For the last year I’ve been responsible for exactly two lives on this planet: me and the cat. In the last month I thought it would be fun to quadruple that number and see what came of it. Wait, no no I went one step beyond quadrupling… what’s that called? Quintuple? Quintify? That doesn’t even sound like a real thing. Whatever. I now have five times the amount of creatures I’m responsible for keeping alive on a daily basis, and for a girl who sometimes spends 30 minutes of her day unsuccessfully trying to find pants to put on, uh, this kind of a big deal.
I also had four chickens simultaneously climb up on my fingers and eat out of my hand today, so it’s also kind of awesome.
And what it means for the next few weeks is that I’ve become hyper-focused on putting in a proper fence for my boys, and building a fantastical chicken coop for my girls. When I say “hyperfocused” I mean that I woke up at 5:00 this morning, couldn’t fall back asleep, and spent the next hour and a half researching the best type of foundation for a chicken coop before I actually got up to do farm chores. Plus I am just at my effing wits end with painting and sanding and switching out electrical outlets… for the sake of what is left of my sanity, I need to get outside and actually build something.
Now, the last time I built something from the ground up, it was a 900 square foot addition to a house, and it took me about two years. This time I’m planning to build a 150 square foot chicken coop in six weeks. Yep. Totally reasonable. So I’ve started with a rough plan and now I’m moving on to the first step of actual construction: Foundations.
Let’s have an honest moment. I’m a carpenter at heart… I like framing, and trim work, and cabinet making, and otherwise hitting shit with a hammer. Foundations require planning, precision, and concrete. And, in my case, alcohol. But just because it’s not my favorite part of the building process, that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Chicken Coop Foundations
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Coops come in all shapes and sizes. Many coops are either raised off the ground on stilts or wheels, like this…
Or built on the platform of a “floating” structure like one of those garden sheds you can buy in a kit.
Those things are great, especially if you have limited space, but 1.) I don’t have limited space, and 2.) In my opinion, building something you can actually walk into with a shovel makes cleaning a much easier chore. Given the fact that I’ve been shoveling shit out of a donkey barn twice a day for a month now, I feel like I have some level of expertise in this area. Also, I once owned a floating shed that sat on some concrete blocks and that fun little space between the floor and the ground attracted about 500 mice and one very large, very angry woodchuck. So. Probably not going that direction.
It’s less common to find plans or pictures of a walk-in style chicken coop with a dirt or concrete floor, but after doing a little research I feel like this is the right way to go.
Now, back when the dirt-floor donkey barn was built at Memorial, we used a typical framing structure, and poured six concrete piers to anchor it to for the foundation:
Here’s how it worked in cross-section:
The trick is, those concrete piers have to be dead level on the top, which means you probably need a grade laser and at least two people while pouring them.
The other type of structure I personally have experience with is a typical house or garage foundation, where you excavate the entire area of the foundation, put a concrete footer below the frost line, then put a poured or masonry wall up to grade, and your frame sits on that. (Basically exactly what I describe here but in smaller scale and instead of a basement floor both sides of the wall would be backfilled.)
Now that would be a permanent and correctly built foundation, but it would also require a lot of time, equipment, people, and money, and I’m building a chicken coop here… not a bomb shelter.
So the third option I’ve been pondering is building the chicken coop the same way that pole barns are built. In effect, sinking posts into the ground to bear the load of the structure. Similar, in fact, to how I built this pergola…
You can see I’m drawing on what experience I can to help me figure out the best way to do this. I’m factoring in time, money, and, most importantly, the ability for me to build this thing without anyone around to hold the other end of the tape measure, so to speak.
Here are my non-negotables:
- The coop has to be on a solid foundation (ie set on something below the frost line). I’m not interested in moveable or floating for this particular structure.
- There can’t be any gap between the walls and the floor, to protect my nuggets from predators.
- The floor will be concrete pavers that I’m going to form and pour myself
Here are my nice-to-haves:
- I would like to be able to do this with minimal help
- I would like to have it done in 6-7 weeks
- I would like to spend less money building this coop than I did, say, buying the house
So, here’s the verdict…
A Pole Barn “Foundation”
It’s really less of a foundation and more of a building structure, but here’s how the bottom half of a pole barn works…
(This image comes from this great website which gives a ton of step-by-step info on building a pole barn.)
The good news is, with a structure like this, I can single-handedly dig holes, pour the concrete footer, set and level the posts, and trim the tops as needed for level. The bad news is, framing for a pole barn works on entirely different principles than framing for a house, which means this is something that will require more thought and research as opposed to just building it in my sleep… but you know I like a challenge.
Next up in the Great Coop Adventure… Planning for Pole Barn Framing. Why yes, it is as exciting as it sounds.
Here’s the tentative plan to get this baby from a half-assed plan in my brain to an actual structure my flock can live in:
- Week 1 (this weekend) – Stake building site, buy materials, start pouring concrete pavers for floor
- Week 2 – Drill or dig foundation holes, set posts (also drill fence post holes)
- Week 3 – Build roof trusses and install without killing myself
- Week 4 – Install girders + window and door frames
- Week 5 – Install metal roof
- Week 6 – Install board and batten siding, windows, door, and interior features
- Week 7 – Install floor
It’s also currently 33 degrees outside. Ha. I so got this.