If you are considering getting chickens – do it! They are everything we were hoping for, and more. Chickens are smart, easy to care for, they can learn some tricks and have a lot of benefits like producing eggs, reducing the insect population, and prepping garden beds. Let’s see your dog do that! One of the most important things for keeping your chickens is the coop, don’t cheap out on this. The store bought kits are usually junk, the wood and hardware won’t last more than a single season and they are not nearly secure enough to keep predators out.
The next series of posts will show our chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. I’ve broken this into several segments to provide more detail, pictures, and commentary including what I would do different if I were to do it again.
When I build something such as this I don’t usually start with a fixed plan but rather an idea of what the finished project will look like and provide. This coop was based on lessons learned from an earlier one, I’ll highlight the differences at the end of the build. This one is designed for up to eight chickens (which it currently houses). It will be mounted in a permanent location (the previous was portable, sort of), will have storage for supplies, and have high capacity feeders with automatic watering. The location is southeast of the house, that is in the back left side (see the end of the Upcoming Projects post for a visual location).
The dimension for this coop are 6’W x 12’L x 6’H (six feet wide by twelve feet long and six feet high). The previous coop was 4’W x 12’W x 4’H, I quickly learned that having more headroom inside makes it a LOT easier to clean and maintain.
The pad area was prepped with some fill dirt to raise it above the surrounding area and packed down real good. The coop will have a concrete base around the perimeter, then a drain field inside topped with gravel, weed block and sand. In these first pictures you can see where I measured out the perimeter area to set up the form boards for the concrete pour.
The coop frame will be built from 2×4 lumber and will rest directly on the concrete. To protect the frame from standing water and also have some leeway for error I made the base six inches wide but sloped the sides to shed water.
The next picture shows the form set up. The form boards are just under ten inches high, with the dirt dug down below the overall height will be right at about a foot. Half of this will be below ground and half will be above, this is the first layer of predator protection. Future plans include adding a pavers around the coop to make it even harder for any animals to try digging underneath.
Once the basic form was set up i added a drain pipe, then put a ring of rebar into the form. The rebar won’t prevent the concrete from cracking but if it does the rebar will keep it from separating. The drain pipe is shown here:
Although the form doesn’t look that big, it required 30 bags of concrete!
The concrete mixer made quick work of this. I don’t have any in progress pictures since once started I didn’t want to stop but the pour only took about an hour. The mixer was a great Craigslist find a few years ago, total investment after repairs was only around $350.
Here’s the form after the concrete was poured. After it set up for about an hour I went back and rounded the inside and outside edge to help it shed water.
Next step is to build the internal drain. This was accomplished by making a PVC assembly and drilling a lot of holes.
Here’s the completed drain frame:
And the drain frame placed into the concrete base:
Here’s a closeup of the drain attached to the exit pipe:
Then the drain was covered with gravel. The drain sits pretty high above the surrounding area and was put to the test with Hurricane Irma in 2017 (about six months after the build completion). We had some of the worst flooding in recent history and water never pooled inside the coop, although if the water had been any higher this would not have been the case.
Before adding the weedblock and sand I painted the concrete. I used a redwood color since this was the same color as I would use for the coop frame.
This final picture in this series shows the process of adding the weedblock and sand.
When I built this coop we had 5 chickens, for that amount it worked great. On Christmas Eve in 2017 all five were killed by a neighbors dog that got loose so we had to start over. We now have eight birds in there and for some reason they are a lot more destructive than the previous batch (maybe because we don’t let them free range as much). They have managed to dig down and tear up the edges of the weedblock. The previous birds never did much digging, this new batch has a fascination with making sand piles.
The reason I bring that up is it involves one thing I would do different. If building again, I would make everything deeper and higher. I’d build the initial mound higher and make the concrete deeper and taller. More is better, maybe have the concrete go down a foot and up eight inches for a total of twenty inches instead of the twelve. This would ensure that it drains well but also allow me to have a lot more sand (deeper).
In summary, here’s the things I would do different:
- Make initial mound higher
- Concrete would be deeper and taller
- Have multiple drain outlets (currently has one)
- Use larger drain pipe (3/4″ used, switch to 1″)
- Use concrete coloring mix instead of painting
Overall I am happy with the way this turned out and there hasn’t been any real problems, making these few changes would just make it that much better. I hope this information is useful for anyone looking to build a coop, the next post will cover the main framing. Happy planting!