“HERE’S HOW TO BUILD A BETTER CHICKEN COOP”
Steve Maxwell, House Works, Ottawa Citizen, Homes and Condos section
April 30, 2016
Backyard chicken husbandry is on the rise probably because our modern and convenient food system has a hard time delivering a close enough connection to the land for many of us. Mr. Maxwell and family have kept chickens at their home on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, for fifteen years. He shares his ideas for a good chicken coop, starting with the issue of modularity. He opines that several smaller, semi-portable coops are preferable to one large permanently- anchored house. This is especially so regarding a city or suburban backyard where permanent coops are not as sensible. “People keep building the wrong kind of chicken house, only to have to stick to it because they’ve invested so much in the structure.”
Mr. Maxwell provides a very useful list of the negative aspects of permanent coops and he adds that they are almost always troublesome and expensive to build. Flock size cannot be reduced or expanded because of the lack of flexibility of a permanent chicken abode. He continues: “Keeping chickens in one place all the time will turn that area of your lawn into a dusty, vegetation-free wasteland!” They are difficult to heat with winter sun, an important issue in Canada.
Mr. Maxwell’s solution is a “modular coop community” which he designed so that one or more smaller, semi-portable structures can be mixed and matched in a number of ways. He raises some day-old chicks in one and uses another as a production house for adult birds, for example. The “modulars” are solid and surprisingly warm in the winter because of a clear solar roof; but can be easily ventilated in the summer. He claims that they are simple to build and to move to different locations. An additional benefit is that the modular chicken barns can be pulled out of production for a time to break a pest cycle and are easy to clean. His coops sit on legs raising the structure off the ground, keeping it away from damp soil and preventing the wood from rotting. This design also keeps the coops above the snow-level.
Mr. Maxwell opines that the modular coop is easy to build and is essentially a wooden box constructed from three-eighth inch plywood. With a hinged roof, the collection of eggs is much simpler and allows him to reach down and retrieve the eggs without opening the door. The same is true when it is time to add feed and water. He feels that a large door allows him to add feed and water more easily and to remove manure at cleaning time. Nearly one whole side swings outward, and, with no lip above the floor level, manure and bedding can be easy to scrape out.
The free plans for Mr. Maxwell’s coop may be found and downloaded at “baileylineroad.com/chickens”, an entertaining website. He concludes that chickens are great fun to watch, referring to this pursuit as “chicken TV”.