Unless you have the same exact swingset that we did, this Instructable will only give you an idea of what I did to transform my playhouse into a coop. Obviously you're not going to end up with the same end product as me, but hopefully some of what I did will help spark some ideas for your coop project!
My wife and I tried our hand at chickens about 3 years ago. We loved having them, but we made some mistakes in our setup that ended in the termination of our chicken ownership. We mixed aggressive and passive breeds, had a big coop that was built by a rookie, and our run was in a damp area that bred mosquitos. Our poor girls were featherless on their butts from brutal attacks from the other chickens establishing dominance. They would go to sleep at night and get eaten alive by mosquitos since they had no feathers to protect them. In addition, I built the first coop with a chicken cloth bottom to “make cleaning easier”. So, Craigslist helped me offload the chickens and the coop in about 2 hours! Ever since, we’ve missed having them.
We believe in repurposing whatever God gives us. “If it can be used for something else don’t throw it out,” is one of our mottos. For about a year and a half we’ve been watching the price of eggs go up and talking about our girls and how we would do it differently next time. Little did I know that my big opportunity was rotting in my backyard!
After Hurricane Katrina, I bought a 2 decker, wooden swing-set with a slide and playhouse on top. Lately, the kids have been telling me how the boards are bowing and they feel like they’re going to break. The bottom deck was starting to rot and the boards on top were probably at the end of life. I decided to take it down, but noticed that the playhouse on top was still in great condition.
Step 1: Requirements
I was looking at the playhouse through my living room window one day and BOOM! “That’s the new chicken coop!” I then recruited one of the boys to help me separate the playhouse from the rest of the unit so we could inspect it. It was a go!
Below is a list of our requirements for part 2. It’s very dorky, but necessary to make sure we make the coop we want this time. The underlined requirements are our lessons learned from coop #1.
To get farm fresh eggs by creating a healthy, mostly bug free environment (inside the coop) for 6-9 chickens that will also fertilize our raised garden beds.
Coop will have a chicken door.
Coop will have a human door to run.
Coop will have a human access door to coop.
All doors should have latches.
Chicken door should have a critter-proof latch.
External nesting boxes with doors
2-3 nesting boxes.
Access will not require entering coop.
Easy to clean floor.
Chickens should not be able to poop into nest boxes from perches.
Should be able to feed without entering coop/run.
Watering can be done through human door.
Water needs to be hidden from sunlight.
External access to feeder to feed table scraps.
Can be moved by no more than 3 people.
Should be able to fit 6-9 chickens.
Minimal obstructions inside coop.
Floor must be removable for cleaning and easy access to inside of coop for maintenance.
Floor must support sand/shavings.
Perches must be above nesting boxes
Enough room for 6-9 birds to perch.
Open spaces protected with chicken cloth and screen where possible.
At least 2 windows that can be closed/covered during winter.
Windows must be protected with chicken cloth and mesh screen.
Wind blockers can be added to windows during really cold nights.
Coop should be elevated from ground.
I must admit, as time went on, I wanted to deviate from the original plan by cutting corners and making “good enough” modifications to it. However, I kept getting pulled away from this project by football, cheerleadinging, band practice, etc. and I had a lot of time to think about it.
The rest of the Instructable will be a chronological series of pictures with details in the captions. If you have any questions please email me. I could not have made this coop without all the blog posts and advice I read from backyard chicken forums and such.
Step 2: The Drawing Board
This is what I originally had in mind. Some of the new coop looks like this, but I changed to a permanent coop instead of a chicken tractor.
Step 3: Raising the Coop
Notice the 4 main posts are now taller than the originals. I removed these posts from the main deck of the swing set and replaced the shorter ones on the playhouse. The additional height was about 18 inches.
Step 4: Adding Doors in the Wrong Place!
I removed the railing and found it made a perfect chicken ladder/ramp to get the girls into the coop. Also, now you can see my first shot at an “egg access” door on the right side of the coop. I got impatient and made this instead of sticking to the plan. I would later rebuild this door.
The external nest boxes after the outer structure was done. That’s my daughter hiding behind the door with her cleats on!
Step 6: Installing Nest Boxes
Here is an inside view of the 3 nest boxes. We plan to get only 6 chickens, but want to have enough boxes for 9. I wasn’t sure how to build the external nest boxes so I seached online. My Garden Coop has a great website with directions on how to build the boxes. It was very easy and I feel it is the most water resistant out of all the ones I saw. The coop is airy because of the slatted walls, but my goal was to keep the nest boxes as dry as possible.
Step 7: The Inside
I installed some brackets to rest the perch on. I wanted to be able to remove the perch and clean the “fun” off of it. You can also see the other perch thingy I built. I”m not sold on this, but I think it will suffice as long as I screw it to the wall. We’re planning on getting Buff Orpingtons and they weigh 6-8lbs.
Flooring - I used 12 inch strips of 5/8 plywood so I can remove them easier for cleaning. I bought some cheap peel and stick vinyl tiles from Home Depot and fitted them in. This looks really nice now. I’m trying to enjoy how pretty the coop is before I stick the chickens in it. It’s amazing how completely nasty they can make a coop. I’ve actually seen one poop sideways!
Step 8: The Sleds
One of the final pieces of the coop is attaching sleds to the legs. I needed to move the coop about 70 ft to the area where the run will be. I was able to pull it with the lawn tractor, with the additional help from my oldest sons. I still can’t believe this plan actually worked!
I will have to add a better picture because you can't see the sleds at all. I may have spent about $50 total for all of this. I had a lot of materials from previous projects and I went out of my way to reuse as much as possible.
For more details in this coop go to: http://eighthrising.com/chicken-coop-from-a-playhouse/
Step 9: Updates:
Here are some updates on the coop since I added the chickens in September-ish:
- The nesting boxes are working perfectly. They are very easy to manage and the peel and stick vinyl tiles make them a breeze to quickly wipe down for extra clean.
- The vinyl tiles on the coop floor have no fared as well. They are starting to peel off from moisture. I will either glue them down or peel them up entirely. I use a 3" deep sand floor in the coop so I never have a need to clean the floor bottom.
- The screen mesh I installed behind the chicken cloth for the windows is doing wonderfully at keeping mosquitoes out.
- The feeder (featured here: https://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-Chicken-Feeder-with-Meter/ ) is also working well.
- The size is perfect for my 5 chickens. I could fit a few more.
The reason I took the time to build the coop right this time around was due to the poor state of my chickens in my first attempt. This time around I have 4 very healthy and happy hens and (based on all the action in the yard) an extremely satisfied rooster.