In January 2021 in an effort to be more self sufficient we got our very first chickens (well, eggs to be precise). Whilst they incubated and for the first few weks of their lives we had the chicks in a brood box in our hall. The kids loved the chance to hear the tiny chicks cheeping inside the eggs and watching them hatch out. They could handle the chicks as much as they wanted and they became really tame. It was a wonderful experience and we are so pleased we did it. We've since discovered that there is a much more efficient way of hatching eggs and that's under a bantam Cochin! Cochins are a very docile friendly breed of chicken that love to be with people and our's are quite happy to be picked up and let us look at their chicks. Anyway I digress! After a few weeks of chicks in the hall we realised it was time for a coop and some research showed us that all chicken coops we saw were not quite what we wanted to have in the garden.
We wanted something that fitted with our very Norwegian 100 year old house and complemented it. Of course, these things are never as simple as they seem and some very quick research revealed that we were never going to get what we wanted off the shelf. Luckily, André is a pretty accomplished craftsman and had already designed and built our beautiful bin shed (more about that in another post). He set about designing a chicken coop that was not only pretty, but big enough for us to be able to get inside, and most importantly really well insulated against the cold. We get temerpateus down town -25C in the winter and although the coop is heated, we needed it to be as energy effecient as possible. We knew that we would expand our flock to about 10 chickens and that some of the heavier breeds like Brahmas are not terribly good at getting up onto high perches, so perches of different heights were a must.
So let me take you on a little photo journey of our chicken coop from start to finish:
Getting out of the ground is the first job. Because the ground gets frozen for so many weeks in the winter, foundations of even small buildings need to be substantial.
Once the base was built and insulated, we had to build a framework for the main structure of the coop. This is lined with plastic and a windproof membrane with thick insulation on the inside. A special mouse proof grill goes along the bottom to prevent little visitors that might be attracted by the warmth and smell of food.
Windows go in and the entire building is clad in overlapping wood panels. Knowing that the coop would get quite dirty, we decided on white uPVC window frames that wouldn't need much maintenance and are easy to clean. Each corner of the coop has ventilation with a grill on the outside and inside. It can get pretty hot in there with 10 chickens inside!
The roof is simple black roof felt tiles that are lightweight and durable.
The inside of the chicken coop was the last thing we did. Probably the best choice we made overall was to put lino down on the floor. André sealed the edges with silicon and it's very hard wearing and super easy to clean. The chickens have two choices of perch - high or low and a fun Hogwarts style staircase.
The small compartments on the left are nestboxes. The nestbox itself sits slightly out of the coop but still an intergrla part of it. Despite putting two nestboxes in everyone still wants to lay their egg in the same one!
Once the coop was finished we got the chickens straight out there whilst we finished the enclosure. Our girls usually free range in the garden, but we frequently have lockdowns when the hens have to stay in a covered enclosure because of bird flu or some other avian illness.
Fine netting keeps the hens safe from predators and the bottom board prevents animals like foxes digging their way in. We used the underneath of the coop for more outside space which the chickens love to hang out in. I've since sown a border of wildflowers around the outside. I love the natural look of it and the chickens enjoy pecking the flowers and seeds.
The final seal of approval and a warm bed of sawdust and the coop was finished.
Our hens are still enjoying their coop and will hopefully for many years to come.
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