So, a couple of weeks ago the Handyman finished building our chicken coop for under $35! And it was just in the nick of time. Back on March 10th, the Handyman and I picked up 10 adorable little two-week-old sex linked chicks from a Mennonite farm down the road, and they lived in a brooder box in our basement for far longer than we would have liked. Holy stinky birds! There was definitely some motivation for us to finish.
In keeping with our dedication to
being cheapskates saving money, we decided to do a few things while designing our run.
- 4×4 posts are EXPENSIVE! You know what’s about half that price, works just as well, and gives the chicken run a cool rustic look to match my rescued wood coop? Landscape timbers! They are 8′ long posts that are slightly rounded on the corners and a little rough-looking. Perfect!
- Utilize the existing walls of the Creepy Shed to reduce the amount of wall we need to build for the run. Less fencing and fewer timbers needed equals money saved.
- Use two inch poultry netting instead of one inch. Let’s face it, chicken wire is to keep chickens from getting out, not to keep predators from getting in. A fox isn’t going to be stopped by a little wire. We focused our efforts on making the coop predator-proof and will lock the girls up tight every night.
- Make a handle for the door instead of using a store-bought one. This was a special request from me, more for a style reason than a financial one, because we actually do have extra handles laying around the workshop. But I just love the rustic look.
- Use the same fencing material for the run and for the garden, because the more you buy the cheaper it is per linear foot.
The Handyman and I were both anxious to get the girls out of the basement and into their coop, so as soon as the weather warmed up he busted his butt to get the run done. To begin, the Handyman planned out the space we were devoting to the run. We wanted to make sure the girls would have a good mixture of sun and shade so we don’t have to worry so much in the hot summer months, and we wanted it to be big so it’d be easier to keep clean. He also wanted to make sure he could easily ride the tractor around it. All of that considered, we were able to give them approximately 450 square feet.
Once the outline was determined, the Handyman started setting the timbers as posts, making sure to set two close enough to act as a door frame.
Once the post holes were dug down two feet (bringing the height of our enclosure to six feet) the Handyman leveled them, and tamped down a little the dirt around them to hold them in place while he mixed and poured the concrete. A major theme around our Homestead is people standing around watching the Handyman do all the hard work. Clearly our little man stood there too long, because he was recruited for mixing concrete.
Once the concrete was mixed, poured into the holes, and left to set overnight, the Handyman added a screened door for me, complete with a rustic handle and spring latch, and then wrapped the run in our two-inch wire poultry netting.
We knew we wanted to bury the wire underground a bit, to deter any of the lazier predators from getting into the run, and to keep the chickens from getting out, so the Handyman left about 1 1/2 feet at the bottom for me to bury. Further evidence that if you stand around watching the Handyman work for too long you will be put to work yourself. But hey, now I can say I helped! The wire was buried with dirt, and once the grass returns you won’t even be able to tell where I dug.
All that remained was to cut off the overlapping wire, put up some trim to cover any scratchy edges, and put up hinged ventilation openings (see details on this in my Ask the Experts post). A few of the posts got some added supports, but that was just out of an abundance of caution. Overall, the chicken coop and run are just perfect for what we have in mind, and I would estimate that we have under $100 into the whole thing. If you include the money we spent on the chickens, I would say the total is about $125. Now, I don’t know about where you all live, but near me it costs about $4 for a dozen fresh eggs at a roadside stand. With a family of 7 eating like you would expect a family of 7 to eat, we go through about 100 dozen eggs a year. So, in less than one year this investment will more than pay for itself. Plus I get the added fun of keeping chickens!
I christen thee “The Egg Plant”!
Now, I was under the impression that I was getting black sex linked chicks, because I swore the Mennonite farmer told me they were a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and Barred Rock hen when we spoke on the phone. But for anyone who has never heard a Pennsylvania Dutch accent … well, they can be a little difficult to understand. It’s like English and German had a baby. So apparently what she must have said was that it was a RIR roo and a White Rock hen. So instead of getting black chickens, like what was recommended to me by Dax, I got a set of gorgeous red girls. I’m not worried about aerial predators, because the run is pretty well covered by trees, so I decided to stick with my gingers. They’ll blend right in at this house. Poor Handyman is severely outnumbered by redheads now.
For anyone who is interested in what I mean by sex linked, basically it takes the guess work out of determining if your chicks will turn into hens or roos. Lots of farm supply places sell chicks that are sexed (meaning someone goes out in the park and lifts up the dinosaurs’ skirts), but that is an unreliable process that is frequently wrong. My mom and sister got about 25% roos when they spent extra to buy sexed pullets. I actually wrote an entire essay length explanation on sex linked traits and how they work, but then I decided that not everyone is as dorky about genetics as me, and you all probably don’t want to read a thousand words on chicken sex chromosomes. So … for the Cliffs Notes version, basically with certain hybrid chickens the males will have different coloration than the females, and that is obvious from the very first day. No skirt lifting needed. This is wonderful for people like me, people who want hens but no roos and don’t want to wait months to find out what you have.
So let me introduce you to the newest members of our flock.
Can anyone guess the theme with the names? Of course, considering they all look so much alike, I don’t know how much the names will get used. But they have to have names, right??
The girls are named after the authors of some of my favorite books!
- Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
- Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Ayre
- Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
- Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
- Judy Blume’s Blubber
- Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None
- Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series
- Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
- Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit series
I am thrilled to death with the chicken coop and run. I am looking forward to adding some landscaping in the next few weeks, including some field stone around the base of the coop and some plants under the nesting boxes outside of the coop. Just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be adorable, right?
I have an exciting post coming up in the very near future. I have a review of what has turned out to be one of my FAVORITE gardening products of all time, and to celebrate my discovery of this product (and just in time for Mother’s Day delivery!) I am going to do a giveaway! Don’t forget to like and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it.