Friday, November 4, 2016

Chicken coop expansion, Part 1

Many years ago, we took down an old barn for a woman in our church. We salvaged most of the lumber and assorted accouterments, and this resulted in a rich source of old lumber we've used for endless projects.

One of the things we salvaged was an oddly-shaped little shed.

Don retrofitted the shed with salvaged glass windows and turned it into a tiny greenhouse.

We used it in this capacity for a couple of years...

...but discovered it was easier to start seedlings indoors on a shelving unit instead.

So the greenhouse fell out of use and became a sort of catch-all for assorted garden-related stuff: planting trays, pots, bird netting, that kind of thing. A couple of windows broke. It became an embarrassment.

But the shed itself was sturdy and we didn't want to just burn it. As a fall project, Don decided to use the shed to expand the chicken coop.

To back up a bit, last summer we started raising Jersey Giant chickens. So far we're very pleased with the breed: the males are large (suitable for butchering, although since we only have two mature roosters at the moment, we haven't done that; we have some young roosters we have earmarked for the pot), the hens are prolific layers, and I have never encountered a breed more likely to go broody than these ladies.

So we're slowly transitioning to an all-Jersey Giant flock. As our older assorted ladies die off, we won't be replacing them with other breeds.

We are also interested in expanding the flock: more layers (for egg sales) and more roosters (for meat birds). This means our current coop is too small. We need extra space; not only for the upcoming young layers, but also a place to separate maturing roosters, and a "brood" area for mamas and their babies.

As part of this expansion, we decided to utilize the old greenhouse shed. It will make an excellent brood coop.

We started by chaining up the shed and moving it out to the middle of the driveway, to make it easier to work on it.

Don stripped off the plywood siding and remaining windows...

...while I got busy cleaning out the junk inside.

Then he started roofing it with OSB (oriented strand board). He also put OSB siding on the shed, making it much stronger.

One of the disadvantages of the current chicken coop is its lack of windows. The birds have no natural lighting when they're inside. For this new little coop, Don installed one of the windows which had formerly been on the roof (when it was a greenhouse). Obviously it needs cleaning, but it will provide ample light inside. He plans to put hardware cloth (metal mesh) on both the inside and outside of the window to prevent breakage, and will also make a "storm window" for winter, for better insulation.

Then he removed the window (it was just a "fitting" in the above photo) and finished retrofitting the shed with OSB.

Our plan was to snug the shed against the outer wall of the existing coop. However this couldn't be accomplished without first cleaning out all the junk which tends to accumulate on any farm. (See what I mean by "embarrassing"?)

Heavier things were lifted en masse with the tractor. Heavens, what did we ever do without this tool?

Soon the only thing left to remove were two posts, sunk deep into the ground, left over from an abandoned project years ago.

Once again, the tractor helped.

Then it was time to shove the shed into place...

...using, what else, the tractor.

First Don pushed the shed from one direction until it was just about level with the chicken coop wall.

Then he pushed it from the other direction...

...until it snugged up against the building.

We still have lots to do to make the coop extension habitable, including bolting the addition to the wall. But that will be a future blog post (Part 2). For the moment, at least, we're making progress.


  1. We added an additional coop this week. I'd rather have a chicken coop than a diamond ring.

  2. I hope your next entry abut the coop will show what Don will do to keep rain water and snow melt from the higher roof from rotting the new roof. We have a situation like that here.

  3. how do I contact you anonomously about your need for a generator for water pumping during a blackout?

    1. Just leave a comment with your email address and info. I won't publish it.

      - Patrice

  4. I had a DR. visit a few days ago. He was going to kill and dress 8 roosters the last time I was in to see him. I asked him this time how that had worked out? He said that after that experience he now knew why all those old homestead photos showed skinny people. He said he thought that all 8 of those roosters should have been about right for 4 people. I mentioned something to him about your new giant chickens and he said he would look into them. I know that when we dressed out one of the roosters that our son gifted to us (named biscuit) that my wife made it into chicken and biscuits to stretch it out to make it a meal for the 3 of us.

  5. So glad my farm isn't the only farm looking "embarrassing" with all the accumulated stuff outside :-)

  6. I was surprised at how tough my free range and young roosters were. Not what I was hoping for.
    The one feature my chickens like about their coop the best is the coop is raised a foot off the ground. They love being under there. I buried hardware cloth in a trench and ran it up to the coop side.

  7. I simply love this post! This is why I check in here regularly! That being said, are you sure about switching to only Black Jersey Giants? I foresee a time when you will want some Araucana/Americana ladies for an egg variety. I dearly miss our blue and green and purple eggs now that our Easter Egg Layers are gone. Something to consider. My current ladies (there are only 4 and we have no rooster) are getting along in age. My favorite chicken (Golden Comet) is one of my oldest clocking in at 7.5 years old right now, the others are 5.5. She is molting for the umpteenth time and yet still manages the occasional egg in November. Star performer. Great lady chicken.

    May I ask... how old is your oldest chicken? Previously, before changing to decent organic chicken food and lovely liquid minerals (that I use myself) all of my chickens stopped laying at age 4 and died during their 5th year. Now they seem to be unstoppable. We are in an area of high hawk activity as well as numerous coyotes so they only free-range in an enclosure that I have laid out with hawk netting on top.

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

  8. Can you tell us what kind of liquid minerals you use? Thanks.
    deb k

    1. Sure thing! Majestic Earth Plant Derived Minerals

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA