So remember back in February when I wrote about lead testing the soil for chickens and how we were considering getting backyard chickens? Well, needless to say, we did!
Here is a tour of the work we did to coop-ify the existing playhouse structure and how we built the attached chicken run.
So the first thing we did was build an exterior nesting box. It would have been easier to just put a free standing one inside, but we wanted to conserve the floor space. We used this exterior next box tutorial and modified it to fit our space. While we were busy cutting holes in walls, we added the chicken door and extra ventilation holes.
Next, we dealt with the structure itself. The walls are thin so we added a layer of insulation sandwiched between the walls and particle board.
Then came the wall sealing and priming and painting. I vowed to not buy ANY paint for this project and it worked out! We had enough primer and random paints from when we painted our house four+ years ago just sitting in the garage. Most of it was really thick and nearly unusable but I made it work. Since we used leftovers, all the paint wound up being the Natura brand from Benjamin Moore which has low VOCs. So fancy for our chickens!
We also removed the original red door and framed out a new door to be lined with hardware mesh so that the entire door would give more ventilation. (Don't worry, we kept the original door and used it as a door to the run later.)
Next came the brutal part...
The digging of the run perimeter. Our soil is hardpacked clay. Imagine a big block of dark chocolate that is hard to break with your fingers. That is what our soil is like. It was too hard to use a shovel, I don't weigh enough so that even when I stood on a shovel it wouldn't dig into the earth. I basically had to pick axe the soil bit by bit to dig it out. I dug it down at least 18 inches all the way around to bury the hardware mesh lined framed walls into.
While I was busting my back digging for weeks on end (this took several weekends to accomplish) my husband was busy measuring and cutting the branches for walls and attaching hardware mesh to them. We built the wall in segments and then attached them together and then joined them with even more overlapping hardware mesh.
Remember how we trimmed our mulberry tree ourselves and wound up with a lovely pile of long, straight branches? These branches were what we built the walls of our run with.
With the exception of the door, which had to be framed out to be secure, of course. The red door was the original door from the playhouse. We had to join it together though, it was originally two pieces. It looks ugly here, but I decorated it later...
I LOVE how the run is all bendy and full of character because of the natural branches used as poles.
After the walls went up things started happening quickly, mainly because I was no longer stuck on digging duty.
We built the roosting bar with a lipped droppings board underneath in an L shape. We maximized the roosting space this way and technically have enough space for 10 chickens based on the advice of 10-12" of roosting space per bird.
Then 2.5 tons of sand showed up, along with a wheelbarrow and the metal corrugated roofing.
In one day, we moved 2.5 tons of sand from the front yard to the back yard. One wheelbarrow at a time. Fun times.
The sand went in, the roof went up and then we lined the inside of the roof with more hardware mesh. We may have went overboard with the hardware mesh, but I wanted this sucker to be secure.
Then came the fun stuff, like painting and decorating. Finally!
Why yes, I hung pictures on the walls of my chicken coop. Actually, I screwed them directly to the walls in homemade frames (made from a piece of trim found in the garage rafters - score!) that the kids helped me paint.
The pictures themselves are scans of books that we already had. I scanned, printed and then laminated them.
We put bricks (free from my in-laws who had them in a pile in their backyard) around the edge to keep the sand in. And I painted some other details and we added locks and other security details.
So happy with the way it turned out and how secure it is. It makes me happy looking at it each day.
The little shed that we painted to the left of the coop now holds random chicken supplies.
The chickens are doing well and all laying EGGS now! But more on all that later...