I am super excited today to introduce you to Colleen from Five Little Homesteaders
blog. Colleen has been an inspiration to our family as we make our journey to a healthier, homestead lifestyle of our own. Over the last couple of months I have been quite excited about the idea of adding chickens to our home. One of my biggest concerns to getting chickens is where the chickens will live and how to keep them happy and safe. Today, Colleen is going to share with us her experience with building a chicken coop that has all of the things chickens need to survive.
Colleen is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to three little ones – ages 3, 2, and 1. Her days are filled with laughing and tears, joys and frustrations, chickens and children. Her family of five lives on a .15 acre lot in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Through this urban homesteading journey, Colleen hopes to lead her family down the path to a more sustainable, intentional, and fulfilled life. Follow their adventures on their blog Five Little Homesteaders or find them on Facebook and Twitter.
I am excited to be guest posting today on “Raising Dick & Jane.” I love Mary’s blog and share her desire to feed her family only the best food possible. I was excited when I read that she is seriously considering getting chickens this time next year. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know I’m advocate for chicken rearing. So, without further
ado, here’s a little post that should get Mary (and you!)
started on the road to raising chickens.
DIY Chicken Coop Design
I truly believe that chickens are a great animal to raise. Not only are they full of personality and incredibly easy to care for, they give you food almost every single day. That’s way more than my dog does for me! I live on a very small piece of land in an urban environment (.15 acres, 3 miles from downtown Phoenix) and I find raising chickens to be incredibly rewarding and fun. We currently own six chickens who live in two different coops – our first two girls are almost two and we have four chicks who are almost three months old.
This is “Quack Quack” – Sheʼs a Rhode Island Red and almost two.
There are many thing to think about when delving into the world of chicken raising – breeds, chicks, feed, housing, cleaning, predators, etc. In this post, I want to look a little more closely at where chickens live, i.e. the coop. This is an area where one can be incredibly creative or perfectly simplistic. We’ve gone pretty simplistic (so far) with the coops on our property but no matter which you decide, there are some basic things that must be considered when deciding on a coop design. (For the purposes of this post, I’ll consider that we are designing for laying hens, as opposed to meat birds.)
1. Free Range or Coop with Run – In the backyard chicken raising environment, one has to consider whether their chickens will free range around the yard (which generally requires that they be let out of the coop in the morning and locked back in at night) or be confined to a coop with a run. Both can be good options; however, we use a coop with a run. We have found that between low fence walls, hawks, neighborhood cats, and my desire to keep a garden and NOT have it completely consumed by my chickens, this is the best option for our set-up.
2. Ventilation – Adequate ventilation keeps the chickens healthy. It is important to consider your climate when it comes to ventilation. Those in cold climates will need to protect their chickens from drafts and warm climates will need to provide vents to keep air moving in the coop. As you’ll notice in my pictures, living in Phoenix, I have to make sure that air is always able to move and therefore our coops are completely open air.
3. Roosts – Chickens will instinctively roost up high to sleep at night. They also enjoy roosting during the day when nothing else is going on. Roosts are generally made from some type of wood and sanded smooth to protect the chickens’ feet from splinters.
My scrubbing down the top roost in one of our coops.
4. Nesting Boxes – These don’t have to be fancy but they are necessary as hens instinctively want to lay eggs in a dark and protected space. Generally, a 12 inch cube will work as a nesting box. I’ve read that one nesting box for every four hens should be plenty but in my experience, it works better if you have a box for every two chickens. It seems my girls always want to lay at the same time.
Two Nesting Boxes – The holes in the back are for egg collecting.
5. Feed and Water – Pretty easy, but you’ll want to make sure that you think about a place for feed and a place for water to be stored in the coop. There are many different products on the market to take care of both of these needs and as with anything, you can spend a lot of money or go simple and spend relatively little. As with most things, we’ve gone pretty simple in this department and I’ve had no regrets.
You can see the feeder hanging in the middle and the waterer on the left in the back.
6. Predator Protection – We’re lucky that, except for stray cats and the hawks that fly overhead during the day, there aren’t a lot of predators in the downtown Phoenix area. When my hens are in their coop and run, I know that they are pretty safe. However, I’ve hear stories of places where raccoons are smart enough to get latches undone and snakes slither into nesting boxes to gobble up eggs. That being said, know what the predators are in your area and design accordingly.
There you have it. Six important things to consider when planning for your first chicken coop. I am far from an expert on the matter but these are the basics and this is a good place for the beginning chicken keeper to start.
My biggest piece of advice for those thinking about getting chickens is to just do it! I’ve found the process to be easier than I could have ever expected and ever so rewarding for me, my husband, and especially our three children. As I always tell people, I think my chickens are easier than my 10 year old house cat! Don’t be intimidated. Read a little about it, pick breeds carefully, and then dive in! You’ll be so glad you did.
For those considering raising chickens, here are some good resources that I’ve come across in the last few years:
Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plan for Housing Your Flock By Judy Pangman
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens By Gail Damerow
The Urban Chicken An ebook by Heather Harris
Thank you Colleen for sharing your expertise with us today! It was a pleasure having you join us.
<3 Dick and Jane
Dick and Jane wants to hear from you!
1. Do you own chickens?
2. What would you consider to be the toughest or most rewarding thing about owning chickens?
3. What advice would you give to someone thinking about owning chickens?