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It looks like it might be hard to access the center part or the unit for collecting the eggs being that it's 8 feet long. Do you close the top part at night? Do you face it toward the south for light for laying, or since it is so open, does it matter?

I keep the side panels on at all times unless I am cleaning it out. The side is only off in the pictures so that passersby can see the interior. Chickens do not typically lay their eggs in the roost area in the middle. They use the two nest boxes on the end.

If you have problems with raccoons or skunks in your neighborhood, I would recommend closing the top part by raising the ramp. Otherwise leave it open so the chickens can go as they please in the morning.

Depending on the season, I will adjust the orientation according to the prevailing wind. During the winter, I aim the ark so that the wind hits the long side and is directed over the top. During the summer, I aim the end of the ark into the wind so that it forms a small wind tunnel to keep the chickens cool.

Are two nest boxes enough?

All my chickens seem to want to lay in the same next box. One will be full and the other will be empty. Two nests are a gracious plenty. The industry standard for free-range egg production is one nest box for every ten birds. Chickens will seek out an enclosed, quiet, dark place to lay their eggs.

How many chickens would this hold?

This is a comfortable 4 to 5 bird chicken coop for large breeds. It will hold 6 to 8 medium sized chickens based on the 4 sq feet per bird formula. That's a 2'x2' area. Measure that out with your hands and you'll see that their space requirements are minimal. You will want to move the ark every couple of days to keep them from completely denuding the ground under the run.

Hey, Your design looks very interesting. Just curious what do you suggest to use with your design as a feeder? Also what are the general overall dimensions to get an idea of the size of your design, and how many chickens can you keep in your design?

I use a standard 3.5 gallon hanging feeder from Tractor Supply with this unit. I hang the feeder and waterer in the run area using screw in hooks. The footprint is approx 4' x 8' and stands approx 42" tall.

How easy is the “upstairs” to clean?

Simple. Just line the roost area with a thick layer of newspaper. Make sure you remove any glossy circular inserts. When you are ready to clean it, take off the sides and roll up the newspaper. That can then go into the compost bin.

Are the plans easily modified to make the coop larger? We plan on making the coop 2 feet longer to accommodate up to 8 chickens. Can you tell me which of the items in the materials list needs to be 2 ft longer for this change?

Of course, if by larger you mean longer. You can purchase any length of wood you desire with little modification. If you want it wider than 4 feet well... that will require extensive modification and the recalculation of practically every dimension.

This coop will accommodate up to 8 birds based on the 4 sq feet per bird formula. Each additional foot in length that you increase the coop will allow space for another bird. To extend another two feet, just purchase the following wood 2' longer.

  • 3x 1x3x8' --> 1x3x10'
  • 8x 1x6x8' --> 1x6x10'
  • 2x 1x6x10' --> 1x6x12'
  • 1x 1x4x8' treated --> 1x4x10' treated
How do you keep them warm in the winter with the exposed bottom half of the coop?

Chickens are hardy and are wrapped in a fully adjustable down sleeping bag. However, I would not recommend this type of coop for locations with lengthy. bitterly cold winters. Their waddles and combs get frostbitten. You'd want to build an completely enclosed "barnstyle" coop for those environments.

Occasional bitter cold is no problem for chickens. They are surrounded by a self adjusting, fully insulating, down sleeping bag across 90% of their body. I would use the other half of the plywood you purchased to cover the windward side of the coop's run. Leave the leeward side open for light and ventilation.

You can run an 80 - 100w light bulb out to the coop. I'm have 25 pullets in a Catawba ConvertiCoop that were born on Oct 20th, 2008 and are beginning to feather out (lose their fluffy down feathers). Our temperatures at night have dropped below 20 degrees F and the birds are fine with a light bulb for warmth.

How do you defeat predators?

Completely enclosing the lower run (including the floor) in a smaller mesh could do the trick. You could use a 1x2 welded/galvanized mesh on the sides. This is the same kind of wire mesh I make my rabbit cages from and can be purchased by the roll from Bass Rabbit Supplies (WW2 1/2) or Klubertanz.

Personally, I like 2x3 green vinyl coated garden wire. It doesn't chew up my hands when I'm working with it like the uncoated stuff does. Rather than choose a smaller mesh, use a dual prong approach to predator control. First put down a layer of twisted chicken wire. This is not to keep critters out, but to keep the chicken's heads in. If a chicken pokes its head out of the run while a raccoon is prowling about, POP... now you've got Mike the Headless Chicken! Over top of that, put a layer of the 2x3 wire to keep the predators out. 

A predator pushed the side up and off the lip in the middle of the night, and got my chickens. How can I ensure this doesn't happen for our next batch? 

First of all, my condolences on losing your chickens. As I mention in the book, most chickens will not live a long and prosperous life. But a way to make your side panels more difficult for both predators and for you to remove, is to screw a couple of slotted angle brackets [like these at Lowes.com] at each end of the panel to the bottom of the lip facing the inside, so they "catch hold" of the handle piece. 

A less elegant but positively more secure 
alternative is to screw two eye bolts into the middle legs on each side, then run a tie-down strap from one eye hook, across the top of the coop, to the other eye bolts, and tighten the strap.

Can you move the coop without harming the chickens... or do we wait until later when they are roosting?? 

Of course! They'll just kind of walk along underneath the coop. Just don't lift the ark so high up that they can run out from underneath. We've done that before when moving it over some rocks. When that happens, if your birds are a little on the wild side, you just have to wait for them to come back to the coop to roost that evening. Make sure you leave the door open for them.

Do chickens make good pets for children?

Absolutely! But I would recommend that you take the time to explain to your children that their chickens are at the the very bottom of the food pyramid. There is a reason that everything tastes "...just like chicken". Emotionally prepare them for the day when something may accidentally happen to Clucky or Cody.

Death is a natural part of the life cycle. Given a long enough time frame, everyone's chances of survival drop to 0%. Our part in life is to make the best of the time we have available, and having pet chickens enriches that time for my family and I.

I am interested in what the approximate cost of the chicken coop after building it would be. I am researching raising chickens for their eggs and find this movable chicken coop would fit in with helping to fertilize my backyard lawn.

Approx materials costs, due to the fact that this is a wood structure, is between $175 - $225 depending on your locale... and your cost-conscious shoppability. I have no qualms in playing the Big Box home improvement centers against each other with their Cost + 10% Guarantees.

Do the plans include how to attach wheels to it?

Wheels are outside the scope of this plan. I have an idea for wheels, but it would require the services of a welder to create the frame.

The chicken is the country's, but the city eats it. - George Herbert
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