Chicken coop building has been a whole new experience for us at 5500 feet next to the Rocky Mountains. We based our design on the Garden Coop and added some external nest boxes like our old coop in SF. We used coarse sand in the run and coop again which continues to keep things tidy…now with the added benefit of buffering against the wider temperature swings here. To beef it up, we chose metal roofing instead of plastic for heavier snow and wind loads. The chicken yard is enclosed with a portable electric fence to keep out coyotes and bears. Yup, black bears! They destroyed our neighbor’s bee hives even with an electric fence so fingers crossed our chickens will stay safe.
It’s the real deal out here. Our property borders on Left Hand Creek which serves as a wildlife corridor. It’s neat to see the turkeys, deer, bunnies, but we also share this land with bears, coyotes, and even mountain lions.
Last week, we got a major wake up call. The temps dropped into the single digits (high) and a foot of snow fell. T-rex decided to molt big time just when she needed her downy insulation the most. After one night out in that weather, I found the chickens motionless huddled in the coop, T-rex shivering with some frostbite on her comb. So we had to bring everyone into the basement for a few days of r&r while we added some insulation to the coop.
We selected this foil covered bubble wrap stuff which was not only effective but way easier to transport and install. I don’t know why you don’t hear about this product more on the backyard chicken forums. It isn’t that pricey and doesn’t require covering since the chickens can’t eat it (unlike the pink stuff). So far, we have only installed one layer of insulation and that’s working well. We also wrapped the run in clear 6 mil plastic which creates a wind barrier and greenhouse heating effect. I know you aren’t supposed to heat a chicken coop for a number of good reasons (fire risk, power outage, etc.) but we feel more comfortable having a supplemental heat source ready for temporary use in exceptional cases. For that purpose, I bought this low power 100W radiant flat panel heater which has a low fire risk. We are using it briefly while T-rex is naked.
Now everyone is happy, especially the humans who don’t like to share their house with stinky chickens. 🙂
Here are some pics of the coop retrofit that I took today, minus the snow since we’ve had two days of balmy 40 degree weather.
If you are wondering about the dark patches in the siding, we used local pine beetle kill siding. The pine beetles have devastated the forests here which is very sad. But here is a good use for the dead wood. Looks kinda cool, huh?
The chickies have their gadgets too…
T-rex looks SO much better. Peck peck, is this iPhone good to eat?