Grit Blogs > Acorn and Thistle

Evolution Of a Chicken Coop

I’d wanted chickens for years. Years! I’d read tons of books, magazines and articles on the internet, so I thought I had a pretty good
grasp on what was needed going in. When I made up my mind to get them, I searched craigslist and found a lady not far from my office that sold pre-fab coops. The ad said that the one I liked was “suitable for up to five chickens”, and since I was planning on picking up four, I figured there’d be room to spare.

I made the arrangements with her to come by and pick it up, and in my excitement, I also set up a time with another woman to pick up some 10 week old pullets she had for sale- the very next day. When I arrived to pick up the coop, I remember thinking that it was smaller than I’d pictured, but since I was now in a self-imposed time crunch, I paid the lady and was on my way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still like (and use) what we now call the “mini-cooper”. It’s a great interim place for new chicks, a sick bird
or a new rabbit. It’s just not suited to the heavy breeds that I’d chosen; as a soon-to-be chicken owner, I didn’t yet have perspective on size.  Wyandottes and Barred Rocks are roughly basketball sized birds once they’re fully grown. This coop has a 2x4 foot footprint, making it 8 square feet total. Not only is that too small for the birds, there’s way too much traffic on the ground.

Determined to get my money out of the coop while the birds were still small, I attached wheels to one end of the coop, and a bar at the
front to make it moveable. I moved it once a day, to keep the pullets on fresh grass and to manage the copious amounts of manure they were generating. This worked out great for about 3 weeks, as they seemed to be growing exponentially and I was no longer able to pretend that the coop was going to work out as a permanent housing option.

So, I built a wheeled addition to the main coop, which I rolled up to their door every morning and this gave them another 12 square feet of secure space during the day while I was at work. In the evenings, I’d let them out to scratch and forage, but I was still too nervous to let them free range when we weren’t home. When it came time to roost at night, though, it was apparent that I needed to come up with another plan… four basketballs do not fit on a 2 foot wide bar.

What to do? I started looking online for plans, to build a new coop. There are so many options out there, from over-the-top cute to
utilitarian hoop houses made out of pvc and hardware cloth, and it was getting overwhelming. One day, I was looking at the ratty old fiberglass greenhouse that we inherited when we moved in, and I just kept thinking that if that wasn’t there, I could put a small barn in partition off an area for the chickens. And then it dawned on me… I hated the greenhouse anyway, and we weren’t really using it for much- I’d just convert half of it to a place for the chickens.

It took about a day, clearing out all of the old stuff that had accumulated in there to make room for the girls. We put up a fence with a
gate to divide up the space, and attached wooden frames to the windows so I could make the openings predator proof. We cut a pop door in the end wall, hung a couple of nest boxes up and built some roosting bars for them using an old ladder and cedar branches. A tarp went over the roof openings to keep the weather out, some bedding went down on the dirt floor, and we were good to go.

I was worried that we’d have a hard time getting them into their new digs, but moving day was actually a piece of cake; we rolled the mini over next to the pop hole, but kept its door closed. They’d been in and out of the new coop during the day; we put some scratch grains down in there to get their attention and let them explore. When they couldn’t get into the mini that night, they just went right on in to the new coop without hesitation.

Eventually, I still plan on replacing the greenhouse with a small barn. But, with its fenced run and canopy of trees, the greenhouse coop is working out just fine. (Even if I still don’t like the way it looks.)

 Mini with Greenhouse in the background