Last month’s chicken coop planning post was pretty detailed, probably boring and very useful (at least for me). Today I want to talk about the fun stuff- things that will make the coop that much better, more interesting and suited to our life and our aesthetic. If you remember the original list and what I covered last time you’ll have the background on placement, legalities, chicken needs etc. Today, we’re discussing the non-essentials:
- garden add-ons
- family stuff
1. Garden Add Ons
I hate stealing any space from the garden, even if it is for the wonderfully productive chickens I’ve been whining about for months. With that in mind I have two ideas to maximize the coop’s potential for planting. One is to add vertical pipe planters for strawberries against the south wall to keep them up off the ground (so there, slugs!) and to catch the sun. The other is to build a green roof for the coop (helping with insulation) . I should say green salad roof though, because I plan to plant it with mesclun and other short greens. It does mean that the coop can’t be too high off the ground, or too tall. I will build in a step to be able to pick the plants, which can double as storage as well. With the south wall covered in strawberries and the west wall closer to the fence I’ll have to think a lot about access to eggs and cleaning. It will also affect how the coop and run are placed relative to each other. I think it means the coop will be as wide as the run rather than the run having space to the north of the coop. That way the north wall can have the nesting box, AND swing open to be able to clean. The pop door would then need to be on the east wall.
2. Family Stuff
Although I want these chickens for terribly selfish reasons, another reason is how great it will be for the kids, and the man. He doesn’t necessarily know that yet, but he will. I want the kids to be able to help collect the eggs. I want them to be able to get into the run to visit the chickens and help clean. I don’t want the man to *have* to do anything that I can’t do. These are all things that affect how the coop will be designed. The nesting box(es) will have to be low enough for the kids to be able to access them. The run is going to need to be tall enough for the kids and me to get in. Nothing should be too heavy for me to manage on my own. I will admit my once formidable biceps have atrophied since having kids. I really can’t explain it considering that I seem to carry more now that they’re in my life. It seems cruel. Anyway, the trick will be to use quality hinges and smart construction to keep things smooth and light(ish). Mostly that applies to storage lids and access doors.
The other piece to “family stuff” is making sure that the space required by the chickens doesn’t infringe too much on play and relaxing space. Right now we have neither, because of the multitude of concrete spills and the piles of lumber from the reno. I need to break the concrete all up, use or move the wood, lay down top soil and plant a small lawn for some nice barefoot space. None of us are lawn freaks, but I do think there needs to be a soft, nail-free spot for little feet. I also need to make sure that no chicken mess travels that way, so the human door to the run will not be off the north fence but the east, on the path. That way anything dragged out will end up on the path not the lawn.
This is an essential to me, but not the chickens, so it waited until today. I’m building this coop almost entirely from salvaged wood and leftovers from our renovations. I just heard there may be some hardware cloth down the alley so I’m waiting for the car to go investigate. That stuff is expensive! Also I try to keep my purchases of anything mined to a minimum. Anyway, the coop will stand on legs made from the beams we had to take out of our old basement. The floor joists can be made with “scraps” from our framing, as can the wall studs and ceiling joists. We have some insulation left over to keep the coop warm/cool as appropriate. The green roof is obviously sustainable. I’m going to use our mangled gutters and downspouts since I can cut them to shorter lengths where the metal is fine. I’ll run them to a rain barrel to water the green roof and strawberry towers. We probably won’t even get much in the gutters given the green roof, but every drop counts! Also, I’ll be using old windows for light, and the hardie plank left over from our renos to side the coop. I have the PVC pipe scraps I need to make the feeders and waterer. I think all I’ll be buying will be hinges and hardware cloth. We have all the nails, bolts etc. we need still too.
I still have a pile of lumber in the alley waiting for others to use it – enough for a small coop too!
Being in the city it matters a *little* bit how the coop looks. Whatever we can do to keep the neighbours happy helps. That’s why I’m trying to match the coop a little to our house. The siding will be the same, and the colours the same too. I want to use antique windows and proper trim. Although it’s more modern I think the green roof will help too. I’m mostly concerned about how to make the run look OK. Hardware cloth rusts, and if we don’t use good materials the framing for the run will sag. I think I have enough good stuff to keep it looking good but if we’re going to buy anything for this project I think this is where it will go. I wish there were no coyotes, eagles, raccoons, dogs and large cats to worry about but there are, and there’s no way around a fully enclosed run.
So, any thoughts, ideas or suggestions about the coop when it comes to the garden, sustainability, the family and looks?