For the long Melbourne Cup Weekend, we decided to forgo the cup and build a coup. The original plan was to wait until after Christmas, but we (including the landlord) became too impatient and decided to just go for it. Our aim is to take this opportunity to get our feet wet and learn by doing between now and when we build our own homestead.
The mother hen was so impatient to get this project going that we decided to just wing the whole design! The one thing we were certain about though was that we didn’t want to spend much money. So, we cruised around town picking up old shipping pallets. Add that to some junk lying around the back yard and we had all we needed to build a pleasant home for the chickens. The actual coup construction end of the project ended up only costing us about $30. And to think we considered buying a used one for $300!
Coming Home to Roost
We spent about a day building the coup and then set out to get its new inhabitants. Two of the hens are already laying, one will be laying in about two months, and two won’t lay until at least four months. It’s a good idea to have chickens of varying ages so you’ve always got some that are actively laying. They are all varying breeds but none of them are hybrids and they’re all known for laying but not being very flighty.
Click on the first picture to begin the slideshow and see expanded descriptions of the step-by-step.
We first lay down two of the flat pallets as a base. Since they weren’t exactly the same height, we had to create some shims underneath to have a flat floor. Because there’s a space at the base of the bungalow that animals can get through, we took some bricks from the garden and built up a short wall to cover the opening.
We secure a slatted pallet to one side of the floor to serve as the left hand wall.
The next wall goes up, although because there was nothing to nail it into we gave it some support using a 2×4. We made sure to pick a pallet that was taller so the roof would have enough pitch to allow runoff.
The remaining flat pallet was put up to form part of the front of the coup.
We avoided buying scrap metal for a roof by making use of a tarp that was going to otherwise be thrown away. It was placed so that it would run from ground level up and over the top of the coup. To supplement our pallet supply, we purchased three 2×4’s to form the base of the roof. They were screwed into the two pallets on either side of the coup.
We decided to splurge and spend an extra $10 on a plastic board to lay over the tarp. This would provide an extra layer of waterproofing, create a flatter surface, and prevent the tarp from flapping around too much. On the inside of the coup, we create a track using wood from the pallets, inside of which another pallet would be placed as a sliding door.
Left over pallets were placed on top of the roof to hold down the tarp and plastic. As if on queue, a light rainstorm came through just after finishing the roof and much to our satisfaction the inside stayed perfectly dry!
We started taking scraps left over to start patching holes so it’d be harder for any snakes, mice, or rats to get at our chickens and their eggs.
Up goes a fence to keep the dogs out of the chicken’s area. The two worst dogs for chickens are Terriers and we have three of them, one of which we know from experience LOVES to chase birds. The fencing cost us a bit more (not included in the $30) but it’ll be worth it to keep our chickens alive.
Next we bring in hay and woodchips to provide bedding for the hens. Using the deep bedding method should make it so we don’t have to clean out the coup as often.
Finally, our new housemates arrive. The three pictured here were a bit more adventurous than the two little ones when they first arrived. They immediately started checking out the yard and searching for bugs to munch on.
For now they’re just munching on our grass but pretty soon they’ll be eating through kitchen scraps to help provide compost for the gardens.
The hen on the left is most fond of the little ones, the white one keeps mostly to herself, and the grey speckled one is hands down the Alpha. She can be quite the bully.
We’ll be supplementing their foraging with chicken feed, as well as providing them crushed eggshells (for calcium) and kitchen scraps.
The little ones stayed in the coup most of the first day and night, but on the second day they started venturing out much more frequently. One even got a giant worm on her first outing. Ozzy looks in from the fence line. Surprisingly, he wasn’t as bad as I thought he would be. I spent much of the first day together training him to behave around the chickens. I’m optimistic based on progress that someday we’ll be able to take the fence down.
Inside the coup, the two little ones are almost always together, and not too far from their protector.
We placed a roost along the back wall for the birds to hang out on, and a cat carrier on the far right that will serve as a nesting box. They prefer laying in dark enclosed areas.