Some of you may not know I grew up running barefoot through cut corn rows, galloping my pony through shaded trails with only fragments of faded twine for reins, shampooing my hair in a crystal-clear lake on summer Saturdays, and playing tag on combines and seeders and John Deere tractors during which if you touched the ground at any time, you were IT.
I think back on those days sometimes, recall the damp and dark of summer nights, the heart-pounding thrill of Kick-the-Can, the lonesome, eery cry of loons. If I think hard, I can almost smell the lake again, touch the pebbled back of a toad in my hand, burrow my toes into the cooling sand of nightfall.
This week, I attempted to bring some of that beloved country-girl back in the form of a darling little chicken house for our family’s first-ever laying hens. (And yes, we even named our pretty little ladies.)
The roof is one of my favorite features. I think it elevates our coop from ordinary to something truly special (even though Fireman wasn’t convinced at first!) I borrowed the roof idea from Liz’s potting shed at Love Grows Wild, (which is adorable!) and merely tweaked hers to suit our needs. Thank you, Liz.
We cut round holes to serve as windows so we could peer inside the “house” part of the coop. Under the holes, we fashioned a lift-up door for easy cleaning and access. The black hardware adds a finishing touch. Can you see the three nesting boxes with dividers on the right?
This view is looking up inside the “house” where you can see the roosting pole we fashioned for the chickens. We’ve already seen them enjoy the roosting pose! This old child’s rake was used by all our kids when they were younger, so we thought it would be a nostalgic addition to our coop.
I added a ceramic knob from my furniture stash to the nesting box lid as well as black hinges for hardware detail. No plain-Jane around here!
We’re hoping to find an egg treasure here soon.
Another favorite feature is the pair of corbels attached to the upper corners of the door. In the middle of construction, I suddenly remembered these corbels from a stash of décor I’ve had forever and I knew they’d be perfect on our little handmade door. I ran so fast back into the house I think I left Fireman’s head spinning. I don’t know why he’s never as excited about details as I am. Don’t they add the perfect amount of charm?
For the Fresh Eggs sign, I used an old board we had on hand and painted it black. I then used Microsoft Word to print words and a clipart chicken image. I used carbon paper to transfer the words and image to the painted board and with white acrylic paint, carefully filled in the traced letters and image.
Here are some process pictures:
Did we follow a building plan? Well, no. What we did was watch a few YouTube videos, preview a few chicken coop pictures on Pinterest, and then I sketched out a penciled design with rough measurements. Fireman hit a few snags with the nesting box attachment and roof design, but we managed to work them out through trial and error.
As you can see, we opted to build our coop indoors, which we realize is rather nontraditional. The chickens do still have an outdoor yard that is roughly 8′ x 20′ and accessed by the cutout you can see in the photos. Because we live in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the temperature can fall to -50 degrees, Fireman wasn’t interested in heating another building, however small. Our large, detached shop already had a doggie door cut through this back wall, so we opted to utilize the doggie door and build our coop indoors. We’re hoping, too, that an indoor setup will make for easier maintenance and personal connection with the chickens through the long, dark Alaskan winters where going outside can be downright painful.
And by the way, the hens’ names are Maribelle, Buttercup, and Charlotte, and we are already amazed at the differences in their personalities. Maribelle, our Dominique breed, is definitely the friendliest and always the first one to come over and greet us. Buttercup, our Golden Sex-link, is downright ornery. Charlotte, the Welsummer, is curiously wary but will still let us hold her without too much fuss.
This chicken adventure is a learning process for us. I’m sure after one year as hen owners, we will have many stories to tell, and hopefully a few eggs as reward for our labor.