the love coop and flock, take two (or so)

Meet Rosetta, Sparkle, Cayenne and Tiffany. Our very own gaggle of adolescent birds with stripper names.

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Margot named Rosetta, Ruby named Sparkle, Andy named Tiffany and I named Cayenne.

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They are four weeks old now.

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We’ve lost six hens since our move. Some to predation, some to illness. It sucks to admit we are down to two chickens: Cup and Cooper. Our system was pretty dang stout and still not enough. We didn’t want to get more chickens until we could create a more secure environment. Mostly, we weren’t (I wasn’t) on top of closing the run at dusk. Several hens were killed in a 30 minute window after the sun went down when I was nearby! Sucks.

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Margot is very bonded with Rosetta. This chick is happiest in Margot’s hands or on Margot’s shoulder.

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So, we imagined the eager thumbs of a raccoon, the body-flattening capabilities of a coyote, the heft of a bear. Ultimately we built a fence and then moved the shebang into our fenced-in yard, under our deck, up against the six foot corrugated metal fence. Because we’ve had several instances where a very small animal dug under the run, the entire run is wrapped in thick wire fencing (previously we didn’t wrap the bottom). Because we still, on occasion, let the girls run about our yard, I set a daily alarm on my phone to remind me to drop everything and shut those chickens in their house. When the alarm sounds, I literally GO that moment.

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And! Here’s our coop.

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It’s a beauty, as is my husband’s natural way of doing things. Even things like the second coop (here is the first coop) in the fourth location for the chickens he never wanted. Sure he enjoys the eggs and the joy they bring our children and me but I do believe I’ve used up my spousal favor punchcard when it comes to chicken coop moving and building. When we lost three hens in a massacre last summer, we rallied a team of neighbors to move the coop again. It was cumbersome, we had to remove part of the fence he’d just built. In the late summer heat, tired kids sounding out, sweat still on our brows, I cornered him and said I understand this has been expensive and heartbreaking. Let’s just finish the coop and sell it. I’ll find homes for our hens. He surprised me when he said no. He didn’t grumble or complain. Hip to hip, he one-arm squeezed my shoulders, the way he always has, and said he liked how happy the chickens make me and then mumbled a few words about some extra bedroom attention coming his way.

At that time (summer 2012) the coop wasn’t sided or trimmed out and I was fine with that. I could have lived with it that way forever, especially appreciative of my husband’s patience and investment.

I also knew that if I waited until his inspiration struck it’d be knocked out in a day. And that’s just what happened. One morning, a few months later, I read The Sneeches with Margot and Ruby while sipping coffee. Heaving and piling and banging noises came from below. I smiled, knowing our coop was getting pretty.

We wanted a contemporary, simple, boxy coop. It is very sturdy, framed and then covered with plywood (we bought mostly new framing material and plywood). We used leftover corrugated metal from our fence for siding and Andy dug up bits and pieces of scrap lumber — chunks of decking, chunks of old fencing — for the trimmings.

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The nesting boxes are an old cabinet ($2) from our local building reuse store. We discovered the girls like to also lay eggs on top of the boxes so my handy Andy added a little lip to the top shelf with scrap lumber. For the roosting poles, we used branches. The window is also from Home Resource ($6).

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I love the placement of the food and water. We needed a secure spot (inside hen house) for poultry libations. Instead of creating a larger interior space to accommodate it all, Andy made a platform under the nesting boxes. This ensures chicken poop and whatnot won’t enter the area. He screwed hooks into this overhang to hold food and water containers. Brilliance.

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The coop is well electrified thanks to my foxy Journeyman. There is a light in the coop as well as an outlet for the light we hang in the winter (not so much for heat but to extend ‘daylight’ hours to encourage egg-laying). On the exterior, is a light that Andy rescued from the dumpster at a job site. And, there is a light in the side storage area.

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I painted the coop door with chalkboard paint.

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This area is also where we keep trash cans and bikes. Next up: leveling the ground and building an enclosure for garbage.

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Actually, before that we are digging up the existing sprinkler system that was severed when our home connected to the sewer (before we moved in). Our yard and the patio outside my studio (the apartment we lived in last year) right now:

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Looking toward our garden and field behind our home. That’s Ruby and her beloved Cup who is flying out of her arms in this pic.

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This cubby will get doors this spring. It holds two trash cans: one for chicken food and one for wood chips.

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The run is simple and sturdy. And while Alice can’t dig under the run, I discovered on this day that she can still access the food scraps we give our hens.

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Oh! And there above is the finished railing for the Secret Stairs we built last summer. Another next-up project: removing the old, red deck railing and replacing with framed hog wire.

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That’s it. Hopefully our very last ever iteration of The Love Coop. Cluck cluck.

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32 Responses to the love coop and flock, take two (or so)

  1. Melissa says:

    Love the picture of Alice with the chicks!!!

  2. April says:

    Very cool!! Well done on the new coop. As a dog person, my favorite photo of the whole post is Alice with the chicks. I thought, “awwwwww.”

  3. Erin L. says:

    That looks like a super cozy coop! I’m sure they feel so safe and secure in there. The hardest part is to remember closing it up at night. It’s funny how they always head inside at dusk. They sure know when the most predators come out.

  4. Lacy says:

    This is so great! We are just 6 weeks into our chicken journey! Can’t wait to see the girls grow and start laying!

  5. Jenny says:

    I love this! I want chickens so badly, we are in town….not too far from your old home actually….. anyway, soo primary threat you have had to deal with?? dogs, cats, foxes and coyotes?? I am slightly nervous as my 2 large dogs would try to kill them straight away….:( so ours would have to be bullet proof……. that hen house is freakin awesome by the way!!!!! wow

    You are the one who turned me on to wanting urban chickens……..so I read closely to the chicken posts. :D

  6. It’s gorgeous. I adore your life! Thanks for inspiring me.

  7. SmithShack71 says:

    I love this coop!
    You guys did work. I feel like a slacker. I haven’t tilled yet, even, but we have had a shit ton of rain.
    That coop is perfect. I wish I had an Andy.

    -Angie

  8. Your new coop looks fantastic! I love the metal and the chalkboard door!

  9. Jessie says:

    Coolest. Coop. Ever. Margot looks as if she’s grown SO much!

  10. jennifer says:

    Andy is the bomb. And I love the rustic quality of the coop. Clean lines. Mixed medium.

    I’m so proud that your (real) chicks have stripper names. Makes for great conversation!

  11. Claire says:

    Such adorable chicks! I want to be a crazy chicken lady someday. What breeds are they? They appear to be two different breeds.

  12. Sarah says:

    Oh, how funny. We just got 6 Rhode Island Red chicks after talking about it forever, and they’re 4 weeks old now. My kids decided on the names, and my 3 year old chose Sparkle for one of them. Twilight is the other one she named- that could work for stripper, too. That coop is amazing- I am most definitely NOT showing it to my carpenter husband. He will take it as a challenge. Right now the chickens are living in our garage in an old Little Tikes playhouse, with the windows fenced in. Good enough till our other spring projects are done!

  13. Trbholt says:

    An amazing love coup du jour! …that Handy Andy IS a keeper!

    You know my favorite photo is Alice the Wonder Dog watching over her new flock…LOVE that girl
    & you and ALL your girls…cluck~cluck!

    xo

  14. sarahkeith says:

    It’s beautiful!! I love your new awesome coop. I have to say, we’ve lost a few hens in that awful dusk hour as well– the worst time was when we were home and having a party– house full of people, loud music, etc, and forgot to close them up and never heard a thing. UGH. Makes you feel terrible. I literally have panic attacks at night sometimes when I wake up and think “OMG, did I close them?!!?”. However, since we’ve had our baby and have a set-in-stone, do-not-disturb nighttime routine, I haven’t had a problem remembering to shut them, since I’m always at home at the right time, doing the same thing :) Oh, and my husband is totally over the chickens as well :)

  15. Kris says:

    Love the stripper names. :) I’m sorry you’ve lost a few chickens along the way. Don’t beat yourself up over it though….it’s happened to me and the best we can do is learn from it, right?
    The Love Coop looks great. Great job Andy! I love how much the girls adore the hens. My son is head over heels in love with every one of our chicks right now. Only a week old and growing like weeds. Isn’t it amazing? Curious…how far into the colder months do your hens lay because of the light in the coop? Oh, and that picture of Alice on the chair with the chicks? I would buy that print. Priceless. I look forward to more posts about your growing chicks.
    xo Kris

  16. Lorri Epstein says:

    Seriously?! Alice with the chicks? It’s just too much I can’t stand it… SO ADORABLE!

  17. Angelika says:

    That picture with Alice and the Chicks – FRAME IT. That is classic! Love her. Love the stripper chicks. Hmmm…”stripper chicks”…what kind of blog IS this? :)

  18. Lindsey says:

    When do you put your baby chicks out in the coop? I have 8 chicks in my spare room right now and am trying to figure out when they can go outside. Some sources say after they’re 5-6 weeks old, others say not until its 60+ overnight. They’re getting big quickly and I’m thinking I’ll want them out of the house sooner rather than later.

    PS LOVE the Love Coop! How hip and functional!

    • dig dig says:

      We are moving ours out tonight! I might put a light out there as it still gets chilly around here and they won’t be snuggled up with the big birds to keep warm (we have a screen up dividing the coop so they can get used to each other before we fully integrate).

      • Lindsey says:

        That makes me feel better about urging my fiance to get our coop done. The girls are getting big and turning our spare room into a giant dust bowl. A light is a good idea though as we have a small bantam that’s still quite a bit smaller than the rest. Thanks for the advice!

  19. sian says:

    Man the coop is just awesome!

  20. Sydney says:

    That is a true labor of love!!! Loving the chicken’s stripper names. The one chicken I had, Chet, had been abandoned by his owner as a chick in our yard. He turned really mean after my American Water Spaniel mauled him. I remember going outside with boots on so he wouldn’t peck my feet. My parents eventually took him to a farm and I remember him getting out of the cage looking around like “What the hell are these things?” at the other chickens.

  21. Kaara says:

    I love your coop! It looks awesome! I’ve always wanted. Cool coop for our chickens too! I should decorate theirs more ;) the chalkboard is such a great idea!
    xo- Kaara

  22. hyz says:

    Looks great! Just a question/thought here–if you didn’t do it already, it may be helpful to extend the hog wire (or actually I’ve read hardware cloth is even better because the spaces between the wire are smaller) from the run down into the ground about 12 inches, which prevents critters from digging under the run and attacking the hens. I found a lot of great information about how and why to do this on backyardchickens.com when we were building our coop, and so far we’ve had no predator losses (knock on wood, although we are in the city and don’t have the same level of wildlife you do–but raccoons and dogs are still a worry). Good luck with the new coop and hens–it looks comfy and roomy and very luxurious with the electricity, and I hope your chicks stay safe and sound!!

    • dig dig says:

      Thanks! Yes, this is why we wrapped the wire under the run so that even if a critter digs under, they cannot access the interior space. I said ‘hog wire’ but it has a narrower opening; sound like what you describe. So far so good! Here’s to hoping. xo

  23. Stacey says:

    I think I have coop envy!

  24. Tiffany says:

    I love the chickens and I am so jealous. I am thankful I have a huge garden at least. Although I must say I’ve never considered my name to be a stripper name! I usually imply my name to the elegance of Louis Tiffany stained glass master pieces. ;)

  25. jody says:

    love this! have you ever thought about getting an automatic chicken door? we have one for our flock at work, and it’s amazing. it opens in the morning with the light, and closes in the evening when things get dark, and we never have to worry about being around to shut the ladies in at night. we’ve had it for a couple of years with no problems. i think it was around a couple of hundred dollars to buy.

  26. Sara jakobs says:

    I am catching up on your posts after a bit of an internet/blog break (to much gomi style crap creaping up everywher!) and this was brilliant!! What a great read post detoxification :)

    I love the stripper names! My older daughter just turned three and sometimes turns into Sparkles the dog! Okey alot of the times, for long period of times. Either she is brilliantly imaginative or just plain crazy!!!

    • dig dig says:

      Welcome back! :) I’ve never been on gomi and don’t plan to check it out –sounds pretty disheartening. Yay for internet breaks; we all need them!! xo