The Garden Coop Walk-In Chicken Coop Design – Images
See The Garden Coop in a KATU-TV Go Green feature on urban chickenkeeping. The producer and videographer came by to talk with us about the experience of raising chickens in the city. We started in the backyard, but we got to talking about home-raised eggs and somehow ended up in the kitchen. They really are delicious!
Grow vines or pole beans up the side of the run for extra shade (and food) in the summer. The picture below shows pole beans. The following year, we planted hops, a perrenial which vines aggressively, but can be cut back every year. It also did an excellent job providing summertime shade for the chicken coop.
The space between the mesh at the top of the chicken run and the roofing panels above makes a great drying rack for onions or garlic at harvest time. Or build a solar dehydrator frame and slip it in. You could also store small tools up there.
Actually, the past couple of years, we've grown giant sunflowers in various corners of our yard. When the seedheads matured, we laid them, seeds down, in this space above the chicken run. Then the neighborhood scrub jays would fly in to work out the seeds. As they loosened them, many of the sunflower seeds would slip down through the mesh, giving the chickens below a share of the snack. I know, I know, it would have been more efficient to just toss the flower heads into the run — but nowhere near as fun to watch.
Because light comes in through the roof of the henhouse in The Garden Coop, you can install stained glass windows and enjoy the designs from the outside! Look for stained glass windows or hanging panels at your local art market, glass art galleries, or on Etsy.
Stained glass windows are easy to install, particularly on the inner henhouse wall of this chicken coop design. Just cut an opening the size of the stained glass piece in the plywood layer of the wall. Size the siding in front so that it overlaps the edges of the piece by 1/2" (13 mm) on all sides. Insert the stained glass art, then seal the opening from behind by attaching a piece of acrylic/Plexiglas to the plywood (predrill the holes first). Voila! Your Garden Coop is now a showcase for your garden art.
Kids like — okay — love, love, love gathering eggs from the little egg door at the front of the henhouse, and the full-sized door lets them easily walk into the chicken coop to help with feeding, watering, and cleaning. How to build these doors is all explained in the plans.
The henhouse gives plenty of space for the hens to roost indoors when they choose. It's also where they nest and lay the freshest, richest eggs you'll ever eat. You can play with the configuration of the roosts to fit the number of hens you have.
In the picture below, the floor of the henhouse is bare. You can also paint it or line it with vinyl or linoleum for easier cleanup. Because it's raised, the henhouse is at a comfortable working height for keeping things tidy. We simply brush the chickens' droppings and used litter down into the enclosed run to begin composting with the rest of their bedding.
In the pictures above, you can see that the ladder the chickens climb to enter the henhouse comes up through a hole in the henhouse floor. One of the big advantages of The Garden Coop design is that the hens entry opening into the henhouse does not need to be closed at night. The outer perimeter of The Garden Coop is fully secure, with bolted doors and hardware cloth trenched down on all sides of the chicken run.
Building your chicken coop this way takes some extra planning and work up front, but it beats having to go out every night to close your hens in (and every morning to let them out). It also allows your hens the choice to roost in the outer run at night, which our flock prefers almost year round in the Pacific Northwest.
As for the placement of the ladder, there are two orientations discussed in the plan. Many people like it to come up through the hen house floor, because it's tucked out of the way. Others prefer to have the chickens' ramp come up the side wall of the henhouse at the rear wall of the coop. This gives you uninterrupted floorspace in the henhouse, which becomes more important the larger your flock. It also may provide some advantage at preventing updrafts in colder climates.
Point is, you have plenty of options. And that's the great thing about building your own chicken coop — you get final say on how to do it!
WATCH: Description of the swivel latch on the henhouse door:
There are also several options for where to mount a roost in the enclosed hen yard (run). We started our chickens in the coop as pullets, so we have a low roost, and one that's up about halfway, shown here. Use a branch for a roost so they can grab hold easily. And figure that each chicken needs about ten to twelve inches of roost space.
Assembling the coop can be mostly a one-person job, but your family, friends, and neighbors will probably want to get in on the fun. Several aspects of The Garden Coop design make it extremely predator proof, including trenching down the hardware cloth around the coop. If your friends offer to help you with this part of the chicken coop construction process, be very nice to them.
Why use chicken coop plans?
Why not just design your chicken house from scratch? Well, you could. That's what my wife and I did, and honestly it was quite rewarding. But it also took a toll on us, both in time and frustration.
Working with our DIY chicken coop plans, you could start your coop this weekend and finish it over the next one or two — and have more time to enjoy your backyard flock and those garden-fresh eggs! Or use the designs as a starting off point for your own creativity.
The Garden Coop is simple to adapt for winter, though in mild climates, you probably won't have to do a thing. In the Pacific Northwest, winter brings lots of rain, so in the past, we've partially wrapped the bottom half or so of the enclosed run with plastic sheeting. It took me about 15 minutes to do, and kept the ground drier by keeping out the blowing rain. Turns out, it helps just as well with snow and cold winds.
That said, we've also gone through weeks and months of wind and freezing without wrapping the chicken coop at all. So it's an option, but not necessarily. . . um, necessary. (For future reference, here's our four-part series on winter coop care.)
WATCH: Snow! It was below freezing in Portland (Oregon) for over a week (12/08), and the chickens were as happy as ever.
The Garden Ark Mobile Chicken Coop/Tractor – Images
We love our mobile coop design, The Garden Ark! This is not your typical chicken tractor — it's functional, efficient, mobile, and stylish.
The double doors on the side give you wide access to the hen house above and the enclosed chicken run below. They are easily secured with a barrel-bolted latch at the top and bottom. You can hang a small chicken feeder and/or waterer from the henhouse floor (or add a support to hold even more weight). Or you can just set the feeder and waterer up on a brick or block on the ground beneath the hen house.
The egg door gives you access to the nesting box and to the sliding door between the henhouse and enclosed run. The sliding henhouse door allows you to close your chickens up in the henhouse at night, or any time. The entire coop is quite predator proof, actually, but with the sliding door shut, the hen house is practically impenetrable.
Also, the sliding door is designed with an offset at the bottom so that the tracks stay free of any straw, wood shavings, or other litter material in the henhouse. Every step of how to build this chicken coop is explained in the plans.
Add a pair of wheels to the back end of The Garden Ark portable chicken coop to roll it where you need it. The Garden Ark plan also describes what modifications you'd need to make if you wanted to attach even larger wheels.
Build raised vegetable beds that fit The Garden Ark mobile chicken coop perfectly, and incorporate your chickens into your seasonal garden rotation. See the free plans here. Building beds to match your ark gives you all the benefits of a chicken tractor — focusing the chickens' grazing, tiling, and fertilizing activity where you want it — along with the convenience of raised beds. Our free raised bed plans make it easy to build beds that lock together with your coop.
You can even fit The Garden Ark in the bed of a small pickup (or El Camino!), making it the perfect mobile chicken coop for the truly mobile chicken keeper. . .
(El Camino photo courtesy of customer Nelson J.)
The Garden Ark pictured below was a Grand Prize in the 2009 Portland Tour de Coops raffle, with proceeds going to Growing Gardens.
Save your pennies! The Garden Ark plan calls for securing hardware cloth to the chicken coop frame with poultry fencing staples. On this one, I also used screws and pennies-as-washers for a buttoned look at the front. (This is perfectly legal, by the way. Just don't try to spend those pennies later!)
Most first-time chicken keepers start with just one coop, of course. Yet as you get further along in the practice of keeping chickens, there are several reasons you might want a second coop around — to expand your flock, brood chicks, separate a chicken (a broody or sick hen, for instance), or add the function of a mobile tractor to your existing walk-in coop. Whatever the reason, The Garden Coop and The Garden Ark look smashing together! We also offer a nice discount when you get both plans (or kits) at the same time.