After growing up with chickens throughout my childhood, and keeping chickens for over a decade of my adult life, I’ve known a lot of chicken coops. My first chicken coop was a very important place on our little farm, and will forever hold an important place in my heart. That’s where I would go hang out with Maude the chicken on rainy days, and even though she usually ended up pecking me, we were friends. I’ve moved around a lot as an adult, and been fortunate to always find housing for my feathered friends. Some of these were coops were already there on the property, some were gifted to me by friends, and some were re-purposed out of other buildings. There’s been a pump house coop, a horse stall coop, a doghouse coop, and so on. Each chicken coop was unique, and presented it’s own set of advantages and challenges. All the while, my experiences with each of these chicken coops added to the dream chicken coop being built in my mind, for one day when I would finally settle down for good on my own homestead. You can imagine after all those years, I had thought about this a lot, and it was turning into one fancy, deluxe dream chicken coop!
Last spring, we cleared a space for the coop to become a reality. We picked a location that was close to the house, after the original coop on the property proved to be too far away and too close to the woods for us to keep our flock safe. We no longer have any chickens except for one lone rooster, so that should tell you how that all went. To keep all the happening homesteading things in one place, the coop building site was right next to the garden, and just a stone’s throw from the quail coop and greenhouse. It was also right next to the fence around our yard and gardens, so we would be able to free range the chickens outside of this area where they tend to cause a lot of destruction. Chickens may be fluffy and cute, but they are total thugs, and will mess your stuff up. Seriously.
This fall, we started putting the dream chicken coop ideas on paper, which led to actual plans and rounding up materials. Corey had been gaining all these homestead building project skills over the last few years, which he could now put to work building our new coop. I was busy with non-homestead work, and not super involved at this point beyond the planning, but we got by with a little help from our friends to get the project off the ground (literally), and had a good, old fashioned Chicken Coop Raising (which you can read about here.)
Once the framed walls were up, Corey got the metal roof on, and spent some rainy days working under cover. I wanted a nesting box that was accessible from a door on the outside for gathering eggs, because walking through a chicken coop to do that every night can get really gross. My experience has always been that hens tend to all use the same one or two nesting boxes to lay their eggs in anyway, so four boxes seemed like plenty. Since chickens like elevated nesting boxes, the space underneath was perfect for an enclosed a brooder box for baby chicks. Adult chickens are really rough on baby chicks, so it’s important to be able to isolate a broody hen and her chicks, or have a space to raise chicks from the feed store under a heat lamp. Think of it as a nursery for chickens.
We decided to side the coop with cedar fence boards that we found for a bargain from a place up in Junction City. Corey framed in a couple of old glass windows left over from our Glass Window Greenhouse project, to let a little natural light into the coop and tie the two buildings together aesthetically. We figured the small gaps between boards would help with ventilation, which is important for a chicken coop. The cedar is also durable in our wet climate, and looks downright gorgeous.
Our friends made us this sign after the reference originated from a “Straight Outta Compton” movie night we had a while back. The new chicken coop has been a topic of important conversation around here for quite some time.
The crowning artistic touch was a stained glass window made by my mother to hang in my kitchen a few years ago. There was a stained glass window of a rooster in the chicken coop we had when I was growing up, so this made the coop seem complete to me somehow. I also added a ceramic hen house plaque from one of my favorite local artists at the Eugene Saturday Market that I had been holding on to for a while.
I learned over the years that linoleum flooring makes a huge difference when you go to clean the coop and scrape out all the chicken droppings. Corey did a little searching around town, and hit the jackpot with a remnant of fancy faux-hardwood flooring for only $20. We even had some extra to line the nesting boxes and brooder box.
After doing some research, it sounded like flat 2 x 4’s were the best roosting surface for a chicken to sleep on at night, with a minimum of 8″ of roosting space per hen, and 15″ in between each bar. My favorite go-to chicken resource, Fresh Eggs Daily had a very helpful article about it here: All About Roosting Bars in Your Chicken Coop. Our goal was to house around 20 chickens comfortably in this coop.
With that, the inside of the coop was finished. There was a space next to the nesting boxes for a metal garbage can to store feed in, and room to hang a feeder and set up a waterer. If I were a chicken, I would definitely want to live in this coop. Now, we were ready to move on to the chicken doors and chicken run.
With the coop buttoned up, we started on the chicken moat. Although it sounds very medieval and dramatic, a chicken moat is really just a chicken run around the garden. It’s a good line of defense against bugs and pests invading the garden, and it’s an efficient use of space for a chicken run. This way we could also hang out with our chickens in the yard, without having them actually in the yard. Remember, chickens are thugs.
We built a double gate system at the garden entrance so we could close off each side of the chicken moat and get a wheelbarrow in and out to do garden work. There is also the option there of opening the inside gate and letting the chickens til up the garden early in the spring before seedlings are planted. With a chicken moat, chickens can do their chicken thing in a beneficial way, and everyone wins!
We made a snazzy little chicken drawbridge going into a hole in the moat fence, with a little set of gates around it for access to open and shut their chicken door at night and in the morning, without having to walk through the coop (and the poop!) This is right by the egg collecting door, making all the chicken chores an easy, one-stop deal.
I am still a big advocate for free ranging chickens, so in addition to the chicken drawbridge door going into the moat, we made a second chicken drawbridge door going to a hole cut out in our fence. This goes right under the grapes and out onto a grassy hillside where our original flock used to love hanging around and chilling on sunny days. Having these options for the chickens will help us keep them safe, like if a predator is hanging around or we want to keep a closer eye, we can just have them go in the chicken run and not free range that day. These ideas were the result of thinking about chicken coop problems all those years, and I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the design I came up with. I am also extremely grateful for Corey’s building skills and work ethic making this design into a reality!
So, there you have it. My dream house has been built, and it’s for the chickens.
On that note, I am happy to introduce the beginning our new flock, Belladonna and Rhiannon. My daughter and I picked up these fluffy little Black Copper Marans from the feed store on the way home from a Stevie Nicks concert (which was epic, by the way.) When I go out to visit them on these cold March mornings, I’m taken back to some of my first childhood memories, hanging out with Maude and her chicks in our coop with the stained glass rooster window. Sometimes our dreams take us far out into the world, and sometimes our dreams circle us back around to where we came from. Whichever way they go, it sure feels good when those dreams are realized. Mine usually seem to involve chickens. Looks like I’m a crazy chicken lady for life.