In this second part of the spring 2020 food forest walk through we take a look at the back yard and what is growing there. Here you will also see some ideas I’ve put to use such as using logs as path borders and my yard trash cans (mulch bins) that second as a climbing support.
I’m going to start doing walk throughs twice a year, one in spring and another in the fall. In each video I’ll highlight what is new and what has signifigantly changed and also include other completed projects. I’m hoping to have a new garden area created by this fall. Stay safe everyone!
Finally, a property tour! Since spring is here and I’m getting to spend a lot of time at home (thanks to the coronavirus) I’ve finally had an opportunity to do a food forest walk through. This is broken into two parts, the first one is the front yard and includes the chicken coop, the second one is the back of the property. In the video I added annotations of a lot of the plant and tree names in case you can’t hear the audio, please let me know if this makes the video better or if I should leave them out.
The second video needs to be edited but is otherwise ready, I’ll have it posted in a few days. Hope everyone is staying safe!
Two important things to know about chickens: they eat a lot, and they are messy eaters. I don’t think chickens really like to eat something until they’ve dropped it in the dirt, stepped on it, then pooped on it. Store bought feeders work very well in this sense, they are easy to spill and the chickens can drop dirt right into the feeder (or poop in it) if they choose.
There’s a bunch of DIY chicken feeder plans on the internet so I used that as a starting point. A couple of other design goals of mine were to ensure the food stays dry and have enough capacity to where I could ignore them (go on vacation) for four or five days without worrying about them. I take no credit for this design, it just seemed like the right one for my application. The feeder is made from PVC pipe (easy) and is pretty easily adaptable for any coop. I made two feeders so several birds at a time could eat.
The first step is to cut a rounded taper on a four inch PVC tee joint. This was done freehand by marking a pattern with a marker, cut it out with an oscillating tool, then using a file and sandpaper to smooth it out.
Here’s another view of the curve, it doesn’t have to be perfect, this is just to keep the food dry and allow the chicken to stick their head in. The bottom of the PVC tee will be blocked off and the food will drop in from the top.
The plastic plug I made for the bottom was cut from a bucket lid, it will be held in place with a PVC reducer. It’s not shown in this post but I ended up drilling small holes in the bottom cap to allow food dust to fall through. If you don’t do that it can get a little messy over time with food dust buildup.
Here’s the plastic cap placed into the bottom of the PVC tee, it should be a pretty snug fit.
I press fit the PVC reducer to hold the plastic bottom in place. None of the feeder parts had to be glued. Once installed the feeder will be resting on this bottom part so everything will be fine just press fit together, it also allows you to make changes later which I had to do.
Here’s the bottom cap from the chickens point of view. As mentioned before, one of my revisions was to drill small holes in here to allow food dust to drop out.
Here’s a top view looking down into the PVC tee towards the bottom.
Next we are going to make a funnel, this is for the food that will drop into the bottom part we just made. This funnel will control the amount of food that is available to the chicken and may have to be modified for your feed type. I use pellet food, if you use crumbles then a smaller funnel may work better so the food doesn’t free flow too easily.
I initially used a two inch funnel. This was later changed to an inch and a half, the two inch allowed too much food into the lower area and the chickens managed to scatter it around the outside of the feeder. You want just enough dropping in so they can get to it but not so much that they can fling it around.
For a two inch funnel you need a PVC three inch to two inch adapter and a short piece of two inch pipe. To figure the pipe length just place the reducer into the top of the lower assembly and measure from the feeder bottom to the PVC reducer. Once the small pipe is cut, cut out a notch in it like the picture below ( I started with a one inch cut). This will all make sense in a minute.
Place the short piece of PVC into the reducer like shown below:
The drop the whole thing into the feeder bottom assembly:
And this is what it should look like from the chickens point of view:
Now you need to test the funnel assembly with your food type. Fill the top of the PVC tee with the type of chicken feed you use.
From the chicken point of view, the food should be available but not spilling out too much. I’d err on the side of not much food rather than too much, as long as the chicken can reach in and get a piece from the funnel that is good enough. The food does not have to spill out, the chicken will makethat happen.
My current funnel is smaller than this original one, I changed the reducer and short pipe to an inch and a half (from two inches).
With the hard part over, now all you need to do is cut an upright pipe to the height you want (mine are about forty inches) and put some sort of cap on. I used a threaded coupling to make filling easy and to keep water and bugs out.
There’s dozens of ways to mount these and you could also put a bend near the top so you can fill them from outside the coop. I went with inside coop feeding to ensure water stays out of the food.
The mounts I made were two boards in a L shape with a cutout for the pipe. The bottom mount also has a lower lip to support the feeders and I used pipe strap to secure the feeders to the mounts. Here’s the boards for the mounts after cutting and staining.
I painted the outside of the feeders green but left the inside unpainted. Here’s how they look after mounting, you can see part of the automatic watering system to the left. I’ll cover that feature in a future post.
Here’s a list of materials required (not including the mounts):
4″ PVC tee
4″ to 3″ PVC adapter (holds bottom in)
Plastic piece for bottom, I cut mine from a bucket lid
3″ to 2″ PVC reducer for funnel (later changed to 3″ to 1.5″ reducer)
short piece of 2″ PVC pipe for funnel (later changed to 1.5″ PVC pipe)
4″ PVC for upright, whatever length you want
4″ PVC threaded coupling for top
4″ threaded cap for top
I’d suggest test fitting it all together while in the store to make sure you have the right parts. I’ve had these in place now for about a year and they are working great (after the few small modifications).
Welcome to part three of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. Part one of the build focused on building the foundation for the coop, part two was the main framing. This post is about finishing touches and moving the coop into place, I’ll have some follow up posts in the future with the feeders and watering system (and a chicken run when I get around to building it).
As of the last post the coop has taken shape and has been moved outside as it got too tall for the workshop. The focus now is on features and trim work. In this picture, you can see a few trim boards installed and a couple of others cut and ready for staining. The trim is simply 1×4 lumber (and a few 1×6 pieces) screwed over the stapled edges of the welded wire. For future repairs of any part of the coop it shouldn’t be too hard as most boards are screwed into place.
Inside the coop house I’ve put a divider board in to separate the chicken area from the storage area. The storage will be used for coop supplies and for the water tank for the automatic watering. This view is from the storage side which is approximately two feet deep and four feet wide.
Here is the view from the chicken side. The opening this picture is taken from is the clean out doors, the nesting boxes are on the right, and the chicken entry door is partly visible in the back.
In both previous openings you can see the lip at the top and bottom, these are for the doors to fit flush against. This will help keep rain out of the coop and give the doors something to support against. I also added some welded wire between the hen house and open area of the coop, this is to prevent the chickens from trying to roost up there and potentially get stuck. The same opening to the storage side is blocked off with wood.
The coop is being installed in the shade of some large trees so heat should not be an issue.
Next, here is the coop with trim installed. The small opening at the bottom will be a slide up automated door for the chickens to access their run during the day, more detail on that later.
Now for the nesting box. I didn’t have a real good plan for this so it was designed as I went, one thing I’d do different next time is make the opening a lot bigger. By the time it was built I lost a lot of interior space so it went from a three nest design down to two. The first thing was to build some sides, these were made from thick plywood and attached directly to the coop.
I then added some 2×2’s around the bottom to support the floor.
Then the floor was cut and test fit prior to staining and mounting.
With the nesting box floor in place, I made it so the back could be opened for cleaning. This took some trial and error but here is the result.
Here’s the back flipped open. Note all hardware I used is heavy galvanized, no zinc coated stuff for this coop.
All is going good so far, next is the top. This turned out to be pretty challenging, I wanted to be able to flip it open and latch it up out of the way but that didn’t work out. Weatherproofing took priority so the end result is it can be held up most of the way or easily removed, but it is not hinged. I may modify this at a later time to make it easier to use.
Here is the top piece after being cut and stained. Note the grooves line up with the siding, the little details count!
Here’s another view, you can see it is difficult to make it weatherproof and easy to use. To make it so the top could flip up all the way would require it to be attached to the outside but I prefer it goes up into the coop so water won’t enter.
I put a trim board above the nesting box roof to further keep water out and for aesthetics. The latch to hold the top on was also added at this point. Note all hasps on the coop are twist to lock and if needed I could add something through the lock hole if raccoons became a problem. So far they haven’t.
A shot inside the nesting box showing how the back is secured (opens for cleaning).
Here is the nesting box with the top on and secured.
You may have noticed in a couple of the other pictures that the side door is on. This was built with a 2×4 along the back edge then 2×2’s on the other 3 sides. Some shelf bracket angle pieces (galvanized) in the corners help keep it square.
The hen house clean-out doors and storage doors were made from the pieces that were cut out, that way the grooves in the wood lined right up. Here is the hen house doors mounted and partially stained.
These doors have a piece of 1×4 on the inside as a hinge backer and one door has one in the middle for support. Here you can see the middle piece clearly.
With the door opened you can see both backings.
This is the coop clean-out doors wide open, it makes things a little more clear. At the top and bottom of the doors you can see how they fall into the lip on the coop to help seal. When closed, the doors are flush against the coop sides and blend right in.
This picture was taken before the nesting box was completed so you can see it in progress as well (right side).
This inside shot is after the nesting box was completed, you can see there was a lot of space lost due to the sides and roof of the nesting box structure. Bigger next time!
Doors on, nesting box build, main door ready. We are almost ready to move the coop!
I mentioned earlier about a sliding door on the back of the coop, here is an inside shot of it. For now I can raise or lower it from the outside using a rope, in a future project this will be automated to open at dawn and close at dusk. The door will probably have to be changed quite a bit as it does not slide up and down too easily.
Now, how to move the coop. As usual, I tackled this problem when the time came so there was no real plan until then. The coop is way too large and unwieldy to pick up with just pallet forks on the tractor so the next best idea is to make a dolly.
I used some tires from Harbor Freight, the axles are just threaded rod, and these were attached with some angle iron drilled out. The dolly frame is a hodge podge of 4×4 lumber but it served it’s purpose well. I picked up the other end with the tractor and very slowly drove it to the new location.
To retain better control, the heavy side was the one lifted by the tractor.
When the coop was straddled over the foundation, a little push from the tractor put it right in place. I used some concrete anchors and angle brackets to bolt it down, unfortunately there’s no pictures of those steps. Here’s what it looked like right after the move.
You can see a few chips in the foundation from maneuvering the coop into place but none of them are too bad. This makes a good case for putting dye into the concrete, if that were done there wouldn’t be any need for touch up. All concrete projects I do now have the coloring put right in the mix.
Next step is to shingle the roof. I waited until after the move to do this to avoid damaging the roof and also reduce the total weight during the move. The shingles match the ones on our house, these are leftovers from when it was built.
Shingled installed, just need to do the ridge.
The chickens were already placed in the coop but I noticed at night they all gathered at the hen house door. The interior of the coop is very dark so as an experiment I put a small light in there, that worked as the birds went inside.
For a more permanent solution, I added a solar powered led light. Here is a link to the one I used, I cut off all but one light from the string so the battery would last longer. The solar panel was mounted by the coop door which faces west.
Mounting the panel was simple as it already had a bracket attached, a few wire clamps hold it in place.
Wires were stapled along the interior:
A final wire clamp holds the lamp in place. This has been running for a year and a half now with no problem.
In the future I’ll add a more elaborate solar power system to power an interior light, wireless video camera, door for the run, and water monitor but for now this works well.
Here is a picture inside the coop with bedding in place, note the retaining board added to the front to hold the shavings from falling out. That board is removable to make cleaning easier.
From this angle you can see how the retaining board and coop doors all line up when closed. The coop doors help hold the board in place, there is a beveled board attached on the inside to keep it from falling out.
Hangars for food and water were added to use until the permanent feeders and watering were set up, happy birds!
So there you have it – the coop is fully operational. On this last picture you can see the small rake hanging on the back, this is used for cleaning and herding the chickens around.
Most of the things I’d do different are around the foundation, it would be bigger (taller) and the whole thing would be on higher ground. It has held up well including through some of the worst flooding this area has seen but I’d feel better if it was about six inches higher up. The nesting boxes are smaller than planned but has not caused any problems for our current eight birds.
If I were to do it again, and I probably will make another coop someday, it will be made from concrete. I’d build it as a building that could be re-purposed later or divided up for multiple bird types. This coop cost around $1,500 to make, the one I’d like to have would easily be triple that. That’s a project for five years out, this coop will easily last that long and maybe ten years or more. At a year and a half old now there’s very little sign of wear.
If you are reading this and are in the Brevard County, Florida area please check our Facebook page for upcoming events. We host seed and plant exchanges at Three Acre Paradise a few times a year and also have other types of meetup events here.
Welcome to part two of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. In case you missed it, here is a link to part one where I built the foundation. This post focuses on the main framing of the coop. The third and final build post will be about finishing touches, then in the future I’ll have posts on the automated watering system and the custom built feeders.
If you find any part of this useful and grab some tips from the build I’d like to hear about it. I’m not one of those people who can plan every detail ahead of time so a lot of this is figure it out as you go but I did have an overall idea in mind. The size of the coop is for up to eight birds comfortably although it could hold more once a run is attached (future project).
Building outside in Florida can be a pain due to the heat and mosquitoes, I’m fortunate to have a workshop large enough to start the coop build inside. The final location is about 200 feet from the shop so it also saved a lot of time not having to drag tools back and forth.
Here’s the start, a batch of 2×4 pressure treated lumber ready to go.
The coop dimensions are twelve feet wide, six feet deep and six feet high. This made purchasing easy, I bought mostly twelve foot boards and cut them in half where needed. Here’s the first batch cut and coated with a redwood colored stain:
No I didn’t have a fancy plan but did have a rough idea on paper. To help avoid errors, I put blue painters tape on the floor to indicate where the uprights will go on the frame.
The base consists of two 2×4’s put together in an L shape. I used coated screws for most assembly, this gives more strength and allows for changes (corrections) as needed. The reason for the L shape is that the bottom board needs to be flat to be bolted to the concrete base and the vertical board provides supports for the uprights.
Here’s the base of the frame assembled:
A close up of a frame corner shows the L shape in more detail, plus the way the joint meets for more strength:
I’m not a carpenter so I’m sure there’s better ways to do this but it seems pretty strong. With the base now assembled I squared it up and screwed a board across the top to keep it in place while assembly continues. The frame is also kept above the floor with some scrap wood to keep it level.
When building the coop I had no idea I’d be blogging this later so there are some steps that don’t have many pictures so I’ll describe what the next steps were best I can. For the corner uprights I used a 2×4 with a 2×2 attached to it to give an L shape. I Screwed each corner upright into place (they held without assistance since they were pretty vertical). I then use clamps to carefully attach the top boards one at a time until I had all of them up. Once they were up, I worked on squaring each corner and tightening up with more screws.
In the above picture you can see the closest corner has been squared and braced. The clamps hold the top boards in place:
With this shot of the bottom bracing you can get a good idea how the uprights look. The 2×4 is flat to the front of the coop and the 2×2 is to the side.
Once the basic rectangle was braced and tightened I added all vertical uprights. These are just 2×4’s, the tape on the floor helps me make sure everything is in the right place. Measure twice, cut once. You can see some additional bracing in place to keep everything squared.
Next, I added framing for the coop floor (hen house). Another advantage of building in the shop – I could work at night.
With the floor framing in place, I put in the last uprights. These don’t go all the way to the top since there will be access doors and a nesting box for the hen house. I also put the wire cloth in the lower section now since it will be harder to get to once the hen house floor is in place.
Heavy plywood (3/4″) was used for the hen house floor. I left the top of this natural, the floor will be glued down so this will protect the wood.
Once again, a couple of steps were done with no pictures. I used commercial grade linoleum flooring squares, these are easy to cut and glue down. Once the floor was dried the openings for the nesting box, clean out door, storage door, and hen opening were braced and support was put in for a divider.
Here’s a closeup of the nesting box bracing. 2×4’s were used and a Kreg jig made for strong joints. If you are considering a project like this I highly recommend the Kreg, it’s a big time and headache saver. Here’s an Amazon link to the one I use.
Here’s a picture from inside the coop, this is the opening the chickens will use to get into the hen house. I used the Kreg here again, see how the 2×4’s are attached flush with the other framing. To the right you can see the framing for the divider, the left side is the hen house and the right will be for the water tank and storage.
A closer look at the hen door framing and how it is flush with the other frame boards.
The welded wire I used has one inch holes, I could not find a good deal locally so ended up getting it from Amazon. Here is a link to what I used. The spacing on my uprights is two feet so this was made easy by buying welded wire the right width from the start. The wire was stapled to the outside of the uprights then trimmed to fit into the backside of the top and bottom. I’ll be putting trim boards over the outside to make it look nicer, again since everything is screwed together it will be easy to replace any future damage.
Siding for the hen house is a grooved exterior plywood that I bought at Home Depot. This was easy to cut and attach with all the bracing that was placed around every opening. When I cut each opening I was careful to do it in one piece and kept the scrap, these will be just right for making the doors. With this picture you can see the results so far, plus I’ve added some trim boards by the main door. Looks good!
Nothing fancy as far as attaching the siding, just a bunch of screws and it just buts up against the top rail. The coop is nice and strong now so no need for the original temporary bracing. This opening is for the nesting box.
Here you can see the back and end opening. The end (to the right) is access to clean out the hen house, the back (left) is for the storage and water tank. Note I left an edge of framing exposed at the top and bottom of each opening. This is to give the doors something to brace against when closed and will also keep rain and wind out.
Looking from the inside, this is the hen house. The opening to the coop is to the left (hen access), nesting box to the back, and clean out opening to the right.
Well, that’s pretty much it for what I can do inside the workshop. The next step is roof framing and If I did that inside then it would be stuck in there since my garage door would be in the way. The coop is light enough to be moved with furniture dollies so I put it in the driveway and leveled it up.
The first step for the roof framing is the ridge board. If this is done straight then the rest should fall in place nicely.
The inspectors stopped by to check on progress and offer their advice.
With inspections complete, the rafters went on next. To make the rafters I used trial and error to make one good one then just copied it thirteen more times.
Each rafter is secured with an extra metal bracket. I want this thing to be hurricane proof if possible.
Even the ridge board has extra bracing.
Fast forward a few steps again, now we have roof sheathing installed, fascia boards, and most of the trim boards installed. You can see a few untreated trim boards leaning on the side, I used pressure treated wood for these too.
It looks like it is getting close but there’s still a lot to do! The roof is now covered with peel and stick and all trim boards are on. This is a good place to take a break, next post I’ll cover the finishing touches and moving the coop into place.
Again, if you have any questions or want more construction details let me know,
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!