The current little coop was only 1.5m x 2m, with eight nest boxes and a couple of roosts, just big enough to move around in for cleaning and by no means totally weather-proof. It was supposed to be just for a week or two! I'm actually a bit ashamed to show it here, it looks so tiny in this photograph! But it'll be good to be able to look back and compare!
I'm also going to be landscaping the area in the chicken run, which is quite a nice big size, lawned and fenced. I'd like to put in shrubs and flowers that are pretty, hardy and chicken-friendly. I've got a Lavender bush given to me by a friend, obviously with much love in her heart because it has grown beautifully since I planted it, which I'll be transplanting to the chicken run (I'm not quite happy with where it is at the moment anyway) and I've just bought some nice Rosemary, Sage and Thyme bushes. A couple of Aloes, which don't need much water, might not be amiss either, as a great deal of the run gets full sunlight the whole day and the chickens don't touch them. And they provide beautiful colour during their flowering period in winter.
It was a difficult decision to make as to what materials to use. My first thought was wood, as it looks so pretty, but first of all, wood is an expensive commodity in South Africa and, secondly, none of us around here are carpenters of any sorts. My second thought, because of cost, was poles and metal sheeting, but that means very cold housing in winter.
So finally, I decided on a brick structure with a concrete floor and corrugated iron roof. Bricks are easy to work with (even I have built a few small structures!), cost-effective and very strong. It is also easy to decorate with the necessary nest boxes, roosts, shelves for storage and tools and secure and safe against the elements and predators. And a further cost-saving is the fact that I've already got two existing walls, so I only need to build two walls, the side and the front.
Ventilation will be window openings (but no window frames) covered with wire mesh for security. My materials list included 1000 bricks (for starters), cement, sand and stone for the concrete floor (4m x 4.5m - approx. 13ft. x 15ft), wood for the rafters (already in stock from decking removed from the patio) and about 6 or 7 corrugated iron sheets and a box of roof screws. Also a door and door frame and the hardware like hinges and door handles.
My plans include a corner with shelving to use as a storage space for food, buckets, baskets, brooms, rakes and any other equipment I normally have to fetch from the tool shed when I want to clean; ten nest boxes (double storey) and an area for roosts and food.
I'm sure my chooks were very happy in their old little coop (it always amazes me how they can make the best of what they are given, happily settling into their routine with no qualms), but my girls are long overdue for proper housing and they deserve it for all the happy hours they provide me with.
The trick is going to be seeing what they do when the old coop gets broken down and they return to the run late afternoon to find their whole routine disrupted. I might probably also have to herd them through the door for the first time and then leave them to sort themselves out.
It's going to be fun watching the squabbling over the best perches or nest boxes and, of course, egg-laying will probably stop for a few days. But hey, small price to pay for the luxury of a beautiful new hen house!
Keep an eye out for Episode 2!