Strawbale Chicken Coup Project

The kids during the window box construction, testing the “load bearing” capabilities, as bales will be stacked on top. They really enjoyed the whole bale building process with all the fun bales to climb and play on. We built hay forts and houses and tunnels. I ended up with some leftover bales and they still have a hay playhouse next to the coup under a tarp.

This is why I’m not running very hard right now…trying to beat winter. I’m almost ready to earthen plaster the bales. I’ve had clay and sand delivered from the quarry and have done some test balls to see what ratio of clay to plaster is looking good. I chose bentonite clay, as it was available at my local quarry and has a better water proof property. Sand is a rough sand that is the grade commonly used in concrete mixes.

There are definitely some things I’d do differently with regards to the bale construction process and the framing if I did it again. I found a great online resource and would follow a lot of his philosophies if I do it again. (See I’m thinking a straw bale workshop/studio at some point.

Most importantly, DON’T use 2×4 stud frame. Invest in 4x4s and design as a minimalist timber frame structure…less trimming bales, as working around the studs was time-consuming and a pain in the neck. Also, the chicken wire was a pain. I’d use some kind of poly mesh next time. My forearms look like I got in a cat fight.

Another boneheaded thing I did was install the chicken wire on the oustide BEFORE bale infill. Stupid move. It was a pain to go back and infill shallow spots that the bales didn’t quite fill against the mesh by cutting and stuffing, then re-stapling the cut holes. Royal pain.

Bales are filled all the way to the ceiling. The side upper plywood will have metal tin panels over them for a “mod-Dwell-magazine” style look. Lower 4 feet where you see bales will be earthen plastered. I’m not going to get the plaster’s finish coat done before winter. I’m shooting for one rough scratch coat on inside and outside in the next week (very similar to a cob type mix).

Here are some picks of the process…

Side view during construction of the roof, rectangle area will be a window.

Window box completed during bale infill. Note the chicken door on the right. It’s a narrow used cabinet installed into the bale wall. That will be the official chicken entrance into their run.

Coup during bale infill. The cabinet on the left turned on it’s side…used cabinet from a local used place called Pack It. I made it into 3 laying boxes on the inside and was the width of my bales (see photo below for the inside shot and more info). The other thing I did was frame the main door to a standard door size (38″ x 7’4″), went to the local used place and picked up an insulated exterior door with glass and frame for $30…tacked in a top 2×4 to the exact height of the door I found, added one more vertical 2×4 to the exact width of the door, screwed it in and…BAM! nice door for cheap. No door construction needed. It was about a 20 minute install.

The layer boxes (old cabinet on it’s side with some plywood customization). The laying box floor on the inside is slightly slanted toward the back and I will glue outdoor carpet on the floor of each laying compartment. When you open the cabinet door (on the outside…see image above this one), there is a trough that eggs, after being laid will roll to the catch trough for collection by the kids from the outside door. Idea is they can’t smash the eggs AND we can leave them for almost a week with food and water and they can lay all they want and we come back and collect out of the trough.

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