We are almost with the new design.  We have researched and had input from others about what they would do different for their own coops.  This extra time of planning has saved on wasting time working and then having to redo it. 

This is the view of the coop from inside the garden.  The double doors open to the nest box, so we can collect eggs while working in the garden.  The entrance to the coop is on the right and outside the garden.  After working on the coop on a sunny day, we decided to open up more of the very top space for screened ventilation and insulated the roof with old doors, under the corrugated roof.

The entrance to the new coop, resides on the outer side of our garden, there by maximizing gardening square footage.  This coop is designed so we can walk right in and clean while standing, which we didn't have in the last coop.  This should help my back from getting sore as I no longer will have to crawl and shimmy to clean it.  Most of the items for the coop are re-purposed from other projects or free items people were going to throw out.  The gate and outer fencing came from a friends property that had an old pony arena left for rot that we cleaned up and revived.

This is the metal ladder that we re-purposed to a ready made roost.  We have already moved in the young chicks.  They love having more room to run around and stretch their wings.  We will be needing another roost but there is more than enough room right now.  We decided to put the new younger flock in first so they could get settled and hopefully get picked on less once we co-mingle the two flocks.  They are also still eating chick food but should switch to layer pellet in two months.  That is when we are hoping to have both groups together.  We usually cull about 3-6 of the older hens, any especially means ones move up to the top of the list.  We didn't expect that all of our new flock would survive and be all hens, but it looks that way so far.  We currently have 16 hens, 2 bantams, and our rooster.  That will mean a whooping 30 hens.  We will have to really thin the flock.  This year after the culling of 6 hens we can see how we manage with 24 or so.  Thankfully they are free range most of the day.

We will now have 6 nest box that are stacked 2 high.  There is a opening on the left we call the "food shoot".  This is where we can toss in goodies from the garden without having to walk around to the outer side.  One of the remaining parts unfinished is the roost that will lead to the nest box.  This should help keep the eggs cleaning, like a chicken doormat.  I think the right ratio is 1 box for every 4 hens, so we really will have to keep to 24 layers.

Now this is beefed up security.  We have learned to double up on wire, using an inner layer of chicken wire and then an outer layer of wire fence (this one is pony fencing).  All of the openings are screened with two layers of wire, always.  We also line the base with rocks to keep the diggers from getting in.

The remaining items on the to do list for this project to be finished are:
* Install an automatic water system.  We are trying chicken nipples instead of the bowl system.  I know it feels silly to say chicken nipple, you can't help but smirk. 
* Additional Roost
* Double check the roof against drips and wind.  That might have to wait until winter.
* Fill the nest box with straw,once we have layers in there.

I am very proud of all the work Jess has done, with some of my help, to make this new coop excellent for our chickens.  They give us such lovely healthy eggs that they deserve it!  (I coulda said eggcellent, hahaha)

We built our first coop four years ago.  It was made out of 100% re-purposes materials that we either had from previous projects or that people had given us.  So instead of spending $300-$500 for a fancy coop we built our own funky coop for free.  With re-purposing and “funky” sometimes comes the compromise of ideal design and problems can arise.  Plus we were really just winging it from our concepts and the recommendations from one of our raising chickens books.

We chose a contained coop with a run below it for shade and an outside fenced pen for chickens to get some outside time.  The outside pen consisted of chicken wire buried 1 foot down and roof of chicken wire, plus an outer layer of dog fencing for extra security.  The contained coop had screened windows/holes for ventilation and 2 barn style cabinet doors that opened out for us to have access for water, food and cleaning.  It also had a door that closed of the outside pen that we thought we would use every night.  But since the whole coop is so well fenced, even nicknamed “fort clucks” we no longer have to rush home to close our chickens in and some of them roost at night in the outdoor enclosure.

The whole coop with outside pen. Our coop is currently in the middle of the garden, but the new location will be on the outside edge. To the far right, where the Ancona is stand, is the baby coop where we start our chicks.
We ran into a few difficulties and we love to problem solve. 

First issue- The water was heavy to lift in and out of the coop and needed to be filled every other day during the summer.  We sometimes forgot if it was yesterday or 2 days ago that is was done.  Our water can never went bone dry but often hardly had any water left.  So we got an automatic waterer that we placed in the outside pen.  This has freed up more space inside the coop, as well as removed our water worries.

We love this automatic waterer and would highly recommend using one.  It does take a few adjustment to find the right level and it does need rinsed and cleaned, as you can see, but that is easy.  This has been such a relief to our list of daily chores.
 Second issue- We had only one roost and as we became more chicken crazed, going from 12 chickens to 20, the chickens were not kind and sharing.  We were running out of roost room.  We moved one of the roosts and added another, making sure that the distance between them was enough and considering that the first one should be 18 inches from the ground (I think that is the right number).  Simple but necessary.  Now there is more than enough room for all of them, even our giant rooster, Elvis who is double the size of our biggest hen. 

Third issue- The space under the coop has being modified by the chickens.   Chickens like to move earth around and they had filled in some of the space with dirt and created holes, actually craters, in other spot.  So now we really can’t clean that area and if a renegade chicken lays outside instead of the nest boxes we have a difficult task to get it.  Solution- we are building a more ergonomic coop that is both people friendly and chicken friendly. 

This is the inside of the coop with 2 roosts and the water outside. More functional space for the ladies.
The ultimate fix for all of the coop/run related problem was to build a bigger and better coop with research of other coop designs and our past experience of what problems we found. 

We again are using more re-purpose materials of the blue fence panels that a local company had ripped out.  A friends green house made up the roof frame and roof (painted the greenhouse panels white to block the heat.  Hopefully it works, or we might have to repaint it black to block all light and then white to keep it light.  The specs are with idea that any of us can walk around and cleaning will be less strain on the back.  I have pictures of the rough space/design.  Once it is finished I will do part 2 of this post and include information on what we did, why and how it is working out.  Here is what it looks in the first stage of basic structure.