My coop customisation and protection

Building the coop

So! My Devon coop with double run came from chickencoopsdirect.com a couple of weeks ago – In about 6-8 large boxes. I live in a first floor flat, so the poor man who had to deliver it wasn’t too impressed! But I sent him off with a coke for his troubles (albeit diet coke)

Our allotment is just down the road from us (about a 10 minute walk) so we unpacked the cage and loaded it into our boot (it took two trips in our smart car, but those with a normal sized vehicle should manage it in one trip if you’re setting up in an allotment rather than your back garden.

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You would be amazed as to what you can fit in a Smart car!

I was quite disappointed that the locks provided for the run/coop were simple sliding bolts (I don’t think this was made very clear on the site). This meant I had to shell out (haha!) a further £25 or so on latches that I could secure padlocks to as well as the corresponding padlocks. A further disadvantage I discovered when adding the locks – the sliding door (pictured below) allows very little room to screw any nails in, so when you do put them in – it is extremely susceptible to the wood splintering and splitting.

 

The house was quite easy to set up and took us a morning to make sure everything was up and in tact. I would say that the instructions could give better guidance on when would be a good time to add the automatic door opener that you can buy as an extra. It would also be beneficial for the instructions or at least the site to give you guidance on when would be a good time to paint the coop! The owners of chickencoopsdirect.com advise you to treat/paint it – but I could have probably benefited from being advised to paint it BEFORE construction. It was just extremely long and difficult to paint it afterwards. I know some of you may be just screaming for me to use my own common sense and I did toy with the idea.. but hey! We can’t all be perfect.

 

“Prettifying” the coop!

Once the coop and run was up, we painted them both separately before attaching. I used Cuprinol “Beach Blue” for the coop main walls and the run, then I used Cuprinol “Country Cream” for the trimming and the run doors. I can’t rate this paint enough! It’s safe to use on hen houses and it actually smells great! (Don’t worry – I wasn’t huffing it or anything, it just gives off very minimal, non toxic fumes).

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Please excuse the mess in the background (a box from one of the runs)

As you can see from the above image, the runs aren’t very tall! @pearcehamblin is a good 6ft 2″ and slim and I’m 5ft 5″ and have some cushion for the pushin’ and can we can both just about squeeze ourselves in and out of the run doors. This was a main concern of ours, as we would like to handle our chickens and it’s not going to be straight forward trying to lean in and pick them up. If the suppliers plan to make any changes, I would suggest they put a latch that can open in the roof.

The eagle eyed of you have probably noticed that we have some wire netting coming out of the bottom of the coop – which leads me to my next point!

 

Predator Proofing your coop!

Foxes, badgers and rats will probably be your main concern when securing your chicken coop. Ensuring predators can’t get in is equally as important as making sure your poultry can’t get out!

I read up a lot of articles about predator-proofing your coop, and they often recommend wire “skirts” at the bottom of your coop. This means you have chicken wire come down the sides of the coop and it bends along the floor and lays on the floor of the coop. This is a great idea and foxes/badgers often start to dig to get under the coop along the wall. If they can’t get through, they soon give up.

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Example of a “no dig skirt” – Thank you google!

I wanted to go one further, as my chicken coop isn’t in my back garden – I can’t check out my kitchen window for predators in the middle of the night. We dug out a ditch the length and width of our run and laid the bottom of it with chicken wire. We then placed the chicken coop on top of the ditch and buried the chicken wire. We insured there was a “skirt” of chicken wire all the way around the run and stapled the skirt to the chicken coop so foxes and rats alike couldn’t dig under it.

You can get chicken wire online and the site I bought my coop from sells it for about £45 to £60 a role, but I got two rolls of galvanised wire mesh from Wilko.com for £5.50 for a 10m roll and they did the job brilliantly!

We filled the inside of the coop back in with dirt, so the wire can’t be seen and it’s deep enough that the birds don’t unveil it when they scratch or take a dirt bath. Where the coop meets the run, we have also nailed the mesh to the coop so that foxes, rats and badgers can’t get under the coop and into the run. (This is key! As the coop we have is slightly raised so there is a gap under the coop which can give direct access to the run.) We actually had a visit from Mr Fox this morning and as we drove up we saw him scamper away! We could see he had tried to dig under the coop (to no avail!).

Some people on forums have asked before about doing a similar method, but not covering the wire with dirt after inside the coop. I would strongly suggest against doing this as Chickens love to scratch and dig and roll in the dirt – which would be hampered if there was mesh underfoot!

This wire method is all we have done to protect against any predators; for the moment anyway!

Some people suggest urinating around the coop to ward off foxes as they then think “man” is near by – however human urine is quite high in sugars due to all the carbs we eat, which attracts rats. (For anyone wondering why rats are an issue – if they get into your hen coop, they tend to gnaw at your chickens legs and spread diseases.)

There are some man made fox repellants that omit a high frequency noise that deters foxes as well as ones that omit scents.

The bottom of our coop also has a slide out tray for easy cleaning – BEWARE! anyone with a similar build, foxes have been proven to get underneath this and use their back to move the draw forward. Thankfully our coop comes with little wooden blocks you screw in to secure the tray in place.

Please comment below to share ways that you secured your chicken coop – so others can benefit from your genius!

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