DIY Chicken Coops
Recently, a landscape contractor asked me to build her a hen house that resembled the one I built for my own four chickens about a decade ago. I declined the offer, and here is my reply to her.
IN A NUTSHELL: It’s far easier to get a pre-made hen house, and to spend your extra time and money on creating a secure and easy-to-clean coop area. This includes placing a concrete or other solid floor beneath the hen house, and installing sturdy fencing and a gate. Two other items I strongly suggest (especially if you travel for short periods) is an automatic watering system, and an automatic door opener/closer for the hen house. Chickens are not difficult to care for IF and WHEN you put in the time to create a happy, healthy environment for them—and you!
====== o ====== o ====== o ====== o ======
I gave some thought and spent time online researching chicken coops… and discovered that you could buy one online for far less $$ than I could ever charge for the time, labor, and materials. So here's my suggestion—have your clients find a coop they really like (big enough for all the chickens they'd ever want at one time), locally or online, and order it NOW so they can get free shipping. It's amazing how much shipping costs drop when you give the store a month or so to deliver something. Most of the online coops are semi-assembled kits.
Some tips on kits to share with your clients: Make sure it's built from solid wood, has cross-ventilation (at least two windows/doors across from the other), and about 4 square feet per chicken. Every hen needs a place to roost at night, generally something about the diameter of a broomstick or closet rod. And make sure it's reasonably easy to clean and to collect eggs.
Where I have poultry expertise (!!) is in setting the dang thing up, making it easy to keep chickens happy and clean, and making sure predators don't get the hens. Where you might help them out is prepping the coop area to prevent rodents digging under the coop (a concrete pad is ideal), setting up a fenced area for a daytime "run," and locating the compost bin nearby for the nitrogen-rich chicken manure. You could charge them for having your guys assemble the coop, if necessary, or heck, you can pay me to do it!
IF your clients would like to call me, go ahead and give them my number or website. Jen H. just suggested I write a short blog post to get your clients thinking about the contingencies. And of course, I expect YOU to call if you have any questions or if I can help you out.
All best, Tisa
(P.S. I built the coop in this photo for my own hens. The construction cost was minimal since I used wood found on Craigslist.com and bought hardware, etc. at Home Depot, You can purchase the plans, including technical drawings showing dimensions and assembly, from me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost is only $20 for the PDF files, but requires some experience using power tools such as circular saw.)