Rustic Covered Lean-to Coop and Run
Our lean-to coop and covered run was built on to an old shed, and we have 19 chickens and one chipmunk scratching about in there, but in the long run we expect to only have 8 to 12 chickens, and we’ll have to see about the chipmunk.
( you can go to the end of this article for the latest updates)
The original “Old Shed” was just a small (12′ x 18′) rough cut oak shed/barn that my dad and uncle built when I was about 7 years old, with a budget of about $50 according to my uncle. We raised chickens, turkeys, geese, quail, goats, calves, ponies, and pile of kittens and puppies out of that structure when I was a kid.
Here is a shot of the old shed in disrepair (with some visiting deer) before we cleaned up around it and made modifications:
When I was about 18 I built a lean-to onto the original building (approx. 8′ x 18′), with scrounged materials, a skill saw, a hammer, youthful energy, and not much else. It lacked a lot, including square cuts and 90 degree angles, but it served as the chicken coop for my dad, off and on for years, as I was off living life in the big world.
In 2015 Dad passed, and the old place sat for a bit until we moved away from the city, in the summer of 2017. We built a new lean-to on the back of the original structure to house a tractor, and patched up and sorta’ rebuilt the lean-to that I built 20+ years before.
We live in the sticks and have all sorts of chicken eating critters to be concerned with, so we set out to build a secure, covered run. So we just took off the roof from the old lean-to and extended it out with new, longer metal, and added on to the end a bit. Eventually we’ll add a bit more uncovered run space and/or let them range while we’re out there with them.
The coop is about 8′ x 8′, and the run is about 3′ x 18′ along the lean to, and then opens up to about 8′ x 12’… I think… you see there were plans, drawings, etc. … but then I placed a post about a 12 inches too far out and had to improvise a bit.
Here is a “sketch” of the layout (not really to scale) :
And here are more “sketches” of what was planned:
And here is another shot of what we actually ended up with after all the plans, You can see all of the rocks we encountered when setting the posts and digging out for the buried wire apron. We had those laid out nicely and then an armadillo rearranged some of them for us recently.
Eventually I’ll get around to painting the walls and doors to match, and adding the missing section of pickets… and maybe doing something different with all those rocks:
The picket fence is just a roll or two of garden fence attached to the 2×4 welded wire. I suppose it adds a bit of predator protection, but is mostly just for looks.
There is a buried fence apron that comes out about a foot or so, made of old 2×4 welded wire. The pickets also help hide the rather rough transition where the apron wire is tied into the new side wire.
A bit about keeping out the chicken eating critters…
The 2×4 welded wire should be adequate for predator protection for us. Since we don’t have norway rats to deal with in our area, and long tailed weasels are not common. If a weasel shows up, I suppose I will have some loss, and then have to trap it.
We do have pack rats, aka wood rats, but they do not bother chickens, in fact I just trapped one this weekend that had moved in to the shed. More just to keep it from stealing feed and making a messy nest, ect., than a concern about it harming the chickens.
Snakes could get though the 2×4 wire as well, but I deal with snakes as they occur.
Our most likely chicken killer would be a domestic dog ( we have neighbors that let their farm dogs roam), and they occasionally come around our place, but not often. The 2×4 wire should be fine for keeping dogs out. But I have known determined dogs to chew through shed walls and porches, in order to get to a cornered critter. If one were to show up while we were away, and have the time to work on our run, i’m guessing it could get in if it really wanted to. But that possibility is a low concern in our particular case.
Our night time predator concerns are raccoons, possums, bobcats, and owls, and the 2×4 wire should be fine for those as well. Again a very determined raccoon could likely get in, but it’d have to work pretty hard at it.
I do set up a trail camera from time to time to monitor what’s coming around and I look at keeping a population of chickens, much as protecting a population of wild fowl, in that it’s best to do some management of predatory critters preventativly.
I’ve trapped to reduce “nest robbing” critters for years so trapping isn’t new to me or something I have a problem with. In fact I have already removed close to a dozen raccoons and one possum in the first 2 months since the coop was built. And I think simply reducing the numbers of chicken eaters we have around the coop is a big part of keeping our birds safe.
Typically digging in is the concern, so I used J-clips to attach a buried wire apron to the side wall wire, and then just a twist of wire to attach the picket wire to the welded wire.
Here is a closeup, hope you can make sense of it, the brown wire is the old wire used as a buried apron, the silver wire is the new wire used on the side of the run.
I used galvanized lag bolts to attach the 2x4s to the 4×4 posts. You can see a couple of screws there as well, that I used to hold things in place so I could manage it by myself. We used ( a bunch of ) stainless steel staples to attach the welded wire to the 2x4s. I might come back with some screws and washers if the staples don’t hold up over time.
There is wire running along the top of the side wall wire to keep a critter from pushing it in. Basically I cut the welded wire to fit around the rafters which worked well, but that left the top three and half inches of the wire between the rafters weak and able to be bent in. So I drilled a hole in the rafters, and ran tie-wire along the length of the run, and wove into the welded wire then j-clipped it to the top of the wire, so now it can’t be bent in.
The inside of the coop is mostly reused or scrap materials. The roosts are re-purposed stair handrails, over some re-purposed wire panels (kennel floors?), the metal along the bottom was off the original lean-to roof, and the windows are the glass out of old sliding shower doors.
Under the roost area is the poop collection area that can be accessed from the outside for clean out:
After several months of use, it works well, but does occasionally need to be scraped/hosed down. Overall it has kept the coop very clean though. It looks like it’ll need to be shoveled out about once a year is all… this image is from December, after being built in the April/May.
Some detail “sketches” of the roost and clean out idea:
The inside of the coop walls are a mix of siding scraps, old re-purposed metal, and some of the original rough oak barn boards.
A communal (1 big box with no dividers), roll out style, nest box was attached to the other side of the wall, so that eggs can be collected without entering the coop.
I used @jthornton ‘s nest box plans as a guide … but just used scrap I had on hand to build it, so my box turned out a bit different (not as nice )… but it worked well using jthornton’s general dimensions.
Here’s a link to those plans:
Strips of plastic feed sacks work as curtains over the nest opening, and a wooden crate is used as a step:The hens crowd into the same corner, the same way they seem to crowd into the same compartment with divided nest boxes, go figure? :The nest box from the other side of the wall:A “sketch” of the nest box shown with the end set transparent so you can see how the inner wall and floor… you’ll note I didn’t build it exactly as it was planned…With the roll out door open, you can collect the eggs… in the image below note there are 4 plastic eggs on the left, the blue one on the right is an Ameraucana egg.
It’s hard to tell but there is some old (ugly brown) carpet lining the box bottom, and it is curled up to provide some cushion so the eggs don’t crack when hitting the edge of the box as they roll out.
You can see a few wood chips on top. Those are from when first placed the nest box… I filled it with wood chips to get the pullets used to using it. Once they were, I removed the chips so the eggs would roll out… I guess someone needs to vacuum the carpet!Here are a couple more “sketches” showing the general idea of how I planned to build mine.
End view with end wall set transparent, the floor is at an angle so the eggs roll out:An “exploded” view showing the general idea:
The lean-to is divided into 2 “rooms”, one is the coop, and the other is mostly just garden tools and storage. In this second room along the dividing wall we have an old freezer in which we keep feed. This keeps out the mice, chipmunks, squirrels, etc.
I added plastic to the door in the winter, to keep the drafts down.
The door in the above image is pretty wide, with the idea of being able to park a wheel barrow there to clean out the coop floor litter when needed.
The door going from tool and feed storage room into the run is just made of an old re-purposed sheet of plywood, with a window cut into it, and some 1x4s to trim it out. The window is screened with wire, and has an old scratched up piece of plexi-glass that I found somewhere, that can be dropped down to let in a cross breeze to move some air through the lean-to.
In the picture below, the door is open with the plexi-glass lowered.
In this image the “glass” is up:
Coop wall art :
In the run there is a corner dust bath. Currently it’s just a scrap board held in place with some firewood, on the front and some scrap plywood along the wire to keep the dirt in.
We added some metal signs as a bit of coop decor in the run… just for fun, and for something for the birds to practice their reading skills with:
I built a little “day roost” ladder with old wooden posts from a fence I took down, and a 2×4 cut in half:
Additionally I used a wooden post and 2×4 scraps to create an elevated roost in the run that some of the birds use. (see the dominique on it in the back ground on the left)
A nice piece of walnut limb that came from a blowdown of an very old tree currently serves as a “step” on which the birds like to sit, and/or jump up on the high roost.
And the naughty ones feel they must cool their feet on the waterer from time to time.
Years ago, I was driving by a house that had bench sitting by the curb, with a “free” sign on it. So I picked it up, and we just used it as a plant stand for container plants in the yard/garden for a long time. But now it’s used properly as a bench for sitting and watching the chickens peck.
This is the covered “alley” along the original lean-to wall where the young chickens like to run and flap back and forth, and often lay in the shade:
And here are the birds crowding in for a picture, excited to know they’d be on www.backyardchickens.com
Update ( December 2018)
They’ve grown up.. it’s December now and they’re laying well. No issues with critters getting in… yet, and the chickens seem pretty content in their rustic lean to coop & run.
The chipmunk moved out ( I suspect the chickens became bold at some point and chased him off) as did four of the pullets and one rooster…. so as of December we have 13 pullets and a cockerel in our covered coop and run.———————————————
Update (March 2019):
We had some frigid temperatures this winter as did much of the middle part of the U.S. and all of the birds did well in the uninsulated coop… other than the rooster who did get some frostbite on his comb. But it healed on its own and just naturally dubbed the points off.
I sold most of the hens, so we’re down to one rooster and 4 hens… 14 birds in this space proved to be too many ( a lot of feather picking issues ) … so even though I have about 150 square feet of run space, that worked out to 10+ sq ft per bird it was too crowded in my opinion. I’m planning not more than 8 or so adult birds for the future.
Update ( May 2019)Things seem to be working well still… it’s been a wet winter and spring and the covered run has been great… the Faverolle’s feathered feet have stayed clean and dry!
We sold all but 4 hens and the rooster in early spring to make room for a new batch…
Two faverolles went broody and I set eggs under them… and we ended up with just 3 hatching…
This low hatch I attribute to a few things:
* low fertility from the Faverolle hens
* brood nest boxes that I provided were a bit small and shallow and didn’t allow the hens to cover the eggs as well as they should have
* the two non-broody hens insisted on laying in the broody nests,so even though the incubating eggs were marked for easy ID… I think some still got jostled too much.
Next time around I’ll use the feed storage part of the lean-to as broody quarters to keep them separated … and I’ll provide roomier nests.
So after the low hatch…we bought 8 chicks at the farm store and grafted them to one of the broody hen… and now we have a momma hen brooding 11 baby chicks in the coop…
The coop floor works well as a brooder:
We sent the rooster to the stew pot recently, so we just have the 4 hens and 11 baby chicks….
…. oh and the chipmunk has moved back in… I see him cleaning up scratch seed in the run while then hens watch lazily from their dust baths.