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Building a Chicken Coop
Monday, February 23, 2009
I've been asked by several people about how we build our chicken coops that we use for holding breeding groups of birds.  I thought it might be helpful to walk through the construction of a row of breeding pens.  They're fairly easy to build although they are a little spendy.  Our goal is to build a low-maintenance, secure structure that is comfortable for the birds.  We've tried many designs over the years and this is the one we've settled on after much trial and error.
Before building, you may want to give some thought to the location of the pens.  Our pens are built around the perimeter of one of our main gardening areas.  This creates a 'wall of death' for traveling insects headed toward the garden.  The chickens pick off the pests before they can make it to the cornucopia of veggies that lies just a few tanatalizing feet away.  By using chickens for perimeter security and using veggies to attract live insects for the chickens, this is an example of applying permaculture principles to get the chickens and the vegetables working in concert.
The key to making the pens low maintenace and secure is to pour a single running concrete footer.  This keeps predators from digging under the wire and provides a dry foundation that supports the vertical wooden structure of the pens.
Here's how we begin the site prep.
Then, we install the plumbing so that each pen has an automatic waterer and a spigot we can use for hosing down the pen.
Next, the wooden forms are made for the concrete footer and concrete is poured.
The vertical construction begins and is fairly straightforward.  We use vinyl-coated chicken wire to enclose the pens.
The western side is sheathed in corrugated metal to provide some shade for the birds from the hot late afternoon sun.  The bottom of the pens are filled with white sand to provide a clean, permeable base, and then hay is put over the sand and changed often to keep the pens clean.  The soiled hay becomes mulch for the garden,