We are off to a big head start with our farm projects for 2019! I already got my chicks to add the breed variety to our flock and egg basket last week, and now we already built out the horse stall chicken coop! I guess it holds true that when you have so much to do you waste that much less time since you already have less time to spare. The list of projects is going to pile up come spring so I’m glad we are already getting ahead of the list while we can.
This past Saturday during Winter Storm Harper, we spent the day in the barn turning the one unused horse stall into our bigger chicken coop. I have been keeping the chickens locked in the other coop or letting them roam around in the barn during the day because they are wimps about the snow and didn’t want to go outside anyways. Getting this larger coop done sooner than later would give them more room to stay inside without having to also lock the horses out of the barn so the chickens aren’t underfoot. (So far we’ve only had one casualty to the combo of clumsy horses + ditsy chickens and I would prefer to keep that number low!)
As with many projects, Clayton perfectly estimated the amount of materials needed and I grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take (and then got frustrated over it in my true fashion!). When I say we spent the “day” in the barn, I mean THE WHOLE DAY. But what else is there to do in the middle of a huge snowstorm besides be productive inside? And well, the barn IS inside, freezing cold, but inside! It was worth it because the timing was perfect and we are so glad this big project is now already done.
Step 1 was attaching welded wire hardware cloth to the top of the center divider wall since Step 2 was building the roosting bars which would then make Step 1 harder to access. We used the air nailer to staple the wire into the rough sawn oak boards since that hard wood was laughing at the hand stapler. We prefer to use 1/2″ welded wire hardware cloth because it is stronger than chicken wire.
Step 2 was building the roosting bars. I wanted two roosts the whole length of the width of the stall on the center divider wall and staggered so the chickens could jump up easier, so I could see everyone in one glance, and so no one would get pooped on by others while roosting. Clayton built the roosts using brackets like this so there would be more ground clearance and since the floor (or anything) in the barn is not level. I like using 2x4s turned wide side up as roosts so the chickens can get their whole foot on the board and then their feet are completely covered when they roost to help prevent frost bitten toes, especially when temperatures plummet as low as they did right after we finished building this stall coop.
Step 3 was framing out the stall door opening for a secure coop door. We had the broken sliding screen door in the hay loft (we always save building materials!) so we cut off the ripped screen and attached welded wire hardware cloth with screws and washers. Clayton framed out the opening with the remaining 2x4s and hung the door on hinges. The door swings into the stall coop since we store our round bales in the barn and don’t always have clearance to swing this door out. We added a handle to the door and a latch at both the top and bottom to keep it tightly closed.
Step 4 was adding welded wire to the rest of the openings above the front of the stall and over the top and side of the new door. We only bought one new roll of welded wire, most of which was used on the door, and the rest was pieced together scrap pieces from our previous coops. I overlapped the pieces at the seams and then “sewed” them together with the wire that wrapped the roll of welded wire hardware cloth to make sure nothing could push it’s way through the gaps between the pieces. I still need to go back and finish wiring a few other places, but the day after we finished building the coop, the temp plummeted and was too cold to do intricate work with frozen fingers. We are solid 95%ers when it comes to finishing projects, something we are working to improve!
The last step was hanging the feeder and moving the nesting boxes from the other coop. I still want to build different nesting boxes that are supported off the ground but using the original nesting boxes saved us time in the frigid temps and helped the girls adjust to their new coop more quickly. Right now I am just using a rubber tub inside a tire for their waterer for an electricity free winter water solution, then will switch back to the top fill waterer this spring. There are mixed reviews about having the water inside the coop especially in winter because the added moisture can increase the risks of frost bite, but this stall is still very open with great ventilation and I dump out the water every night so I don’t think the small tub of water is contributing too much moisture.
So far I am absolutely loving the bigger coop and so are the girls! When I showed Clayton this picture of them on the roosts, he said WITHOUT ME PROMPTING “there is room for so many more chickens on there!”. I am WINNING at chicken math!!! Husband is fully on board!!!
This is now our third coop in not quite 2 years of having chickens. Our first coop at our first house was absolutely beautiful! The second coop here at the farm was only intended to be temporary for the main flock and will now serve as my grow out coop once the chicks out grow their brooder. Then once the chicks are big enough to join the main flock in this stall coop this summer, the grow out coop will become my guinea coop! This stall coop is now our biggest by far and my new favorite. As much as I would love to have an Instagram worthy, magazine photo shoot pretty coop, I don’t think I can justify building one now that we have SO MUCH ROOM in this stall coop! It cost us under $100 in new materials (lumber and one roll of welded wire hardware cloth) because we used so many materials we already had. Being resourceful is a must have skill on the farm and we are lucky to both possess that skill!