When your chickens are fully feathered out, it is time for them to graduate from the warm coziness of their brooder and become one with the great outdoors. Of course, having loved, raised and nurtured them this far, you’ll want to make sure that their new home is comfortable, dry and secure from invasive predators, such as cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons and possums. All of these are common in the Atlanta and Cherokee County area, and it is not uncommon to have a bear make an appearance in both rural and the more urban areas. There have been several sighted in Cobb County in recent years.
Assuming you don’t have a building which you plan to convert, you are probably planning on either buying a coop in, ready built, or building on yourself. Do not be overwhelmed – building your own coop is no huge job! It requires only basic DIY skills and tools and the sense of achievement when you stand back and view your handywork is well worth the time invested.
First, you will need to decide where to build your coop. The ground will need to be leveled so that the coop can be built square. For this, a shovel and a level laid on a piece of 2×4 on the ground will suffice – let’s assume very basic tools and building knowledge here!
Then you will need wood. There are two options: either search your local Craigslist – the Atlanta area Craigslist is a particularly active site – or similar sale site or newspapers for left overs, offcuts or scrap wood from someone else’s projects, or head to your local Home Depot. In Cherokee County, there are several – Woodstock and Canton both have large, well-appointed stores. Directions and addresses can be found on the Home Depot website.
To begin, what you need is to frame the building out to your planned dimensions, ready to be enclosed with walls. For this, 2x4s or 2x3s are good choices, depending on the location and size of your coop. Using metal brackets or braces will help to ensure that the building remains solid, no matter what the weather.
For walls, two choices offered by Home Depot are either pressboard, in form of OSB or plywood or pressure treated boards. The former will need some kind of weather treatment, whether that is in the form of shingles or paint specially formulated to protect the wood from the effects of rain, wind and the sun. Pressure treated boards come in various lengths and thicknesses and will certainly add to the weight and structure of the building. They may be a slightly more expensive option, but many feel that they add to the aesthetic appeal; a strong consideration, especially if you are living in a subdivision, residential or urban area, or are subject to conditions of a housing association.
Next – roofing. OSB covered with shingles or a similar black felt is a popular choice; shingles are more expensive, but are prettier and easier to work with than the heavy rolls of (slightly stinky) roofing felt. Shingles also come in attractive colors which can be co-ordinated to the wall color, if you are choosing to paint your coop.
For a lighter look, Palruf or Suntuf are corrugated PVC roofing panels which usually come in 8ft or 12ft lengths. They are superbly watertight, let in plenty of light and are easy to install, but they may cause the coop to be difficult to keep cool in the summer – here in the Atlanta area we regularly experience temperatures in three figures, which can be dangerous for birds and can inhibit their laying. This can be counteracted by ensuring that the coop has adequate ventilation – but wherever you install a vent or window it is vital that you screen it with glass, wire or hardware cloth to ensure that predators don’t use it as a way in.
Windows are a matter of personal choice, sometimes it is possible to find scrap windows being thrown away from a local moving project. Glass is, to many, simply another thing to try and keep clean in an area which will naturally become quite cobwebby and dusty, so often people choose to not build with windows.
Doors must be well latched and secured, both for human access and pop-doors for the birds. Ensure that all can be closed and latched after dark to keep birds safe, warm and protected from drafts. Choose strong, sturdy hinges; they will get a lot of work and will be a very frustrating thing to replace if they break. Better to select heavy-duty ones to begin with!
With the walls and roof on and the windows and doors secured, there’s only one thing left to do – move the chickens in! Congratulations on your handiwork and providing a great new home for your birds.
For inspiration on coop designs, and even some plans to help you along in you search for chicken house inspiration, check out Back Yard Chickens.
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