Thanks to Julia Kelly, in the snowy north Idaho town of Rathdrum, for these photos of the coop she built last summer by modifying the A-frame plans at chickencoopplan.com, and also details of how she keeps chickens in the winter.
“They are doing just swell in all the snow. They used to live in the barn, which you can see in the background, but when I increased the flock size to eight hens I just couldn’t stand the quantity of chicken poop in the barn any more (and the utter annoyance of laying my hand in a poop too often). They were not happy about being relocated to the new chicken yard last summer, and five of them lost all their back feathers in rebellion, but they all feathered out again beautifully just in time for the cold weather.
As you can see, their yard is fenced in 4-ft electroplastic poultry netting from Premier Fence. I don’t have it electrified because I don’t need to keep out predators, and because they cannot see a solid bar at the top they don’t know where it ends – I guess they think it goes up endlessly into the sky because they have never flown over it (and in the barn they routinely flew up to roost on top of 8-ft-tall cabinets).
The coop has an 8’x8′ footprint, so the eight hens have 8 sq ft each of floor space, which is plenty even in the snow when they don’t go outside.
When the snow sublimates or melts off and there is bare dirt under their tree I chase them outside, but otherwise they are happy to hang out together and stay cozy inside. This coop is built partly from scrap I had around, and it’s not painted and cute because that’s always last on my list of chores.
You can see in the photo of the roof line that there’s plenty of heat generated – it keeps the thick snow blanket melted away under the ridge eve.
The two small plastic trash cans on one side hold easy-access food (one is scratch and one is layer pellets), and the one larger trash can on the other side holds 39 gallons of water, with a 1000W submerged heater and a bucket on a hook for easy dipping.
Inside are two feeders, so I don’t have to refill often, and an 8 gallon enclosed waterer sitting on a heated water platform. The enclosed waterer keeps the liquid water from evaporating quickly, and I don’t have to refill it more than every few weeks, and they always have adequate unfrozen water.
I like things to be as low-labor as possible. The coop sits on bare ground and I use coarse horse-bedding shavings, 4-6 inches thick. I bed them using the “deep-litter” method – lots of shavings, new added as necessary as the old litter composts and shrinks, and regularly stirred up with a long-handled three-prong garden fork. This aerates the litter and keeps it composting in place – the chickens stay warm and dry and the coop doesn’t smell.
That’s all – I thought you’d enjoy seeing what I did with your very useful coop plans.”