Have you ever found your chickens in a place you did not want, or expect, them to be? Have you ever come outside to find eggs in the shoes you left on your front porch or not been able to find any eggs at all? Worse yet, have your chickens fallen victim to that which goes bump in the night, leaving only a pile of feathers and no clue as to what the exact culprit may be?
These things happen, but there are measures you can take to prevent them. Until you decide to place your chickens in the oven yourself, you will need to protect and properly maintain them as you would any other item you eventually plan to consume. This means housing them safely, feeding them properly, and watering them adequately. This is where the economically feasible yet safe and effective Hoop Coop comes into play.
Step one is to build a frame. Four pieces of wood that are eight feet in length will serve as the beginning of your frame. 2'x4' boards are an excellent choice. Pair these with four shorter pieces of wood for corner braces and you will be on your way to building a coop that is 8'x8'. Lay your four large boards out evenly in a square and bind them together in the corners with screws, bracing each corner with one of the shorter portions. This will give you a solidly supported frame.
Next you will want to consider the type and size door you would like. Re-purposing a storm door is an excellent choice, as is building your own. Once you have selected the option you would like to utilize, choose a location for your door. A frame will be required to ensure proper functioning of your door, and this can also be built with 2'x4' boards. Simply build a rectangular frame to which your door will bond and seal tightly to keep your chickens in while keeping unwanted predators out. Once this door frame is completed and properly positioned, screw it securely to your base. Ideally your door will butt up to the roof of your coop to enhance the structural integrity of the coop. Placing a similar support system at the rear of the coop is also helpful but not necessary if you are on a budget.
To compose a roof and at least two sides, sturdy wire mesh is ideal. You can use chicken wire for the entire coop, but chicken wire is not as rigid and supportive and thus could lead to structural failures. Wire mesh is typically sold in sections that are 48 inches tall, so it will take two side-by-side portions to create your roof. For an 8'x8' coop, take two sections, each being 4'x16', and arch them from one side of the frame to the other. Attach them to the frame with a slap stapler or staple gun equipped with heavy duty staples. In the front of your coop where your door frame is placed, affix this to the top of the door frame as it will lend additional support.
Once this is complete, take a 4'x8' portion of your wire mesh and attach it to the rear of your coop at the base, also with staples. You will then need to attach the sides, which will be a wire to wire connection, and thus a task for which zip ties are best. Repeat this with another 4'x8' section placed above the first to close the gap between the bottom barrier and the top of your coop. Attach this with zip ties as well and clip off the excess height with wire cutters so it is flush. It is a good idea to bend any jagged points in a safe direction to prevent snags on your animals or yourself.
For the front of your coop, trim sections of wire mesh to fit around your door frame and affix those with staples or zip ties depending on the material at your closure points. Once this is complete, it is time to run a layer of chicken wire around the lower portion of the coop. Simply attach it to the frame at the bottom and wire mesh at the sides and top to avoid access/exit points. This will aid in keeping newly hatched chicks from escaping. However, if you intend your coop only to house egg laying adults, this step can be avoided although it is preferable to do it to be on the safe side.
Now all that is left is to secure a tarp over the top of your coop to prevent rain and elements from entering. This tarp can be secured with zip ties or bungee cords but be sure to check your bungee cords periodically as they do rot. Add a sliding bolt latch to secure your coop door and a door closer to your coop will also aid in keeping your animals safe. Equip your coop with homemade nesting boxes or purchase some you like and you, and your chickens, are good to go! All that remains is to enjoy the fruits of your safe, happy egg layers for many mornings to come!
(Image courtesy of http://www.backyardchickens.com)