Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Le Poulet Chalet

Beatrice says, "What have we here?"

Thanks to my father in law, I now have a more than halfway completed house for the chickens! The in laws were in town and he and I had some time and inclination to take a crack at building this thing, so we did. I just have to frame out the run, roof the whole thing, install the window, build a nest box and attach it, put in some roosts and a chicken size door, wrap the run with hardware cloth and side the coop! Piece of cake after what we already did.

The run will extend out along the garage wall, past the window, and will have a special clear roof that faces south to let in the winter sun to keep them cozy in the winter. Like this:

Please excuse the rough drawing, it is not easy to draw with your finger on a laptop mouse pad! Anyway, the squiggly white lines are the clear roofing panels. I will be able to wrap the run with tarps in the winter and they will stay toasty in there due to the passive solar heating.

Other than needing more room for the new chickens, I have lots of reasons for wanting to build a coop. The tractor I built last year has been great and if I lived in a warmer climate, or had a barn to put it in for the winter and only had the few hens, I would be totally happy with it. But the prospect of having to figure out something different for the winter each year led me to wanting a permanent home. And on those days when I can't be around to watch out for the free ranging chickens, I wanted a place for them to have enough space to peck and scratch while still being contained and protected from predators. And while free range is great, sometimes you need to keep them out of your garden beds and away from a newly seeded patch of ground. I won't feel guilty leaving the girls in this coop even if it is for a few days.

I also like the idea of keeping them in one place long enough to actually collect their manure for the garden, instead of letting them deposit it all over the place on their own. I reckon nine chickens make at least three times as much poop as three chickens. ;-) And while I can handle a little gift left on the doorstep once in a while, I imagine several every day would get old fast. I plan to make cleaning the coop as easy as possible by doing a deep litter system. This means I will be adding straw and other bedding to the floor of the coop and run, which will both be dirt, on a regular basis. As the chickens poop and turn the bedding with their scratching, the worms will work on it from the bottom,and it will all basically compost in place. I can clean it out into the compost a couple of times a year and then use that precious resource to grow awesome food for us!

Another benefit of the coop is having access to the power from the garage. I can run a light to the coop and a heater for the water to keep it from freezing on very cold nights. That will keep me from having to get up early to bring them fresh water. I plan to make the entire coop and run predator secure so that the chicken sized door to the run can be left open all the time. That will give the chickens freedom of movement and I won't have to get up with the sun to let them out of their coop. My sister in law sent a link to a cool door idea though. My inner geek is eating that up! I don't need a door opener, but it would be pretty sweet, don't ya think?


Tara W. said...

dude. i hope your finished coop looks as awesome as that drawing. ;)

Miranda said...

Totally awesome-r, dude! ;-b