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    Gypsy Hen Caravan Chicken Coop

    A Whimsical Nomadic Coop

    Download Materials plan PDF

    If you need a mobile coop to house your flock in different locations, depending on the season, this coop is perfect. It’s designed to look like a vintage gypsy wagon and can fit comfortably on a small city lot.

    If you build this coop off-site, you will need to transport it to its destination. Therefore, this coop is easy to take apart and reassemble.

    1. Begin building the floor.

    Build the coop first and the wheeled base second. Reinforce the long edges of the coop floor (A) with a pair of 2" x 3/4" (50 x 20mm) slats (B). Bevel the slats at a 7° angle on the bottom edge so that the sides of the coop flare out.

    2. Attach the long side supporting slats.

    To secure the slats (B) to the floor, put in screws every 6–8" (152–205mm).

    3. Create short side supporting slats.

    To stiffen up the back edge of the floor, use a slat (C) similar to those used on the long edges. However, don’t bevel this slat on the bottom. Just cut its ends at a 7° angle so it fits properly. To mark the ends, tack the slat in place and draw a line at the intersection of the long and short slats.

    4. Begin the back panel.

    Because the back panel (D) lines up with the side panels (F) along its vertical edges, the back panel needs to flare out at the same 7° angle as the bottom slats (B). To lay out the correct shape, find the center of the blank (2' [600mm] across the 4' [1200mm]-wide panel), and from there, measure 15" (380mm) to the left and right of the center point and mark the 30" (762mm) width of the floor.

    5. Begin outlining the back panel.

    Set your angle finder to 7° and align it with the marks delineating the outside edge of the back panel (D). Draw a line here to establish the beginning of the outline for the back panel.

    6. Extend the lines.

    Use a straightedge to extend the angled line. Make the line as long as the finished height of the side, which is 34" (865mm). Repeat on the other side of the blank.

    7. Begin defining the arched top.

    After you lay out the position and length of the sides, begin to think about the arched top. A flat top would make things easy, but that’s not the goal here. Once again, you need to find the center, this time at the top of the back panel (D), so that you can think about the rise and run of the arch.

    8. Mark the curve.

    For this coop, a rise of about 7" (178mm) looks good. Mark 7" (178mm) above the center mark and lay out a curve using a flexible curve. There’s no need to make this complicated—just come up with a curve that looks nice. Notice that you’re only working on one side of the arch to begin with—that’s because you’ll use the cutout as a pattern for the other side.

    9. Cut out the first half of the curve.

    Using a jigsaw, cut along the top of the arch and then cut away the scrap. The second cut doesn’t have to be pretty.

    10. Mark the second half of the curve.

    Line up the cut-off with the center mark and the top of the left-hand side of the back panel to complete the arch.

    11. Examine the arch.

    It is worth taking your time on the first half. Otherwise, you’ll transfer any mistakes or discrepancies to the other side. You can see a small hiccup in the middle of each half of this arch that you would need to sand out.

    12. Attach the back panel to the coop.

    After the shape of the back panel (D) is done, attach it to the slat at the rear of the coop.

    13. Attach back side slats.

    To stiffen up the back panel (D), and to provide a place to secure the side panels (F), attach a pair of slats (E) along the edge of the sides with screws and glue.

    14. Install the bottom side panels.

    Because this coop has large side windows, don’t start out using a blank that covers the whole side. It is easier to rip sections of 1/2" (13mm) plywood to cover from the floor to the bottoms of the windows—about 36" (915mm) (F). However, if you want window coverings (O), you might want to construct the sides out of large pieces of plywood and plunge-cut the window openings.

    15. Add vertical slats.

    To frame around the window openings and provide a front corner post of sorts, screw a vertical slat (G) to the side panels (F). Hold back the vertical slat about 10" (255mm) from the front of the coop to create a porch—a common feature on many gypsy wagons.

    16. Clamp the top strips.

    To fill in the area above the windows and below the roof, rip a piece of 3/4" (19mm) stock to 6" (152mm) wide and clamp it into place (H). Attach it with screws.

    17. Insert filler slats.

    To create a flush side, insert 5" (128mm)-wide slats (I) on top of the vertical pieces to the left and right of the windows. This makes for a neater look, and applying trim later on is easier.

    18. Create the shape of the front gable.

    Attach the front panel (J) in place. The flamboyant doors of this coop use an arabesque shape for the top of the door opening. Although this contour is more sophisticated than the curve at the top edge of the back panel, the actual technique is the same—lay out and cut out one-half of the arch, then use it as a template for the other side. In this case, you are working on a vertical panel, so use blue painter’s tape to hold the flexible curve in place.

    19. Trace the first half of the front gable.

    Remove the flexible curve and you can see the pencil line delineating the shape.

    20. Trace the second half of the front gable.

    Again, blue painter’s tape is easier than trying to hold the pattern steady while you trace a pencil line.

    21. Complete the gable cutout.

    The completed cutout provides just the right flourish.

    22. Draw the back window opening.

    The window opening near the top of the back panel (D) follows the shape of the arch above it. Use a compass set to 4 1/2" (115mm) wide to scribe a line below the top of the arch.

    23. Cut out the back window.

    Here’s the completed window opening. Angle the sides to match the sides of the coop, and leave the bottom flat. Use a jigsaw to cut out the shape. If you want doors over this window, plunge-cut the opening and save the pieces for step 46.

    24. Place nailers.

    To support the barrel-shaped roof, attach a 2 x 10 nailer (K) at the front and back of the coop. To make sure it matches the shape of the arch, clamp it in place temporarily, and then trace the arch panel.

    25. Attach nailers.

    Once you cut the nailers (K) to shape, use a nail gun to attach them permanently.

    26. Begin attaching the roof.

    Make the roof (L) from a sheet of 1/8" (3mm)-thick Maranti plywood. The exact material isn’t critical—it just has to be thin so it bends easily. A 4' (1200mm) width provides just the right amount of overhang on the sides of the coop. But you will need to crosscut it to 66" (1675mm). Then put it on top of the coop and center it so that the overhangs are equal all around. Next, put a couple screws down through the roof into the nailer (K) at the roof’s highest point (L).

    27. Screw down the roof.

    After tacking the roof (L) in place, screw it to the nailer (K) atop the front and back panels, and to the top edges of the side panels (H). Make sure that the edge of the roof is flat. Fix any spots that don’t flatten out with a screw or two.

    28. Locate the nest box access panel.

    The back of the coop seems a logical spot for a nest box access panel. Lay it out with a framing square and a straightedge.

    29. Cut out the nest box access panel.

    Use a jigsaw to carefully cut out the panel, making sure to keep it in good shape because you’ll use it for the door. Plunge-cutting with the jigsaw makes this a snap. Attach the panel with hinges on the bottom.

    30. Paint the body.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is easier to lay down the body color now and pre-paint all the trim and secondary parts. This saves you the time and hassle of masking things off and trying to cut in neatly.

    31. Paint the trim.

    Line up all of the trim stock (M, P) and spray paint it with a gold metallic paint, which imitates the gold-leafing found on many original wagons. It only takes a few minutes.

    32. Cut out and paint the stars.

    This coop uses a star motif for the area above the front door. Draw the stars freehand to a size that looks right, then cut them out on a band saw. Paint the stars (N) prior to attaching them.

    33. Add side panel embellishment.

    The large open space on the lower parts of the side panels (F) seems like a natural place for some embellishment. Lay out a rectangle to paint another color. Don’t worry about getting a perfectly neat edge along the sides of the rectangle; you’ll overlap the trim (M) about 3/4" (20mm) to create a clean transition.

    34. Attach trim around the side accent panels.

    Attach the trim (M) with nails, then fill the holes with wood putty and paint over them. The gold paint provides a regal feel. You can dress up the area inside the frame in any number of ways, or just leave it alone.

    35. Attach the window flaps.

    Hang a 3/4" (17mm)-thick panel (O) from hinges at the top of the opening. Because the chickens will only hang out in the coop when they’re laying or sleeping, the windows will be closed most of the time. But you’ll want the flaps to be operable to provide light and ventilation.

    36. Attach flap closers.

    To keep the flaps closed, make a simple latch from a scrap, paint it gold, and screw it loosely in place so you can swivel it.

    37. Add front corner posts.

    To dress up the front of the coop, use fluted molding (P) at the front edges of the sides. This creates a corner post to visually define the porch. Gold trim on the back of the coop also frames the opening to the nest boxes.

    38. Cut out the door trimmers.

    No coop is complete without a set of doors to keep its residents safe and secure. To mount the doors, install an angled trimmer (Q) along each side of the door opening. Notch the trimmer at the bottom so it fits neatly. Cut the tops and bottoms at a 7° angle.

    39. Paint and install the trimmers.

    When the trimmers (Q) fit, paint them. After the paint dries, secure them with several screws.

    40. Mark and cut out the front doors.

    Hold the rectangular blank (R) for the first door behind the front panel and trace on the profile of the opening. To mark the centerline, use a straightedge to draw a vertical line from the top of the door on down. Cut out the door and discard the scrap. Repeat for the second door.

    41. Install the hinges and doors.

    Attaching the door (R) is easier when you hang the hinges on the trimmer first. After that, you can hold the door in place and sink screws into it, adjusting the fit up and down or side-to-side.

    42. Paint the front doors.

    Add another trim element to the center of the doors to further add color, shape, and variety to the whole composition. It also serves a practical purpose: If your doors didn’t meet up evenly in the middle, the trim hides the discrepancy—and nobody will know but you.

    43. Lay out the wheels.

    Make the wheels (S) from 3/4" (17mm) plywood. Begin by drawing one with a compass and straightedge. The diameter of the wheels is 18" (458mm), with a 1 3/4" (45mm)-thick rim.

    44. Cut out the wheels.

    Cut out the first wheel (S) with a jigsaw and use it as a template for the other wheels (S). Cut out all the wheels and paint them.

    45. Install axles.

    To attach the wheels (S) to the coop, run a 42" (1068mm) length of 2x4 (T) beneath the coop at the front and back edges. Screw a set of four 4" (102mm)-long blocks (T) below the ends of both 2x4s (T) to support the axle (U), which you make from a 4' (1200mm) length of threaded rod. The blocks (T) also provide a large, flat surface to support the wheels (S) and keep them from wobbling. Drill a 3/4" (20mm) hole in the middle of the 2x4 blocks (T).

    46. Make the back doors.

    Make a set of doors to fit into the opening on the back of the coop. Hold the oversized door blank (V) inside of the opening and trace the profile onto its surface. Cut out the door on a band saw, and fit it into place. If you decided in step 23 that you wanted doors, just use the pieces you cut from the back panel at that point.

    47. Attach the back doors.

    Paint the doors and attach them with hinges. The only remaining detail is to make a latch to keep the birds secure at night. Follow the procedure in step 36.