I kind of feel that keeping chickens is a fairly thin-veil for needing to build things out of doors. It is an excuse to fire up the earth auger, drill holes into the dirt and put in supports and fence posts. It is an excuse to use power tools – drills, impact drivers, pneumatic nailers, miter saws, and so on. In the end, however, we get a nice structure that can be home to a one or a few birds.
To say we overbuilt this coop-addition is probably spot on. Insulated 2×4 construction, ventilated, concrete floored, and complete with a winch-powered liftable roof.
We never really intended to make another coop structure. The converted dog house (beyond/next-to this new coop in the photo) was thought to be enough.
Earlier in the year, at the end of spring, we placed our last-of-the-season orders for meat birds. Along with the fifteen cornish roasters, we added a silver laced polish chick to the order. Melissa is fond of the white polish we had included with an earlier order of egg layers. We figured, we would deal with getting her acclimated to the rest of the flock when the time came. She could be brooded with the cornish roasters in the garage.
A week into September, the silver laced polish, now named Agnes, was injured. We had introduced her to the greater flock a few days prior. She is not the most cunning chicken; she ducks her head and runs straight into things — namely, other, larger, more aggressive hens. She got stuck in the fence once, which resulted in the other hens pecking at her. By the end of September, she was effectively a house chicken. We brought her into the house to recover. She had been pecked on at the base of her tail feathers, and had also gotten cut up by getting stuck hardware cloth covering one of the windows. Missing lots of feathers, having cuts and pecks all over, she took up residence in a modify dog crate in the dogs area in the house.
Chickens are dusty creatures. And they poop…a lot. And their poop smells. Agnes was on the mend, and we were tired of the dust and smell (even though we cleaned her cage twice daily, the general area still smelled).
Agnes needed her own coop.
We started with scoping out how to build on to the existing coop structure. The only free-of-obstruction side was the east side. The south side has the green roof-covered run area, the west side has the covered run exit into the main chicken yard area, north has the man door entrance to the main coop structure. East side it was.
Two support posts sunk into the ground, secured with concrete. The insulated-plywood-on-each-face base was next. Insulated walls, complete with an opening out of the front for a chicken door, were next. Tile backer board with concrete poured over the top, then the insulted and hinged roof was built. Roof vent and shingles followed with cedar shake siding (to match the existing coop) rounded out the bulk of the build.
We could have stopped there, but the roof proved to be a bit over built, and because of the weight, impossible for Melissa to lift. The roof needs to be liftable to get into the coop for cleaning, and, once Agnes starts to lay eggs, we will want to retrieve them.
I noodled on the problem for a couple days. Hand crank winch – like the ones used to pull a boat onto a trailer? No, I need something with a bit more control when letting cable or rope out to lower the roof. I imagined losing my grip on the crank handle and having it whip around quickly as the roof dropped.
Hydraulics crossed my mind, but, a bit over kill for this project. I would need a reservoir tank for hydraulic fluid, pumps, and possibly more power than what we have available at the coop (remember, the coop is solar powered).
Garage door springs and other sorts of assists crossed my mind, too. The winching idea kept coming to mind. Maybe a 12 volt winch could be a solution.
We started to investigate winches. Price seemed to be driving factor at first — what’s the cheapest winch on the market that has received decent reviews? A number of winches fit this criterion. A bit more reading and research revealed that many entry level winches have power in (pull), but no power out (push). We needed both power in, to lift the roof, and power out to lower the roof back down. A bit more reading, and having a brake on the winch would be ideal. No brake, and the load of the lifted roof might just pull the winching cable back out.
Brake. Power in. Power out.
These were the must haves for the project. Superwinch’s UT3000 model fit the bill. We also probably ended up spending almost as much on random pieces of hardware – heavy carabiner clips and chain for a safety line, threaded long anchor eye bolts, steel quick links, self-tapping lag bolts, a couple pulleys, and so on.
The pulley system we arrived upon puts an anchor near the outer corners of the roof. Looping through the two pulleys, the end of the winching cable is attached to the existing coop structure just above the east side’s window. The winch is mounted at the upper, outer corner of the existing coop structure.