I think baby chicks grow faster than any other living thing. Seriously. That tuft of fluff has real feathers and has tripled in size by then end of the first month. So, we’d better talk about coops before you end up with hens laying eggs on your sofa…..
Getting their real feathers in….
There are several types of coops. Your choices vary depending on how many birds you have. When I grow up and we stop moving every 2-3 years, I’d like to have a raised coop that I can close up at night. I would like to let the hens run free all over my property….. but with a smaller backyard your kids will track in chicken poop. Which is not so fun. Someday I will have a big flock of free birds 🙂
For now, a chicken tractor is the perfect answer. You can see lots of photos here. We love ours. Essentially it is a coop with wheels on the back so you can lift it up and drag it to a new location every day.
The pros :: No coop to clean. Well, almost, you do have to scrape above the nest boxes daily, and change the bedding once a week. But no shoveling out chicken poo. The hens spend the day eating weeds and bugs in your yard and then you move them. Their poo fertilizes your grass. How easy is that ? Plus the birds diet is that of a free range chicken since they do live on fresh grass and bugs daily. The hens love this! Also, moving your coop daily makes it less likely for a hungry critter to dig under the sides to get to your hens.
The cons :: The coop can be heavy to move. In areas where the ground is really moist, it can leave deep tracks in the ground each time you move it. Of course you could make a lighter smaller coop with wide wheels to help with that issue. You need a good sized yard so that you can move the coop around and give the grass time to recover. If you leave the chickens in one spot for a few days….. they will ruin your grass.
Do not let chickens eat grass from chemically treated lawns!!
Here are some photos of our beloved coop 🙂
Coop Front, the hens roost in the roof at night.
Side View of the Coop. You can see the wheels on the back & rope pulleys on the front.
Nest boxes, there are three but they like to share the far left one?? Must be the best for some reason 🙂
Daddo built it out of some scrap materials and some purchased material. He is a handy sort of guy, but a beginner could also easily tackle this project. The coop is 4×8 feet. The sides are about 4 feet tall and the peak of the roof is about 6 feet tall. The frame was built with 2×4 untreated pine. The roof is covered with a box of wooden shingles we found in the rafter of our garage. There is 1/4 inch plywood on the sides of the coop and vinyl siding over that. The siding is leftover from a house. The biggest expense was the type of wire we used for the sides. Chicken wire is certainly suitable, but I would HIGHLY suggest hardware cloth, it’s a fancy name for heavy duty wire. It’s a thicker wire and mostly indestructible. We have lots of critters that lurk around our coop after the sun goes down, and I feel really good knowing they are as safe as they can be. The door opens in and has a spring loaded hinge so it shuts on its own. It also has an outside latch. There is a place where the chickens can sit above their nest boxes. (The ledge visible in the picture has since been cut off so they didn’t have to crouch under it to get in.)
This winter we put a piece of clear corrugated roofing on each side and raised the coop up so the door would open in the snow. We put plywood up under the nest boxes so the hens could get out of the elements. And we also put a 100 watt bulb in this area to help them stay a bit warmer. We saved all the leaves from our yard to put in the coop and it helps keep the bottom of the coop dry, the chickens also LOVE to scratch through the leaves. The snow piles up around the sides and keeps the coop warmer.
Our Coop cost just under $100 to build.
One last glorious sunny photo of the coop from last summer.
Stop by tomorrow for Part 4, “Upkeep”