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Modern Chicken Coop: Tour

04/08/2014

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Our chickens have been living outside in their new coop for 2-3 weeks now. Jason and I spent a lot of time on it and we’re quite happy with how it turned out. We haven’t had to clean it yet, so ask me again in a few months. Hopefully, we’re still happy! We’re not needing to access eggs yet. My original design was to lift the roof to access the nesting boxes but the roof turned out much heavier than I imagined. Jason is planning to add some small doors to the side to make egg retrieval easier. We’re not expecting eggs for several more months so there’s no rush to get that addition.

I’ve been asked if I could share our plans. We did a lot of scribbling drawings on construction paper, arguing about the plans in the aisle of Lowes and figuring it out as we went. I did the research and design while Jason did most of the construction—some of it with my help. We have very specific requirements because we live in metropolitan Nashville. Our property size allowed for the maximum of 6 hens. Our city requires the coop/henhouse to have 2 sq. ft. per bird and an enclosed run space of 6 sq. ft. per bird. Everything has to be completely enclosed with hardware cloth 1″ or less, and able to be locked. I started with those requirements and read the book A Chicken in Every Yard and did a lot of online research as more questions came about.

Here are some general specs:
• Our coop/henhouse is 4’x4′ with a height of 2.5′-4′. It is 2′ off of the ground.
• The coop has two vents in the back, approximately 4″x12″
• The coop roof is hinged to open for cleaning
• The roosting bar (where the hens will sit to sleep at night) is a 4′ long 2×4
• The roosting bar is about 2 or 2.5′ off the floor of the coop, with about 1.5′ of head space
• We have two nesting boxes (I hear they usually all use one, but 1 box per 4 hens is a good ratio)
• The nesting boxes are 1′ off the floor with about 1.5′ of head space; we’re using small cat litter boxes
• The run is 4’x5′ and connects to the 4’x4′ shaded spaced under the coop, for a total run of 4’x9′
• The run is 3′ high where it’s not under the coop
• The run has two doors for cleaning, letting the chickens out into the yard and accessing the food and water
• The feeder and waterer hang under the coop to stay dry
• Because the run is securely enclosed, we don’t have a closing pop door on the coop
• The entire bottom of the run and all sides are covered with 1/2″ hardware cloth to make it predator-proof. The hardware cloth is stapled to the 2×2 frame on run and then the staples are covered with another strip of wood which is nailed.
• The bottom of the run was covered with dirt and grass and then straw. The inside of the coop is lined with pine shavings.
• The paint colors and shingles are all the same as our house

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The coop is designed to match our house.

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Our girls seem to be very happy with their new home, though they also love roaming the backyard when we give them the chance. Left to right: Quiche (Plymouth Rock), Meringue (Rhode Island Red), Sunny S.U. (Buff Orpington) and Soufflé (Plymouth Rock). They’re just about 2 months old in this picture.

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Meet the New Chicks

02/10/2014

This weekend we fulfilled a lifelong dream of raising our own livestock. Just kidding. Actually, Jason has been trying to convince me for a couple of years now to get backyard hens. He got a book for Christmas on urban chicken keeping and we started planning the fence to enclose our backyard…I was finally on board. The fence is now complete. The coop and run are designed on paper. The permit from Metro Nashville has been acquired.

Within the city limits we have a lot of regulations on chicken keeping. We have a large enough yard to allow the maximum number of 6 hens. Absolutely no roosters are allowed. We wanted to start out with a minimum of 3 hens and since the chick survival rate is not 100% and we have at best a 1/10 chance of getting a rooster, we started with 5.

Meet the girls. Left to right: Sunny S.U., Soufflé, Quiche and Meringue. Scramble is in the back, not showing her face. Sunny and Scramble are Buff Orpingtons. Soufflé and Quiche are Barred Plymouth Rocks. Mer is a Rhode Island Red.

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Ali holding a chick for the first time. Isn’t it sweet? Major Mom mistake though…I should have had her sitting on the floor. She got startled right after this picture and dropped Scramble. (That’s how she got her name…) Scram isn’t doing great. She’s eating, drinking and walking but she’s kind of…crooked. She sleeps more than the others. Not sure how that’s all going to turn out yet. She’s really sweet and I’m trying not to get too attached to her in case we need to replace her. Eek. Our first chicken drama. I feel horribly guilty about poor little Scramble.

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This is Meringue. She’s smart and feisty.

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This is Sunny S.U. She’s very mellow.

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The folks we got the Plymouths from gave us a dozen eggs from their full grown girls. They said they have more eggs than they know what to do with. We celebrated with poached eggs for dinner last night.

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We still have a coop to build and a lot to learn but we’re all really excited about this new adventure.