Urban Farm: Part 2. Chicken Coop, DIY!

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Going over to the Simenc household for brunch is always a joy – they always find a unique way to use their fresh chicken eggs (click here for great brunch ideas)! You can definitely taste the difference in an egg laid by your own chickens to those you buy for two bucks from the store. The good news: getting fresh eggs daily isn’t the only benefit of owning chickens!

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Here you can see the old coop that was less secure. T&D lost three hens to a raccoon, prompting Dan to remodel the coop.

Benefits to owning chickens:

  • Fresh eggs daily, depending on how many chickens you have. The Simenc family gets around 3-4 eggs a day.
  • Bug control around the yard. If you let your chickens free range in the yard, they will peck at bugs all over your lawn, meaning less spiders in the house!
  • They eat almost all your food waste. With the exceptions of certain foods, your chickens will eat all your leftovers.

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Coop DIY!

It is really important for chickens to have a good coop. If not only for their safety, but also for your sanity! Here are some key points I collected from my favorite chicken owners (Tabbi and Dan Simenc) that you should consider when building a coop. They did a remodel on their old chicken coop and these were the main ideas they wanted to include in the updated version:

  • The Hen House, the little box on the left. This is where the chickens will roost at night. Once it hits their bedtime, they will bunker down in here for the night. Tip: This space needs to be waterproof and have a door so that you can clean all the chicken poop out when it gets messy. It is also worth noting that there should be access to hook up a heating lamp for the winter months if you live in a place that stays below freezing for a few months out of the year.

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  • The Run. the large rectangular box to the right. If you choose not to let your chickens free range, it is especially important for this space to be a decent size. Tips: It is best if it is partly in the shade and partly in the sun, as chickens need both to healthily regulate their temperatures. Their access to food and water (heated bowl necessary in winter) should be in this section and accessible easily. It is handy to make the top of the run a little taller than chicken height, that way you can get in and out of the run easily without crawling in lots of muck.

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  • The Egg Laying Box, the tiny box off of the Hen House. Here is where the chickens will lay their eggs, so it is is handy to have a lid for easy access. Of course, with a lid it is easy for predators to easily get in. Make sure to have either a latch or heavy rock on top to stop attacks.

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  • Safety: All over, there are different kinds of animals that will break into chicken coops and kill the chickens. In Boise we mainly see the odd Raccoon, but we have also seen Foxes and even a Hawk. 3 of the Simenc hens were killed by a Raccoon almost a year ago – prompting them to build a more secure coop.

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  • Dig a small ditch where you intend to place the walls of your coop. Bury some chicken wire and part of the fencing to make sure that no other animals can dig under the edges (this can happen a lot). Then, go ahead and build the walls securely. Make sure the girls will have access to the hen house at all times, and that there is chicken wire over all open areas.

When you build the coop, it is essential to make sure you pay attention to the list above. Find a good spot in the yard and start building. You’ll need a plan for what you intend to do before you start building – just an image in your head isn’t enough to make a successful coop. Try and build with materials you may have around the shed so that you can keep the costs low. You’ll need a range of different things, for example:

  • Old posts and planks of wood
  • An old fence
  • A few sheets of chipboard
  • Chicken wire – lots of it!
  • A Hen House (Dan built theirs himself, but you can buy one already made if you want).

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Free Range Information

At the store you get a choice to buy caged or free range eggs. Free range eggs are better (As long as the brand sticks to guidelines) as your chicken is getting better nutrition through a more varied diet. If you only give them scraps of food and chicken scratch, they will be missing out on all sorts of bugs from around the yard. Another benefit, is that they will eat bugs from around the yard which is great pest control! Chickens like to graze all over the garden and especially enjoy eating plants. However, while it is great for your chickens and the quality of their eggs, it is not always a practical idea to let them free range. If you have plants in the yard, you may have to put up a small amount of chicken wire to stop them from eating and ruining your flowerbeds. If you do not have a secure yard, they can also escape. If this is the case, you can make a small, movable chicken run so that in the day time they can graze in different sections of the yard without escaping or ruining your landscape job.

Making your coop aesthetically pleasing and efficient!

  • Dan built a great chicken feed tunnel out of some PVC pipe. Load it up on the outside of the coop without having to go inside every time, and the chicken feed trickles down the pipe as they eat it.
  • If you have any leftover paint matching the color of your house and shed, use it to paint the coop! This will make your garden look put together and cute.IMG_0435

Meet the Hens!

Tabbi and Dan chose a few different types of chickens to occupy their coop. They specifically chose breeds that are hardy, and able to withstand Idaho temperature fluctuations.

Molongu the social chicken, is a Rhode Island Red & White
Frieda, is an Ameraucana. She is especially cool because she lays blue eggs!
Maybe, is a Golden sexlink.
Hillary, is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.
Maya (I got to name this bird!), is a Plymouth Barred Rock.

Meet Molongu, the social chicken!
Meet Molongu, the social chicken!

Finally, always make sure to be careful when buying chickens. T&D have previously owned two Bantam chickens they bought from the same place, that died from illness shortly after.

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