Don’t keep it all cooped up!

Or do, in the case of chickens at night. Folks, I need a new coop. The old one was perfectly sufficient for 10 young birds just barely out of the brooder, but they just grow up so fast! 

The coop they’ve been in is a simple A frame box. It’s a bit small for the birds at their current size and definitely too small as we expand the flock. Still, not bad for a single afternoon!

It’s time to go big. The new design is an 8 foot by 8 foot gambrel roofed box. The walls will be 4 feet tall with the gambrel taking it to nearly 8 feet tall in the center. Where the roof panels join will provide a great space for ventilation, and it’ll be large enough to walk in. 

The first step of course is design. I basically sketched the whole thing out on scrap paper and did some math (that I told my high school teacher I’d NEVER need to know) for the roof. 

The roof is four feet in the center. To calculate the lengths of the joists, I basically started with the roof as two right triangles with four foot legs. Cut the 90 degree angle in half and you’ve got 4 45 degree angled triangles. Extend the line out to 4 feet and you’ve got four perfectly equal triangles forming the gambrel roof. From there it’s just basic math to figure out the remaining angles (67.5) and lengths for the roof panels. 

Design finished, time for site selection. We definitely want to keep it in the front yard for now. Dangerous statement, as this will be very difficult to move later on. Ultimately, we picked a spot that was not that far from the old coop, but against the fence rather than the house. I think it’ll provide a nice visual boundary between front yard and side yard. 

Next was digging it out. The entire thing kind of depends on being level, so had to take care of that. Since I’m doing a wire mesh floor and deep litter, I was mainly concerned with the perimeter being level for structural stability. 

The walls were tricky. To avoid drafts at the corners, I framed the back wall normally, and left a gap at each end of the framing for the side walls so that it would all fit snugly together. 

Then came the gambrel. For all that fancy highfalutin math I did, I couldn’t find my speed square. So I basically got the trusses to the proper length, laid them down, took a few measurements, then drew cut lines where they met. First gambrel was not the cleanest, but that one is being attached to a wall so it’s good enough. This thing is tall!

I made joint braces with marks showing where to cut the next set of trusses so the remaining gambrels are much neater. Also threw in some horizontal braces to be absolutely sure it was strong. Bonus: extra roosts if needed. 

Getting the trusses in place was tricky, but my girlfriend and my friend Susan lent a hand. The plywood sheathing was attached 2 inches below the actual joint in the gambrel, allowing for a hardware cloth vent to run the entire length. 2 inches times 96 (8 feet in inches) times 2 gives us 384 square inches, or 32 square feet of ventilation, which exceeds the recommended square foot per bird even once we’ve got the flock up to full size. The top sheets of plywood just overhang that to keep rain out. Something is a little  off square so the vent is wider at one end. I’ll fix it with the shingles because I’m lazy. 

Eventually I will make an automatic door opener so we don’t have to get up just before dawn to let the birds out every day, but after painting, I need a break! 

Shingles are expensive so that will probably be a couple of weeks. But for now, some wood trim we got from our neighbors will spruce it up and make it look nice. 

Pro tip: make abso-frickin-lutely sure your base is level. We had some tweaking of the angles due to not being quite level. It required some changes to the final design, and actually delayed finishing. So next weekend, I’ll remove the front and completely redo it, get the door on, the wood painted, the trim and hopefully the shingles up. Still, not bad for just a couple afternoons of work!

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