better homes & gardens

A new home for chooks so they don't fly the coop.

Chicken coop diagram

Fresh are the best! And they taste even better when they've been laid by happy chooks in your own backyard. This A-frame chicken coop can be moved about your yard quite easily and will keep your hens feeling clucky, safe and right at home.

A chicken coop that can be lifted and moved around the garden is a great way to fertilise the yard while the chickens enjoy a feast of bugs, pests and weeds. The coop has everything that opens and shuts to lock away your chooks at night plus give you easy access to collect eggs.

Chooks are great pets to keep around the home: they eat food scraps, produce fantastic natural fertiliser, keep pests down in your garden and lay eggs.

Kids also love feeding them, hunting for their eggs and playing with them. This simple, moveable chicken coop is a great way to house your birds and is large enough to accommodate up to six full-sized chooks or eight bantams.

Hens need a home, especially during the night to keep them safe from foxes and domestic animals, which will kill your birds if they're not locked away. This coop has wire on the floor to stop predators from digging their way into it. However, during the day, chickens are much happier to scratch around the backyard looking for worms, insects, weeds and whatever else they can find to eat. Just make sure the backyard is enclosed and the flight feathers on the hens are clipped.

But before you rush out and buy half-a-dozen hens or build a chook house, check your local council's regulations and requirements for keeping poultry. Some discourage keeping chooks, others ban roosters. It's also a good idea to chat with your neighbours before proceeding. Whatever the result, keeping a rooster will probably be out of the question because early morning wake-up calls do not make for happy neighbours. Besides, you probably want to eat the eggs, not breed chickens.

You'll need (See diagram)

A Frame uprights (8) 70 x 35 x 1220mmTreated pine

B Narrow ties (4) 70 x 22 x 635mm Treated pine decking 81 Wide ties (2) 90 x 22 x 635mm Treated pine decking

C End panels (2) 635 x 628 x 4mm Bracing ply

D Gussets (2) 310 x 263 x 4mm Bracing ply

E Ridge 90 x 22 x 1800mm Treated pine decking

F Bottom plates (2) 90 x 45 x 1800mm Treated pine

G Side rails (4) 70 x 22 x 422mm Treated pine decking

H Back panel 1800 x 616 x 4mm Bracing ply

I Handles (2) 90 x 45 x 2400mm Treated pine

J Box slats (12) 90 x 22 x 330mm Treated pine decking

K Back panel support 70 x 22 x 1000mm Treated pine decking

L Bottom end rails (2) 90 x 45 x 1100mm Treated pine

M Small door stiles (2) 42 x 18 x 515mm LOSP pine N Small door rails (2) 42 x 18 x 296mm LOSP pine

O Small door panel 515 x 380 x 4mm Bracing ply

P Large door stiles (2) 42 x 18 x 515mm LOSP pine

Q Large door rails (2) 42 x 18 x 946mm LOSP pine

R Large door mullion 42 x 18 x 431 mm LOSP pine

S Large door panel 1030 x 515 x 4mm Bracing ply

T Bottom stiles (2) 42 x 18 x 500mm LOSP pine

U Bottom door rail (2) 42 x 18 x 296mm LOSP pine

V Hinge blocks (6) 40 x 19 x 90mm LOSP pine

W Small end rails (2) 70 x45x481mmTreated pine

X Perch (not shown) 90 x 22 x 1115mmTreated pine decking

You'll also need:
10m x 1200mm of galvanised 25 x 25 x 1.25mm welded mesh; galvanised staples or U nails; 2 x T-hinges; 6 x 50mm strap hinges; 4 latches; feeder, water dispenser, paint

Cut 1 end of each of the main framing uprights (A) at an angle of 65 degrees. To do this, use a protractor to set a sliding bevel to exactly 65 degrees. Mark the angle. Measure 1192mm along the timber, mark the same 65 degrees angle with the bevel and cut to length. Measure 25mm across the top bevel of each upright, square a line down from this point to form a right angle and then cut off the triangular section.

Chickens are safe and fun pets, and are great for teaching children responsibility.

Screw together pairs of uprights to form A-frames. Cut both ends of the narrow and wide ties (B, B1) at an angle of 65 degrees. Mark 499mm from the bottom of each upright and screw 2 narrow ties to 2 of the frames and the 2 wide ties to the other 2 frames with the bottom edge of the ties on the marks. Screw the remaining narrow ties to the back of the 2 frames with the wide ties.

Use the A-frames as a template to mark out the end panels (C) and cut with a panel saw. Unscrew the narrow ties, and nail on the plywood with flat head nails. Replace the ties again and nail panel into the tie. Similarly, cut the gussets (D) for the internal frames and nail on.

Screw the top ridge (E) to the end frames, with the back edge 5mm proud of the top of the frame and overhanging on the door side. The plywood end panels face inward. Measure 400mm from the end and screw on the intermediate A-frames with the plywood gussets facing towards the ends and the inside edge of the frames on the mark. Screw the outer A-frames to the bottom plates (F), then measure 400mm from ends to locate the intermediate frames.

Fix the side rails (G) to the A-frames, screwing them at the same height as the ties in the A-frame. Nail the back panel (H) to the frame, then add the two handles (I) to either side.
Turn the unit on its side and add the brooding box slats (J), screwing them on from the underside and spacing them equally between the sides. The gaps between the slats allow air to circulate. While tipped over, add the back panel support batten (K) under the ridge and nail the back panel to it. Cut the bottom rails (L) with a 65 degree angle at each end and screw to the bottom plates and end A-frames.
To retrieve the eggs, you'll need doors. Screw the small door stiles (M) to the rails (N) using simple butt joints and screws, then nail on the small door panel (O. If you do not have short nails simply nip the ends off 30mm galvanised flat-head nails. Repeat for the other small door and the large door (F Q, R, S). The bottom door (T, U) is made in the same way but covered with chicken wire not plywood. Fit the doors with the strap hinges, using hinge blocks (V) on the upper doors to give them clearance. When everything fits, remove the hinges. Cut the small end rails (W) and screw in place. Add a perch (X) screwed to the underside of the box slats.

Paint all the woodwork with two coats of exterior acrylic paint. We chose Dulux Pesto for the frame and Salvia for the panels. When dry, refit the doors with the hinges.

Cut the mesh to size with snips to suit each section and with enough extra all round to allow the wire to be stapled to the frame. Use galvanised staples or U nails to hold the wire mesh in place. When starting them off, try holding the staples with long-nosed pliers rather than your fingers.
At the sides remove the side rails and fix the wire underneath before refitting the rails over the top. Fold and nail the wire to the underside of the handles. At the ends remove the bottom rail and nail the wire to the inside edge of the bottom rail, then screw the bottom rail back in place and nail the wire to the rest of the frame. Fit basic catches to the doors to secure them at night.

Now you have a chookhouse, you want to know what chickens to buy, where to buy them and how to keep them.

For eggs within a week or so then purchase point-of-lay pullets that are about six months old. Avoid buying chicks - they may grow up to be roosters. Pullets cost about $20 each and lay between 180 and 250 eggs a year.

When you get your hens home, keep them in the coop for a week to get them used to their new home. Then let them range, but make sure your garden is bait free.

In the hens' brooding boxes, lay carpet offcuts, pile side down, and top with straw. This will keep your chooks comfortable while nesting and the eggs safe from smashing. Put a fake plastic or china egg in the nest to encourage the chooks to lay.

Feed the chickens with commercial layer pellets, which have all the vitamins and minerals hens need, and put the pellets in a bird feeder hung away from brooding boxes and perches. An adult hen will eat about 1 kg of food each week, including household food waste. Sprinkle eggshells over your scraps to give the chooks the calcium they need for strong eggs.

Install an automatic waterer away from the feeder.

Check the coop daily, and keep the water, food, perches and straw clean to avoid disease and parasites.

To buy chooks and pullets, check out Poultry Farmers and Dealers in the Yellow Pages.

Want something bigger? Click here for an even larger chicken house!


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