While I won’t portend to be quite as well spoken as Wendy from the previous article, I will attempt in this edition to display my chicken coop and enclosure as well as discuss some aspects of it for your information.
The picture above is the original area of my yard that the chicken coop and run was in. This area is consistently moist and a relatively poor area of my yard to grow anything, which is why the chickens went there. It was also infested with Creeping Charlie. The chickens have eaten all the Creeping Charlie, as well as all the other material in their run down to the ground. I keep a layer of bedding down at all times. This might be leaves or grass clippings, for the most part. I also throw most of my kitchen scraps and garden debris for them to work over. About every 6 weeks I rake out the run and the coop and compost the litter. I recently moved the chickens, so this area has been heavily mulched to prepare it for planting next spring.
I recently obtained a dog kennel from someone in the neighborhood, which I was happy to use to hold the chickens, although it wouldn’t fit into my old area. I moved it over one of my raised garden beds. With some careful modifications I should be able to slide this over the top of three of my garden beds, which gives those beds a turn hosting the chickens every three years or so. As I grow my garden to the west of this location there will be more beds to spread the chickens over, as well as the possibility that I can build the beds to fit with the kennel better to use the space better. I like this system much better than my old, pathetic system because it actually keeps the chickens contained! With my old, built by me and my pathetic building skills, I would come out to put them away and they would be sitting on the ground outside the door waiting for me to put them back in.
Like all gardeners/homesteaders most of what I do is constantly evolving, and the chickens are no different. Right now I have two chickens in there, but I’m angling to add a few more next year, perhaps banties. You can probably tell from this enclosure that my building skills are dreadfully sub par, and while I would like to let them free range I don’t think my neighbors would care for that too much.
About the coop, the coop was essentially built with scraps that I bought from the discount bin at the home improvement center, stuff I had lying around and 2 2x4s that I bought. Originally I was going to build a peaked roof, but that proved too difficult so I did a flat roof. This seems to work fine. I had two planters on the top of it that had lettuce in them, but I kept forgetting to water them so we’ll have to try again next year. You can see the roost inside, which is a cut down closet pole and I use shredded paper from my office as the bedding material. The nesting box is an old Clementine box that I saved for this purpose. I have two openings, one is the “main” door that I put in for the chickens to come and go. The other is intended for my use to access the inside to add food, water and maybe someday get some eggs. In reality, the chickens love to roost on the trap door and survey their domain and use this door frequently to enter and exit as it’s a quick hop up or down for them..
One thing I do like about having the run so close to the garden is that this fall I was able to dump the litter straight on the garden from the coop when I put the garden beds to sleep for the year. Chicken manure shouldn’t be added to crops directly, but since my beds were finished growing and I had all winter to let the compost mellow I dumped the litter right on. Besides, with all the bedding already in the run and coop and all the leaves and grass clippings I’ll add on the top between now and snowfall the manure ratio will be very watered down.
So far, my total investment for the eggs I’ve gotten (zero) has been quite high, but even if these chickens don’t produce any eggs in the near future it’s been a great experience and I know that I’ll raise chickens in my backyard for a long, long time. Who knows, maybe this spring we’ll get some broilers in addition to those extra layers.