Sunny S.U., Meringue, Custard, Poach, Frittata and Omlet are still doing well. They haven’t slowed down their laying too much, thanks to Nashville’s mild winters. Some days we still get 6 eggs but 4 or 5 is more common. They’ve been getting smart about escaping their enclosure (or dumb, depending on how you look at it and where they end up afterward), and are now spending most of their time in the coop and run until we can patch up some gaps under the fence, clip some wings and/or build a taller partition fence. (Anyone have any experience clipping chicken wing feathers?!) On Christmas day I gave them a little feast of cabbage, cucumbers and spinach.
My chicken chores are made more cheerful this winter thanks to the new boots Jason bought me for Christmas. My old rain boots were so worn out they were hardly repelling water. I love these new bright red ones. Might as well make a statement while you’re tromping around in chicken $&@#, right?
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
The coop is designed to match our house.
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.