Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Keeping Chickens, Part 3: Coop; When & How

Can I just say how happy I am that tomorrow I get to mentally download (explode?) all over this blog about the big news?  I think I just did.  Until tomorrow, then...

Today, we're talkin' 'bout chickens.  So your chickies are now 4-6 weeks old, it's getting warmer outside, the sun is shining longer, and it's time to introduce the awkward, adolescent pullets (hens 1 year or younger) to the world.  When I say awkward, I mean awkward.
Bye-bye, cute little balls of puff.  Although at this point they look a lot more like chickens, they still peep like chicks.  It's just... awkward, I tell you.  But I must say, it sure is easier kicking them out of their warm brood and into the world when they look like this...

Like I said before, ideally, you'll have the coop ready before you even bring the tiny chicks home (time flies by when you're keeping chicks).  That ideal didn't happen for us; Jeremy hammered the last nail in the coop the day the adolescent pullets were put in their new, outdoor home. 

The size of the coop all depends on how many chickens you'll be keeping.  I read that a 12-hen flock is ideal for a family of 6-8, so that's what we did. Some good coop-building resources are Chickens in Your BackyardKeep Chickens!, or Building Chicken Coops.  You can always Google "chicken coops" and the possibilities are endless.  That's what we did.  I happen to be married to a very handy man.  He found a coop we liked on Craigslist and just from the picture, he built that amazing coop seen at the top of this post.

Our coop for the dozen hens we have is 5'x6'.  You'll want to make sure they have enough nesting space for at least three hens to lay at the same time (although they'll probably all try to lay in the exact same spot; they're a tad peculiar that way).  I refresh the grass/straw in the nesting box once a week.
Here's a better picture of the nesting box from the outside:
You'll also need to provide 2 roosts, or perches.  That's where they'll sleep.
Chicken poo is like chocolate for your garden.  And that might have been the most disturbing thing I've ever written.  What I mean to say is, their droppings provide rich fertilizer for garden beds.  Does that sit better?  You can use the deep litter method (adding fresh grass/straw about once a month right on top of the old stuff and cleaning it all out twice a year) and you'll have huge batches ready-to-use, fertile, compost for your garden.  I usually scoop some out whenever I need some fertilizer before adding a fresh layer of grass clippings.

We're currently living on an acre and a half, so we have free grass clippings/dead leaves to lay down in the coop and their run ten months out of the year.  For the other two months, we buy two bales of hay (one for each month) which are only $3 each.
Yep.  Lots of grass clippings...

Even if you keep your hens in a fenced-in run like we do, you'll want to latch the coop door up at night.  We found some hungry-looking paw prints right next to our coop the other day.
Well, that's that.  Next time, we'll chat about feeding your flock.  What to feed, when to feed, and why.  Yeehaw.


  1. I really enjoyed your post. Found you on facebook. My aunt had her own chickens, ducks and even a couple of turkeys. We live in a mobile home, so, not chickens for us...Your post brought back sweet memories of my Aunt Evie who has been with Jesus for many years now.
    Thank you again!

  2. Oh I just love reading your blog! And well I just love reading about chickens :) I had no idea you could use grass clippings!? That's great! And im so impressed with that coop!


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