large fender washers, and plywood.  The plywood acts as a backing and support for the bolts supporting the weight of the boxes.  We were afraid that something this size hanging on the outside of the plastic wall would bow and stress the plastic of the wall.  With the plywood strip along the top and bottom of the holes to enter the boxes, everything is very sturdy.

We used some scrap 2 X 4 wood and two rungs from an old playset ladder to create a perch to make it easier for the birds to get into the boxes.  The two verticle pieces of plywood are what we used to screw the hinges for the lid of the nesting box to.  The plywood gave us enough material to support the weight of the lid and enough height to create a slope so water would run away from the hinges.

The big issue we had with this design was water penetration.  There was no real good way to seal the hinge side of the nesting box roof.  Our first attempt was a small piece of wood running above the seam.  The thought was water would run down the wall and out away from the hinge side.  This did not work and the bedding kept getting wet in the boxes.  The final solution was to build a little roof over the entire thing.  This worked quite well water from the roof runs onto the overhang and the amount of water that makes it to the hinge side of the list is now very minimal.

We learned from our chicken tractors that cleaning the nesting boxes can be a royal pain.  With these boxed the back wall also folds down.  This way the contents can be scraped straight out of the boxes.  This is a vast improvement from the other design.  The back wall is held in place with three small hook and eye clasps.  One on each end and one on the inside in the center to keep the back from bowing.

The lid of the nesting box also works very well as a surface to sit the feed bucket when filling the feeder.  We are very pleased with how it turned out.


The Coop – PVC chicken feeder

Feeding the chickens is a chore20151120_161239 that everyone wants to do less often.  We have been using some version of a PVC pipe chicken feeder for the last three years.  We have made many revisions and tinkered with the design and we finally have something that works well for us.  Our newest feeder looks a bit like a plumbing nightmare, but it is working very well.  The reasoning behind the feeder was we wanted to be able to fill it from outside the coop, and it needed to have enough spaces to feed multiple chickens at the same time.

We constructed the feeder from 3-inch pipe and used 4-inch T fittings for the feeding ports.  We could have used a larger diameter pipe to increase the carrying capacity of the feeder, but anything over 3-inch pipe fittings starts to get cost prohibitive.  The way the feeder is currently it holds about 17 pounds of feed.  For our flock, that is enough feed for a week.

The feeding ports for the coop are the same as the ones in our chicken tractor and, although a little complicated, and they work very well.  To build the a single feeding port, you will need one T, two knockout caps, one reducer, and a small piece of pipe.  Our goal was not to use any glue so that things could be taken apart and reconfigured if needed, so the pieces are mostly just friction fit

The only thing that needed glue for this project is the feed stopper.  Our birds like to rake the feed out of the feeder onto the floor.  To prevent this, then pound the 1-inch tall piece of pipe into the opening that is for feeding.  The 1-inch tall piece of pipe will have enough friction to stay in place.  The knockout cap does have a lip.  We put this facing in so that it is wedged against the T fitting.  This makes it harder for the birds to knock out.


Next we want to create the 20151010_171852stand and the bottom of the feeder. Ideally you will want the top of the feeding port to be level with the chickens back. Instead of trying to mount the feeder to the wall we created legs using more PVC pipe. Similar to the feed stopper we inserted a knockout cap into the bottom of our T and then inserted a piece of pipe to hold it in place, but instead of a small 1-inch tall piece of pipe we used a 7-inch piece.  This not only holds the bottom of the feeder in place but gives us our needed elevation.

The next step is altering the reducer so that the pipe will slide completely through it.  We want the pipe to pass through the reducer and be a couple inches above the knockout cap acting as the bottom of the feeding port.  This is what controls the amount of feed that is available.  The goal is to have enough feed for the birds to eat but not have it full so they can scrape it out.  As the birds eat the feed in the tube above will fall and fill the feeder.

To alter the reducer, we used a scroll saw.  We just had to run the blade around the inside of the reducer to cut off the shelf that the pipe would normally sit on.  The first one we made we did this with a wood rasp.  It took a long time but got the job done.

The last step is determining how many legs we wanted our PVC feeder to have.  We decided on three, this meant we needed two Y fittings and a few 45-degree fittings.  The nice thing about the feeder is there is only one fill port and as the stumps fill up the feed fills the next in line.  We have been using this feeder for two months at this point and it is working great.

Greenhouse Construction Part 1

It is fall, and we have finally started construction on our greenhouse.  We decided to build a lean-to style that will extend off the southern side of the pole barn.  The greenhouse will be 48 feet long by 24 feet wide once it is finished.

We attempted to start the greenhouse this past spring, but with the baby on the way and all the other projects it was put on the back burner.  Now that fall is here, we are planning for spring and it is time to get to work.

The greenhouse when finished, will have a three-foot knee wall all the way around the bottom of the walls.  This part of the wall will be covered with steel barn siding.  From this point up the entire structure will be covered with the same type of siding, but it is transparent plastic.  The wall of the barn that we are attaching to is ten feet tall.  The plan is for the southern wall to be six feet tall.  That will give us four feet of drop over the twenty-four feet width of the roof.  In roofing terms I think that is considered a two-twelve pitch because we are rising two inches for every twelve inches of horizontal run.


Step one in the process was digging post holes.  After some careful
measurements, we dug holes as deep as the post hole digger would allow us to go.  Most holes ended up at least thirty inches deep.  This is deep enough that we will be below the frost line.  The next step was placing the posts and staking them so that they were square and plum.  For this process, we recycled some old 2X6 lumber from the old barn we took down.  The boards will hold the post in the correct position while the concrete dries.


Once the concrete is set it is time to backfill the holes.  We had some help with this task.  The help even had an audience.  The ducks were very interested in the entire process.  The next step will be the 2X6 bottom board.  This will act as a frame for the crushed rock floor.  Once the floor is in the roof and walls will start to go up.  The construction is moving along slowly, but if everything goes according to plan there will be a finished greenhouse by spring.


The Coop – Prefab Shed to Chicken Coop Conversion

This year we changed how we house our chickens.  Since the beginning, we have housed our chickens in two chicken tractors.  We really like the tractor method, but we wanted to consolidate all the birds into one coop and the tractors were not large enough to do that.  We have also had some predator issues this year and letting the birds free range was no longer an option.

Because of these problems we decided to move to a more traditional coop and run method for managing our birds.  The run for the birds is very large, so we do not feel bad about them being fenced in, and we plan to set up a rotational grazing system to help keep things interesting for the birds.

Shed Stock Photo

We chose a premade plastic shed to use as the coop.  We got lucky and Home Depot was having a sale on their out buildings.  We picked up a Suncast Sutton shed for a good price.  The shed went up really fast and We have been customizing the shed to function as a chicken coop.

The shed is made of resin and has an air gap between the layers of plastic that make up the walls.  This made cutting holes in the walls a little challenging.  The things that the shed needed to convert it to a functional coop were nesting boxes, perches, and a chicken door.  Everything else is just a bonus.

The shed came with plexiglass windows for the doors, but ventilation is important in a chicken coop so we used aluminum window screen in the holes meant for the windows.  The decorative grating was more than enough to hold the screen in.

Light is another important factor in a goodWindow Frame coop so we used the plexiglass from the kit and built three small one foot square windows.  We mounted two of these in the South wall and one at the peak of the East wall.  The windows were very simple.  They are nothing more than a wooden frame with a groove that holds the plexiglass.  We then used furring strips along the inside to hold them in the hole.  After everything was mounted we used white window caulk to seal around the outside of the window.

With the large run, the chickens are very happy and we have not had any more losses since we moved everyone into the new coop.  We have plans to run electricity and water to the coop, but that is a post for another day.

A Simple Chicken Door

For the past several weeks, we have had the older chickens living in the new coop. The coop consists of an eight foot by eight foot plastic shed that we bought from Home Depot. The shed has worked great. We have made many additions, but we will cover those later. This weekend we finally finished the chickens run, and that meant it was time to make a door in the back of the coop so they could access the run.

We decided to keep it as simple as possible, we have grand plans of installing an automatic chicken door opener later this year. From what we have researched it is important that the door be just big enough for the chickens to get in and out. In addition, the door needs to pass the bottom of the hole leading to the outside when it is closed or little-handed critters such as raccoons will pry it open.

Chicken Door  Chicken Door 2

We were lucky and as usual we were able to scrounge most of the materials from around the homestead. We started with a piece of plastic wall sheeting. It is the stuff they panel bathtub surrounds with. Our hope is that this will keep everything dry, and it will not require painting. The sheeting is nothing more than heavy plastic, so we backed it with a piece of half-inch plywood. We used some small brass nails that came out of a weather stripping kit, to attach the plastic to the plywood. As you can see from the pictures, the plastic is wider than the plywood. The idea behind this was to create a slide on each side of the door that can ride in a wooden track.

Door Rails  Door On Rails
Next we used the table saw to create a one-quarter inch deep by an inch and a half wide shelf along our side pieces. These will act as our rails for the door to slide up and down along. The rails are four inches longer than twice the height of the door. Our doors dimensions ended up being eighteen inches tall by ten inches wide. The plastic is very smooth.  With the pressure treated lumber on one side, and the plastic wall of the shed on the other the door slides very easily.

Door In PlaceAfter we had cut the hole in the back of the barn, we mounted our rails. To mount the rails, we simply used some exterior wood screws with some washers. We made sure the rails were plum and parallel and drove the screws in from the outside of the barn. This made a very easy and sturdy track system for the door to ride in. The last step to complete the door was to add an eye bolt to the top for our rope to attach to.

We were quite proud of the pulley setup. Using some small pulleys from the hardware store and some four inch by one-quarter inch bolts we were able to create a mounting point that is held far enough from the wall that nothing rubs. Next we simply had to run the rope up the wall across the ceiling and out a small hole in the front of the barn. Another pulley was set up to redirect the rope down to a height where one of the little helpers could operate the door. The door is very simple to operate. There are two loops in the rope. The loop at the end of the rope lowers the door to the closed position and the second loop up fully opens the door. It was convenient that the handle on the barn doubles as a place to loop the rope around.

Pully System Pully System 2 Pully System 3 Rope Handle
We have lots of plans for our little chicken house and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. We hope you enjoyed reading about our little chicken house as much as we enjoyed working on it.