Friday, September 11, 2015

Backyard Chicken Keeping for the Complete Novice, Part 2: All About That Coop.

So you've talked it over with your family and you've worked out that you are ready to take the plunge and start your backyard flock. The next step I recommend would be to make your home and yard ready to receive your chicks. I wanted to make sure we had our coop built before we even bought our chicks so that when to time came to transition them to the outdoors, everything would be ready.

Choosing the right kind of coop is no easy task if you have NO IDEA what you are doing.

As I mentioned previously, we had never owned any sort of livestock or spent any time around live chickens. We knew we wanted to get 3 egg laying hens so we knew we wouldn't need a huge barn or anything.

We looked at photos of hundreds of coops and I will fully admit that the one we decided on was based solely on looks.

I wanted a cute hen house with an area for the chickens to roam underneath. I wanted it to be on wheels so we could move it around the yard and contain the birds to one spot of grass at a time. I wanted nesting boxes that were accessible from the outside for easy egg recovery.

I showed my husband pictures of what I wanted and he delivered exactly that. It was perfect. . . in my mind. For the chickens though? Not so much.

Chickens will get bigger than you expect. They need a lot of space to forage, scratch, burrow, play and rest. They are extremely destructive eating machines and will destroy your patch of lawn in about a day or two.

Learn from my mistakes and go bigger than you think you need for your coop. After all, these animals will be providing you with delicious, fresh eggs in a few months and you want to provide them a good quality of life.

Once our chickens were about 4 months old, they were much too big for my cute little coop. Also, it was just not feasible for me to be moving the coop around the yard every day.

We had to go back to the drawing board and design a coop and hen house that was nearly four times larger than the first. This won't be an instructional on coop building, but I can say that we probably spent about $150 on lumber and parts for The Coop 2.0. Coop 2.0 is 7.5' long by 4' wide by 7' tall. There is a 4'x4' hen house with three nesting boxes and 2 roosting polls at different heights inside.

Here is a list of things that I think make a our Coop 2.0 a great coop:
  • Tall enough to walk into to clean
  • Sand or gravel floor for easy "litter box" style maintenance
  • Wide door to the hen house for ease of cleaning
  • Linoleum floor in hen house, also for ease of cleaning
  • Slanted roof for water run off in rainy weather
  • Access hatch to nesting boxes is at a good height to comfortably reach inside
  • Nesting boxes are plastic dish bins that can easily be removed and cleaned
  • PVC food and watering system 
One other thing I would have done differently would have been to make the roof a little wider and create an awning over the nest box hatch. It gets wet when it rains. We are working on a mod for that at the moment.

Our hens really only go into our coop at night to sleep. They free range in our yard all day, but they can comfortable be contained in the coop to keep them safe from predators if need be.

If predators are a big concern and you are going to be keeping your hens inside a coop for most of the day, I would recommend creating a run area for them to get out and scratch and play a bit. Look into chicken tunnels, sometimes called Chunnels. We have been very lucky so far and have not had any predator worries, so we actually leave the coop door open so the chickens can come and go as they please.

Once you have your coop purchased or built, it will be time to source your chicks, pullets or hens. Look for Part 3, Choosing Your Chicks, coming up soon!


  1. ohhh great tips! My bro is about to start his chicken pen so I will pass along the bigger is better rule :)

  2. I have been contemplating a chicken coop in our yard for some time now, nothin. There is nothing better than fresh eggs! Thanks for sharing your great tips!

  3. That coop is fantastic. Our garden is tiny, but I've often daydreamed about having a couple of chickens out there. We just haven't got the time or the room, unfortunately, but it's fun to daydream. #sharingiscaring

  4. We've had chickens before but I admit, I had absolutely nothing to do with them. I hope to have some again some day, and this is really helpful! Thanks! #JoyHopeLive

  5. How fabulous this information will be for us when we start our flock. Thanks so much for joining us at The Maple Hill Hop this week!

  6. We are going to start a flock of 6 hens and a rooster and I have been looking for designs. Living in Maine with temps get to -40 at times and is below freezing for 4 months out of the year I need a hen pen that is easy to clean, easy to collect the eggs and enough room to keep them inside during brutal weather. I never would of thought of putting down linoleum so I will be using that tip. PVC feeding system is a great system so I will be using that however I need a watering system that doesn't freeze. Dish bins is another thing I would never of thought of using so that's another tip I'll use. Thanks for sharing all your hen pen tips!!!

  7. Nice build - this is great information for beginners- My coop is mobile, easy to clean for those with lots of space. Love the PVC feeders, I want to incorporate that for my quail.

    Carole @ Garden Up Green

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience with providing your chickens with a home. So many of my readers are interested in keeping their own chickens and they will find this very helpful. (I'd love to keep chickens but we travel too much to do it!) Sharing. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Hop.

  9. I love this post. It's nice connecting with bloggers who homestead, raise chickens for fresh eggs and kitchen garden. Thanks for sharing your new Coop on Sunday's Best linkup. I'll be following your new endeavor.

  10. I love this series. We have a garden etc. But not chickens, someday I would love to have some. Pinning for that day!!! Thanks.

  11. I love this series. We have a garden etc. But not chickens, someday I would love to have some. Pinning for that day!!! Thanks.

  12. How clever is this?! I shared it with a friend who has chickens. Thanks for sharing your post at the #AnythingGoes Link Party.

  13. I'm always so amazed by you! This looks so good! Pinned and tweeted. I appreciate you taking the time to party with us. I hope to see you on Monday at 7. Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  14. What a great Post!! I might want some chickens!! lol!! Thanks for sharing on My 2 favorite Things on Thursday!! Hope to see you again this week!! Pinned to My 2 Favorite Things Pinterest Board :-)

  15. Thanks for sharing with us at #JoyHopeLive!