Granny Green's guide to chicken coops

The first thing I thought when I saw what was to become my new backyard was: I could get chickens!

I did some reading, looked into the cost of ready-made chicken tractors and researched chicken breeds.

For some time, that was as far as things went. Work and other commitments got in the way.

But the idea remained and with lots of encouragement from my family, the great build began.

You see, it seemed silly to fork out big buck-buck-bucks to house a small flock of backyard chooks. Surely, it would be cheaper to use our own labour and bang together a coop that was more suited to our needs.

We wanted the coop to be transportable, attractive and big enough to house three laying hens.

We found many examples of what we were looking for in books and online but none of them had the kind of detailed instructions a family of laymen builders would require.

An A-frame design found in a library book seemed the most likely contender, so one weekend we took the book down to the local hardware store and - with some dubious advice from the salesman - dove right in.

Over the following weeks - and months, the costs mounted up while the tasks seemed insurmountable.

Unable to find a source of recycled timber in Dubbo, we bought everything new – blowing our budget through the roof.

It wasn't just the materials, we also found every week there was a new tool we needed to get the next job done – a new saw, a new screwdriver, new drill bits, a staple gun.

While I am sure we will get further use out of all these things, they still added to the cost of the build.

Building in the winter, we struggled with short daylight hours and a rainstorm which washed away a whole day's painting.

Once the basic structure was completed and all the materials brought home ready for the final assemblage, I decided we needed a boost in motivation and I began looking in earnest for our chickens.

Having missed out on some silver-laced wyandottes advertised locally, I was worried we wouldn't have any chooks to fill our beautiful hen-house when it was completed.

The next old-breed pullets advertised in the area were some Sussex ladies soon to be travelling through from Parkes. A few emails later and our girls were on the way.

With no time to spare, we stayed up half the night, working under lights, to get the roof on and the house secure. 

The next day we welcomed two buff Sussex and one little coronation Sussex to their new pent-house apartment.

All things considered, I believe it would have been cheaper to buy a ready-made hen house.

But I don't believe it would be as beautiful, as sturdy or as comfortable for our girls.

The finished coop turned out to be a little heavy (two people can move it with some difficulty) and a little bit small for three large chooks (we allow the chooks to free-range the backyard throughout the day) but we regard it with the utmost pride.

The chickens have been an absolute joy and their eggs are the best I've ever tasted.

Some DOs and DON'Ts of building your own chook house:

DO: Find or draw a detailed plan with accurate measurements - Mistakes will be costly and time consuming.

DO: Seek out second-hand building materials – Since completing this project I have seen piles of unwanted timber and other useful items discarded around Dubbo. If you can tap into these your planet and your bank balance will thank you.

DO: Invest in quality tools – Our job would have been made much simpler if we had channelled our money into better tools and equipment, e.g. a workbench and cordless power-tools.

DON'T: Think you can “wing it” despite having no building experience and only a few rusty old tools.

DON'T: Give up! Your muscles may be aching and your fingers bruised and bleeding but at the end of the day, it is all worth it.

And last but not least, DON'T: Trust your chickens with your vege patch – we learnt this one the hard way.

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