Make It Your Own: Rob and Family’s California Garden Coop + Goats

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Chickens and goats together in a California backyard

Rob S. and his family in Davis, California, used The Garden Coop plans to build a more spacious coop for their flock of eight backyard chickens when they moved from the city to the outskirts. But chickens aren’t the only creatures in his family’s yard. “We have a mule, a donkey, and two sheep in the front pasture,” Rob says. And out back with the chickens. . . two Nigerian dwarf goats! Read on to see how they all get along. The rest of the story comes directly from Rob. . . . 

The teacher’s pets

Some teachers are given an apple or a Starbucks card by their students, but about two years ago my wife was given four chickens at the end of the semester! She had told her students that we were thinking about raising chickens, but that we hadn’t taken that final step yet. Because the chickens pretty much showed up on our doorstep one day, we didn’t have much time to build the coop we wanted and just went out and bought a kit for about $300. It served them well, but was made out of very cheap, thin wood, was not very big, and not very sturdy.

Space for a bigger coop

Exterior nest boxes on Garden Coop chicken coopLast year we made a leap and moved from the city to the country. We knew we wanted more chickens and other animals, so it was time to abandon the small coop and build one on our own. We looked through books, magazines, and websites for different plans and kept coming back to The Garden Coop. So many excellent reviews along with the encouragement to customize made this design our final choice. Once we started, it took about three months working on most weekends. I did most of it myself with some help from my sons.

Chickens and goats, happy together

The coop was built within a fenced-in area where we have eight chickens and two Nigerian dwarf goats living together. Each morning I open the little doggie door of the coop, and all the chickens come out to the yard. We keep their food in the coop so the goats can’t get to it.

Goats and chickens sharing a yard

At night they go back in through the doggie door, and I close them in. The internal door to the henhouse stays open all the time so they can go up and down whenever they want to. Six of them usually sleep on the roosts in the enclosed run, while two of them prefer to climb the ramp and roost inside the henhouse.

The goats stand on their hind legs and try to nibble on the nest box doors when I open them. Their favorite thing to climb onto is the fragile little coop we originally used. I’m sure the chickens are happy they’re not in there now! It’s fun to watch the chickens and goats jockey for position and food when we toss scraps in the yard. The chickens go under the goats, so sometimes they get stepped on — it’s more funny than dangerous.

How we customized our Garden Coop

The plans were excellent. I printed them out and put them in a binder which made it easy to take individual pages to the hardware store when I needed to pick up the parts for that section. The combination of drawings and real-world pictures were a great addition to the actual text instructions. We ended up making the coop as-is with the following modifications:

Three external nest boxes. We wanted the chickens to have more room in the henhouse (plus we think it looks better), so we built the external nest boxes mentioned on the website. The sample boxes show a door that hinges down. I started to do it that way, but the first time the goats stood up and leaned on the open door the hinges bent. I ended up making double swing doors which work really well.

Double doors on exterior nest boxes chicken coop

Main door opens out. The plans have the people door opening in. I made it open out since I anticipated that the goats would be likely to lean on it and wanted the door stops to keep the door from opening in.

Door to coop opens outward

Main door latches. I placed a latch on both the outside and inside of the people door. This allows me to lock myself in if I need to be inside while keeping the goats out.

Branch roosts inside and out. We found some nice branches to place both inside the henhouse and inside the coop.

Perches in the henhouse of chicken coop

Elevated ramp. I thought that the ramp from the henhouse to the ground was going to be too steep, so we rested the bottom on a tree stump. It also helped keep the ramp from blocking the doggie door.

Rob used natural branches for chicken coop ladder and roosts

Doggie door for chickens. As described above, one concern was keeping the Nigerian dwarf goats out of the coop while allowing the chickens to freely go in and out. I basically made an opening small enough for the chickens to fit through that has a hinged drop-down door on it. Looking at the goat’s tongue in one of the pictures you can see what he thinks of the door.

Pop door to chicken coop.

Stain. Since we used old wood from our kitchen demo and new wood, we used a combination product to treat it for weather as well as stain it to make the pieces look more similar.

Windows. I think the sun-shaped window is the crowning achievement. The sun is our family symbol so it was fun to deviate from a standard rectangular shape.

Buying the plans was a worthwhile investment and extremely helpful. They made the build so much easier, and the website gave me great ideas. Thank you!

–Rob S., Davis, California

Many thanks to Rob and his family for their compliments on our chicken coop plans and for sharing their story. If you like what they’ve done or if you two have animals living in harmony either within or around your chicken coop, let us know in the comments below. Want to receive email notifications as posts are published? Subscribe to Coop Thoughts

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