In today’s post, I’m sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of our chicken coop and run situation. If you’re looking to start raising chickens, then read on!
I’m quite proud of myself that we realized it has been the one-year anniversary of having our chickens! Why I remembered it was because we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of those chickens that day. It had been 5-6 months of waiting since we ordered them, and it was the first time we had ever owned chickens in our lives!
Both my husband and I have lived near major cities most of our lives and this is all new territory to us. We ordered the chickens through Murray McMurray Hatchery in November, and by March, we started working on the coop.
Important note: Don’t wait one month out to start the building process. Working under a time crunch is never fun and super stressful on your mental health as well as your finances!
In the back of our minds, we always thought that even when the chicks came, we’d still have another month to work on the coop. Which is true, but again, they grow SO fast! Don’t work with a deadline if you can help it!
Our Chicken Coop Building Timeline:
- Looked up our county requirements for having chickens.
- Designed the coop, figuring out where the windows and doors would go.
- Added the framework.
- Built the rafters and added metal roofing.
- Added the hardware cloth along the ground to prevent any digging of pests. Also added to the windows.
- Added the siding and painted (we choose Conifer Green by Behr in the end).
- Added screen doors.
- We built our gutter later, but don’t forget that while you’re building to prevent more work later on!
- Framed out the chicken run and added chicken wire.
- Built nesting boxes and separated our feed storage from the coop.
Watch Our Journey of Building the Coop Video
The above list is the minimum we needed to get done to make it functional, but once it was fully built, we have added on throughout the year to make things more efficient for us.
Chicken Coop/Run Add-Ons We Love
We didn’t put our gutter up until much later and that was definitely a mistake. Since adding it, the water situation when it rains is so much better. There run would get so muddy and messy and in turn it would make our eggs look dirty too.
Along with the gutter, we hooked a rain barrel up to the downspout to save the rainwater. Then my husband added an automatic waterer system so that we no longer had to fill up their water every day.
Our climate is generally mild, so freezing isn’t usually an issue. But that is certainly something you’d have to consider depending on your climate. Mold is also a concern with rain barrels, so we placed ours in feed storage, that way it didn’t get direct sunlight.
The attachment we used for the chickens to get water is from Amazon. These are our favorite because if you have chickens, you know how dirty things can get quickly, including water. These help keep the dirt and stuff out!
The feed storage has been nice just because it’s more storage for us. We live in a small suburban home and finding space for the chicken equipment and gardening stuff is definitely lacking. This certainly did the trick! It’s also doubled as a space for sick chickens to hang out if they need rest.
This was an easy update that has served the chickens well. Weather is always changing that shutters have helped shade the coop in summer, block wind during storms, and have provided warm when opened for sunshine.
Wood chips were not the mistake, it was ordering a truckload of them and having them in our front yard for the neighborhood to see! We didn’t even use a fourth of what was dropped off and we ended up giving most of it away.
Otherwise, it was a big help for our chicken run (and garden)! We have clay soil here, and it doesn’t drain well. The chicken run had a tendency in some spots to puddle. Some days, it looked like a pond if the rain was really bad. And no one wants to walk around in that!
Enter wood chips. We filled the run with 6 inches of wood chips and there is no bad smell. It’s kept the run cleaner, it feeds the soil, and the chickens love scratching it. Do not underestimate the power of wood chips!
It took about a week for those chickens to destroy the lawn we had growing in the run. I’m not mad about it, the chickens loved foraging. Since that is so good for their health, we wondered how we could give them the grass and clovers all year.
Grazing boxes were the answer. We simply built a frame and stapled chicken wire to the top. This is key, because it prevents the chickens from scratching what you grew and helps it grow back with no damage done.
The Mistakes We Made with Our Chicken Coop/Run
Okay, I’m going to preach a little here and drive my point home with this. Had we not started homesteading where we were now (before any land or dream property) we would not have made these mistakes.
Now, if the opportunity ever presents itself and we’re able to purchase acres of land, we know exactly how we’d want the chicken coop to function. All because we made these mistakes. My point being, don’t wait until you have your dream land. Sow those seeds right where you’re at now. Learn and make mistakes on a smaller scale so when you have a much bigger scale, you already know what to do. *END RANT*
Maybe mistakes aren’t what we should call them. Maybe learning opportunities is better. Here are a list of things we’d do differently, next time around. Or even change later…
- 2 run doors: Sometimes chickens need to be separated. This would help us be able to do that and do it easier than finagling through a makeshift fence. We can take care of chickens on one side of the run, and also go around and get to the other chickens if we ever needed to, easily!
- Upgrade to Dutch doors for the run: Sometimes I just don’t want to have to go into the run to throw in food and possibly have escapees. A Dutch door would keep every chicken accounted for and throwing scraps in for me more doable.
- Shutters for coop door: The screen doors let’s in quite a bit of wind in the cooler months. This will definitely be an upgrade for the future to help keep the chickens warm when needed.
- Stacking our nesting boxes: For right now, our nesting boxes act as a barrier to separate the feed storage. It’s an entire wall! In retrospect, we’d have stacked the nesting boxes instead so that the chickens had more room to roost.
- Adding components that keep water from freezing/or heating up the water too much: We’ve spoken of simply placing a heat mat (for seedlings) next to the waterer because it would probably be enough to keep things from freezing. The other thing we’ve brainstormed is a pump that keeps the water flowing. I’m not sure what we’ll come up with yet, but considering those temperature changes if you have an automatic waterer is essential.
- Winterizing/Summerizing: If winterizing is a word, why isn’t summerizing? I think you understand what I’m getting at here. There is weather to consider for each season. How are you going to keep the chickens cool in the summer? How are you going to keep them warm in the winter? This we didn’t really think about until it was happening. Then last minute, we’d put together some wonky contraption to do the job. But in the end, we really needed to come up with permanent solutions.
- Dust bath roof: Chickens not only love dust baths, they NEED dust baths for good hygiene. I’d always find dust bath ideas, but we tend to get a decent amount of rain. The dust would be mud in the end. A tarp is easy enough to put on top, but you’d have to keep up with the weather and actually do it. I’d rather just build something. So we will… one day.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Chicken Coop Edition) Video
I’d Love to Know Your Thoughts
Again, I still consider myself an amateur when it comes to owning chickens. What are some things you think I should add to my list that have made your life easier? Let me know in the comments below!