March Madness Chicken Chalet Litter Cleaned Out

Chicken Challet written in sand It’s March 24th and we have been having an unusually dry spring in Michigan this year. Normally we have a lot of spring rain by now and rain is what is predicted for the rest of this week. Today it is now or never for the coop litter refresh!

Coop before litter cleaned out USE

The litter situation “before.”

I did what I call a “lick and a dab” clean out of the deep litter in our chicken coop. This litter has been building up layer by layer throughout the winter and consists of sand, pine shavings, leaves, chicken food and small bits of poop.  I do scoop it out everyday to keep it as poop free as possible, but with teenage poultry there are always small bits left. The deep litter method is one way to help keep the coop a bit warmer during the coldest and snowiest months of a rural SW Michigan winter.

Bucket diaganol nice

A few easy scoops out followed by a whisk broom clean out.

Sand filled plain USE

The litter situation after the clean out; fresh and clean.

Early this morning I scooped out the coop using a small camping shovel and then I brushed it carefully out. I let it air out for several hours and then replaced the soiled sand with clean sand. I still plan to do a very thorough clean out this summer when it is warm enough that I can really hose the coop out top to bottom and spray and scrub using the natural orange cleaner I made this winter.

But it was still below zero this morning then I did this project and not only are our outside pumps not turned on yet, I did not want to risk washing out a coop that might not have time to thoroughly dry. Rain is predicted tomorrow and throughout the rest of this week so putting the chickens back into a damp coop was certainly not a good idea.

Sandpile covered USE

Our pile of chicken coop sand after the winter. Covered up it stayed fairly dry.

 

Sand pile uncovered USEI tossed the old litter into the end of the vegetable garden where the grass and weeds live and where I want the chickens to dig up and aerate the soil.

Now that I have fresh sand as litter again in the “Chicken Chalet” I will go back to using the daily plastic, kitty litter scoop clean out process each morning. And all will be well until the weather turns warm enough for a hose and a scrub.

Small House Homestead, chicken keeper, Donna

P.S. When I put them to bed for the night they freaked. They do not like the sand only/all one color tone coop bottom. I think that maybe the all one color sand looks likes like a bottomless coop and they were definitely afraid to jump in. I had to put some leaves back in to give them the confidence that all was well. Chickens do not like change!

 

The Homesteads Chicken Coop Unveiled

In about two weeks we are adopting five hens who need a new home. This means we are now building a mostly recycled chicken coop, run and dusting box. Our goal for our chicken coop, run and dusting box project is to spend as little out-of-pocket cash as possible while building a safe and sturdy home for our new chicken friends.

Coop walking into run USE THIS as ONE

I’ve been scrounging materials for a chicken coup for the past few years. Of course I perused Craig’s List (where I found some rusted chicken wire for $20.00) talked to friends and then I hit the jackpot one day while taking a drive along nearby scenic Lakeshore Drive between South Haven and Saugatuck. That bonanza included two large heavy pieces of exterior paneling someone had put alongside the road.

Sealed inside exterior plywood

If I had known in advance how beautiful the exterior grade paneling would turn out after being sealed, I might have put it on the outside not the inside of the coop!

According to the handwrittten words on the outside of these panels they once covered the porch windows of an old cottage. I knew immediately this wood could be the outside walls of a cozy chicken coop. My husband believes the wood is redwood, though I vote for cedar, and its dryness definitely indicates it is very old. These pieces were difficult to cut and the edges tended to split, but we managed to make the siding work in spite of that snag. A few pieces had to be repaired with exterior clear caulk or shims.

Another friend recently removed an old rotting deck and happily gave us as many 2′ X 4’s as we could remove and carry away before she burned the rest of the wood. We salvaged 38, 2′ X 4’s and several other wood pieces of various sizes.

Coop frames from 2 X 4's

The 2′ X 4″ frame being built. In the left of the photo is our vegetable garden and in the rear/left  of this photo is our future chicken run.

What we wanted; We needed a coop that was sturdy enough to not blow over in the heavy winds that blow in off of nearby Lake Michigan, sound enough to protect the poultry from the heavy Michigan snow and to be secure enough to keep the critters out. Cute would be a bonus!

Our Chicken Coop Siteing:

Location: We choose to locate the coop in the back side of our fenced in vegetable garden under the shade of a large White Oak tree.  I wanted the chickens to have shade in the summer and sun in the winter. This location was perfect for that. The prevailing winds blow in here from the west so if we have a breeze blowing through our property it will help to keep the girls cool.

Tree and coop USE

Sitting under the White Oak tree nestled against the 15-acre forest will be a cool and shady place for the coop.

This site will also be somewhat protected from sun, wind and rain as it is nestled up near our pole barn and a distance from the house in case of odors and allowed us to use one end of our existing vegetable garden fencing as our primary run. We added the Craig’s List smaller-holed chicken wire over our exiting garden fence to make it even safer from predators.

Coop Size: This was built 48” X 48” because that is how the pieces of available paneling worked out.

An Off-the-Ground Raised Coop: We built a raised coop for airflow and safety. Also because we had some severe ground water flooding in 2009 and having the coop on “stilts” might make for more comfort and less feet issues should we ever face that water problem again. In addition being on  legs keep the floor of the coop away from the frozen ground.

Free 2” X 4’s: We got 24 2” X 4’s free from our friend; all we had to do was make an hour’s drive and pull the decking apart. Of course this repurposing works takes more time and effort than buying new but costs less, a real plus.

Latches: We took great care to buy secure latches and other hardware to keep the raccoons out.

Big latch close

Sturdy latches will help to keep the coop secure.

Our Chicken Coop Construction:

Using Repurposed Wood: Be aware that working with reclaimed wood does have its challenges. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra effort and labor costs. Hidden nails need to be remove sometimes the boards need to be re-planed. Often the pieces are not square and have flaw that need to be either be fixed or revered. on the other hand there can be one-of-a-kind interesting aspects about old wood as well.

Our Process: We used the 2 X 4’s to make a frame and then built and added the sides one at a time. Then added holes for laying box, hole for door and walkway and so on.

Holes from inside

An early view of then inside of the coop showing nest box holes, door to come in and out and window.

Paint Color: I painted and sealed the boards before the coop was assembled as it was much easier on the painter (me!) that way. I choose to paint the outside of the coop a medium brown color called “Rich Earth” using a gallon of Dutch Boy Grand Distinctions (paint and primer in one) in a color that we had on hand. This was originally a $6.00 “Opps” paint. This is also the color of the trim on our house and happened to be quite near the color of my friend’s brown deck. We had almost an entire gallon on hand and it took every bit of that gallon by the time the coop was completed.

Sealing: I choose to polyurethane the inside of the coop for help in keeping it clean. I figure that no liquids will seeps into the wood and scraping or washing will be easier with sealed wood and any parasites will be less likely to drill themselves into the wood.

Hinged Access Doors: My husband designed this coop to have two sets of double access doors, with openings; one on both sides. Both doors open outward and have some serious iron barn-door-like raccoon-proof hardware on them. These doors are for my daily feeding access and for ease in feeding, cleaning and airing the coop out.

IMG_3225

The hinged access doors are open. This will give me a easy and complete access to the coop for cleaning out.

Windows: Airflow is very important to chickens so Gene made windows on all four sides using hardware cloth and pine pieces as a window frame. More painted pine pieces will be used as “winter coverings” to keep out the cold and wind. We are painting those coverings now.

hardware cloth window in frame

Hardware cloth over the windows for spring, summer and fall airflow.

Door: Gene used a piece of matching exterior siding and pine strips to make the doors.

Roost: We choose a 2 X 4’ board for a roosting boards that I sealed with poly and Gene shaved down with his collection of old hand tools to make a more rounded piece for ease in holding on. We are hoping that all five chickens will be happy to roost on one long board.

Floor: We decided to use a piece of solid plywood for the coop floor and purchased that. I gave it three coats of poly to help to protect it. After pricing a piece of linoleum at Menard’s (around $79.00) we put out the call to our friends for linoleum and a co-worker gave us a piece left over from his house remodel. This vinyl flooring material also makes for easy clean-up and prevents mites and other parasites from burrowing into the wooden boards.

Linoluem before USE

Vinyl flooring remenent now covers the plywood floor. The sealed pine board edge strips will help hold in the sand litter.

Sand as Litter: Based on the recommendation of Kathy the Chicken Chick, http://thechickenchick.com we purchased sand to put on the coop floor as litter. We happen to have a gravel company a few miles from us so we stopped in one day to ask about prices and sand types. After recovering from the shock that having sand delivered was going to cost us $100.00 for the labor and the sand just $7.00 to $8.00 a yard, we decided to borrow a friend’s trailer and haul it ourselves. Kathy uses about 2 yards a year so I expect that we will too.

Gene standing in trailer USEjpeg

Sand was hauled home in a borrowed trailer.

Feeders: I have a vintage metal chicken waterer and feeder from when we had chickens about a decade ago (pre-flooding!) So we got those out, washed them out and plan to use them again. From my on-line research we decided to hang them from the ceiling to keep ground critters out of the feed and to lessen the amount of scratch that falls out of the feeder onto the floor. We will also buy two small plastic feeders/waterers so we have them both inside and outside of the coop.

Coop-galnanized-duster-flag

Galvanized chicken feeder and waterer set the scene for our vintage coop set-up.

Roof: We had originally thought we would use roofing shingles on our roof, but the cost of new shingles on top of our other expenses was getting prohibitive. Again I put out a call for old shingles on Craig’s list and Facebook but then a friend offered us two pieces of white plastic corrugated plastic (two 2 ft. X 8 ft. pieces) for free. That what we decided to use and we decided we would do what we had to do to make those work. The freebie corrugated roofing material came up a bit short in width so we added white metal drip edge and some shims to make up the difference. The roof was topped with a long board that was pieced together to make a kind of ridge cap.

Roofing close USE

Looking like galvanized metal, this roof is actually made using corrugated plastic.

Chalet Décor: I found this cute metal sign at Word Market for $14.99-20% off. I added an old rake top I saved to hold chicken treats like hanging sunflower heads, corn cobs and so on.

Sign and rake

Run: We used one end of our existing vegetable garden so we did not have to put up run fencing around the coop.

Gate: We plan on eventually letting our chicken’s partially free range in our large raspberry bed after we get that fenced in.  This area will be for them to get some additional exercise, a place to scratch and for insect control.  We will eventually build a third gate for that extra run.

Metal gate alone

This metal came to as a gift.

The gate between the run and the vegetable garden is a nice metal farm garden gate a friend gave us when he dismantled a vegetable garden on his property. This way I will be able to let the chickens into the vegetable garden to scratch about late in the season.

Dusting Box: We built a simple dusting box using  pieces of wood from my girlfriend deck.  The wood was free and the sand was purchased from the sand and gravel business located about 2 miles from our home and hauled home in a trailer by us.

Nest box USE

A temporary dusting box. I am guessing with the year the chickens will have the coop area all dug up and then we will be adding sand and the base floor of the run.

Total of Materials Used & Material Costs:

Minwax Polycrylic Finish/Two Quarts @ $12.00 per quart =$24.00

BIM White Spray Paint: (to prime the pine boards) two @ $7.00 ea.= $14.00

Craig’s List Chicken Wire for the Run: $20.00

Large Roll of Chicken Wire Pen: $49.00

Hardware Cloth for Windows/Roof/Ceiling: $17.00

1 Piece of Plywood for Floor: $7.00

Heavy Duty Gate Hinges: $40.00

Hooks and Latch Hardware: $25.00

1 X 2” Pine Wood for use to Frame Windows/Floor/Shims: $17.00

Metal Drip Edge for Roof: $12.00

Decorative Sign $12.00

Sand as Litter:   $8.84

Kitty Litter Scoop: $4.00

Feed: To be determined….

Items that were free, given as gifts or that we had on hand in our barn:

Exterior Grade Tung and Groove Siding: (roadside rescue) $-free

Linoleum for Flooring: (a gift) $-free

Brown Paint/Primer: (We had this on hand)

Metal Garden Gate: A gift from another friend $-free

5 Hens: (a gift from a friend) $-free

Corrugated Plastic Roofing Material: (a gift from a friend) $-free

Old Plywood for Winter Windows Covers: (from our old coop) $-free

2” Pink Foam Insulation: (had this on hand) $-free

Total cash out of pocket for coop, pen and dusting box came in right around $250.00.

We know we may face the need for a closed or a covered run at some point. We have most of the roll of chicken wire left over we are prepared for that eventuality should we need it.

Next we buy three metal trash cans and chicken food. Then I can’t wait to pick up our chickens!

Small House Homesteader (and soon to be chicken keeper) Donna