Even though we’re in an urban area – within 5 miles of downtown San Diego, we’ve seen lots of predators in our canyon. One year there was a mama fox with about 4 pups out back. The next year we had a family of coyotes take up residence. That ‘problem’ was taken care of by the county after one of the coyote pups bit a child. Apparently, the child and her family had been hand feeding the ‘cute babies’. That was several years ago, but we still see coyote occasionally, and raccoons, skunks and opossum are not at all uncommon.
Some neighbors lost their chickens to a raccoon, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I started the project by marking out the 5×8 footprint of the future coop. I dug a trench about 15 inches deep and lined it with chicken wire. I left a few inches of the wire above grade so that I could connect it to the 4×4’s that would be the foundation layer. After the wire was in place, I backfilled the trench and did the best I could to compact the fill by pounding it with some nice, heavy cinder-blocks.
The next step was the cement pavers. I had some 6×12 pavers that had been salvaged from a walkway we removed when we first set up our raised bed garden in the lower back yard. They had been stacked in a corner many years waiting to be put to good use. They were perfect for the job. I spent considerable time getting them all leveled well. I’m pretty convinced that if the foundation is straight and true, the rest is much easier. Lucky? for me it rained pretty well during this phase and everything settled in nicely.
On top of the pavers went a foundation frame that was 5 x 8 and made of pressure treated 4×4’s. There’s lots of debate out there as to whether pressure treated wood is ‘appropriate’ for use in gardens and chicken coops. It ranges from ‘no way, not one spec of those chemicals near my birds’ to ‘hell, yeah – I don’t want to be rebuilding my coop every 2 years.’ You will need to do your own research and make your own decision. I decided to use it minimally, for the part that might be in contact with the soil during the rainy season.
I used lap joints and lag screws to join the 4×4’s and was careful to keep it all square. Invest time in the foundation. After it was all bolted together, I had to shim it in a few places to get it perfectly level. Actually, when I said earlier that I couldn’t think of anything I’d do differently… here’s one. I had to shim it, but what I would do differently is pack that gap with steel wool. There were a few areas that where the shim gap matched up with a gap in the cement pavers. These gaps were big enough for tiny mice to get in. Mice really don’t want to chew through steel wool, so you might consider packing any gaps before the coop’s too heavy to jam it under.
Side note – as it turns out, at least one of our girls is a mouser, so I no longer worry about mice getting into the coop.