I have chickens!

Having grown up with chickens as a child I knew that when I eventually had kids of my own I would like them to also have chickens. They are the perfect pet, they don’t pee on your favourite rug, they don’t lick their butt and then lick your face, and every morning they pop out a delicious gift! Yum!

Getting chickens in our yard was a harder task than I had imagine. My wife wasn’t entirely sold on the idea and after some rational discourse [read: groveling] she gave in and I had the green light, but on the condition that I take care of them.

Well, at the time I was too blinded by my victory to know what I was getting myself in to. It turns out that chickens like to poop on things, such as my paving, my chairs, my table, and pretty much anything else they can stand on top of (which is surprisingly quite a number of things, I thought those wings weren’t supposed to work!).

So after a torturous few weeks of constantly cleaning up after our 3 new pets – Chick, Ken, and Burger – I decided to build them an enclosure where they will be happy and free to roam the wild expanses of a few square meters.

Before I began building I was summoned by the Gatekeeper and warned that the new enclosure must be:

  • Not flimsy
  • Not ugly
  • Keep the chickens inside
  • Not expensive
  • Not ugly
  • Abnot ugly

The chicken coop has a very large tray under the bit where the chickens sleep, so it can be slid out and cleaned. This meant that I needed to make a wide enough door to be able to slide the tray out, which in turn meant I needed to weld my own door. Luckily, I had some spare metal square tubing for this.

Once the metal working was complete it was time to begin the labour and wood working.

Figuring we won’t have the chickens forever, I decided to use star pickets for the posts. Each post was 1.8m in length and was driven around 600mm in to the ground. In hindsight I should have gotten the 1.5m pickets as it would’ve made the job of disassembling the enclosure much easier (sorry future Eddy!)

The chicken wire I bought was of a higher quality and I planned to use stainless steel cable to keep the wire secure and straight.

Once the pickets were in place, the stainless steel wire was tightened, and everything was still relatively level, it was time to fix the chicken wire. This took a while to do only because I did it on my own and it was very cumbersome holding the roll of wire in place while working.
I opted to use cable ties to hold it in place. I have a lifetime supply of them and they are so easy to install and remove (with the added bonus that they don’t stab you like twist wire does).

After some changes to the way the enclosure meets the coop I decided to use the coop door itself as part of the enclosure.

  • At night the chickens go inside the coop on their own. I then close the coop door to prevent other animals from eating the chickens food during the night, and also to stop foxes from getting at the chickens. Closing the coop door opens up access to the enclosure, making it easier for me to grab the eggs in the morning.
  • During the day the chickens are let out to roam in the enclosure. Opening the coop door prevents the chickens from exiting the enclosure as the door acts as part of the enclosure itself.

Magnets taken from old hard drives are used as latches. They are super strong and effective.

Sometimes I forget to close the coop door at night, which is bad because I not only allow other nocturnal animals access to the chickens food, I also risk the chickens being taken by foxes.
In the future I plan to build a machine which will automatically open/close the door depending on the amount of sunlight it sees. If this does end up happening, I will add the construction of this machine to the blog.

[UPDATE 31/10/16]: So this did end up happening. See Coopener – the IoT Chicken Coop door opener project.