Chicken Coop Plans
Outdoor Chicken Yard
We want our chickens to be happy, but safe. In our region there are many predators that endanger free roaming chickens. Besides coyote which are prevalent in the area, there have been sightings of both mountain lions and wolves in the vicinity. Several of our neighbors have lost hens to these predators, even chickens that were thought to be protected by fenced-in yards.
In addition, we took the threat of avian flu into consideration when designing our outdoor chicken habitat. With rampant news about the dangers and spread of avian flu we decided that our coop needed to be enclosed on the top as well as the sides to prevent migrating birds from entering the coop in search of food and water. In the future we plan to provide a watering hole on the other side of our property for migrating birds.
Building a Secure Chicken Yard
You might remember our experiments with geodesic domes... We used our geodesic dome tent as a storage space for more than a year. During that time the tarp cover succumbed to the harsh elements and eventually shredded. We agreed that while the dome shape made a decent temporary shelter, the effort that would be required to make another cover was not worth the gain. Instead we decided to re-appropriate the dome frame for our outdoor chicken habitat.
To cover the dome we cut chicken wire into triangles and attached each triangle to the dome with tie wire. We interlaced each of the seams to securely enclose the dome. Around the outside of the base of the dome, we dug a trench about 6" deep and 8" wide. We lined the bottom and one side of the trench with chicken wire, overlapping the dome frame with the chicken wire and securing it to the frame with tie wire. We filled the trench with sharp metal scraps left over from other projects and then covered it over. The trench is designed to deter any animals that might try to dig their way into the chicken dome.
The chicken dome looks cool, but rectangular structures offer adequate stability for a lot less work and effort. In addition, we've discovered that its quite a challenge to catch a chicken in a round space. In a rectangular space, chickens can be easily cornered and caught. The verdict...no more domes.
The chicken dome abuts the barn and there is an entryway leading from the outdoor chicken yard to the interior chicken coop. The passage way has a guillotine style door that can be raised or lowered from inside the barn via a rope and pulley system. We looked into using a doggie door, but our research showed that chickens weren't prone to push through a door.
The interior chicken coop also houses the nest boxes. We first experimented with communal nesting boxes, which are large and unsegmented. This has not really been that successful. We've had trouble keeping the straw in the boxes, as well as keeping them clean. We have several improvements planned for our nest boxes. First, we will segment the nest boxes so that each compartment is just large enough for one bird. In addition the boxes will be shorter, which we theorize will keep the chickens from standing in their nests and thereby from fouling their nests. Next, we will make the lip on the front of the boxes higher in order to keep the straw from being pushed out so easily.
When our chickens first started laying, we immediately had problems with the chickens eating their eggs! To correct the problem we identified and quarantined the instigating chicken. It was easy to tell which one she was by the egg on her beak and feathers. We also placed burlap curtains over the nest boxes to reduce the light in the boxes. In my research I found that while chickens need ample light to maintain their health, too much light in the nest boxes can cause them to be anxious and break their eggs and then learn to eat them. To break the egg eating habit we collected eggs every half hour for about a week. We've pretty much taken care of the egg eating problem and now only find pecked eggs on occasion.
Our chicken roost is also a work in progress. We first started with a roost that looked a bit like a ladder. As it turned out the birds all fought for the top rung, which created discontent within the flock. Now our roosts are all on the same level and order is restored to the flock, but the birds are able to stand in the droppings that collect under the roost. We'd like to prevent this unsanitary behavior and will be rethinking the roosts.
Passive Solar Barn Plans
Click here to read more about our passive solar barn.
More on Raising Chickens
Read about our first experience raising egg laying chickens:
Egg Laying Chickens for Beginners
How we modified our nesting boxes and increased egg productivity:
Building Chicken Nest Boxes