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How To Build A Good Chicken Coop: Part 6

Nathan LottHowdy! Thanks for joining us for today's discussion about chicken coops! Feel free to check out the previous articles.

Part 1: Size
Part 2: Location
Part 3: Orientation
Part 4: Ventilation


Part 5: Fortification

Today's topic is:

Maintenance & Cleaning.

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Life is busy. Everybody seems to have a million different things pulling them in a million different directions. Even when you're living "The Simple Life," you'll find that there just aren't enough hours in the day to take care of everything.

That being said, it was important to me to design our chicken coop to be as easy as possible to maintain.

You can blame it on my background as a software engineer, but I tried to make things as modular and reusable and polymorphic as I possibly could, just to simplify future maintenance. If something wears our or breaks, I want to be able to fix it quick, without having to rebuild the entire coop!

To give you an example of what I mean, take a look at the chicken run:

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It's made from 5 identical panels, kind of like "chicken coop Legos®," if you will. Sure, I could have built the entire fence as one contiguous piece (it would've been a lot cheaper and easier to do it that way), but what happens if (heaven forbid) our steer gets loose, rubs up against it, and breaks something? If it was all one piece, I'd probably be spending the better part of a day repairing the ENTIRE run. But, with my fancy-pants panels, I can easily take out just the broken section, mend or replace it, put it back, and then be done with the job. Easy peasy. No need to fix the entire run.

Having a bunch of identical, interchangeable panels also gives me the ability to mix-n-match. If I decide to expand or reconfigure the run in the future, all I have to do is grab a ratchet, loosen a few bolts, and I'm ready to go!

Let's switch gears for a second though, and talk about cleaning. Now, I absolutely love keeping chickens. I love the eggs. I love the meat. I love their personalities. But dang! They sure know how to make a mess!

When designing your coop, keep in mind that every single roost bar, shelf, ledge, etc. will (in almost no time at all) get covered with chicken poo. It's just a fact of life, man! So why not make things easier on yourself and try and make it all as simple to clean as possible? You're gonna have to muck out the entire coop at least 2 or 3 times a year (possibly a lot more) no matter how well it's designed — so a little bit of forethought can really go a long way.

I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything, but this is one category where I think our chicken coop really shines.

To clean it out, all I need to do is loosen a handful of bolts and the back wall of the nest boxes comes right off, making it a piece of cake to sweep 'em out.

Once I'm done with the nest boxes, I undo four more bolts, remove the rear fence panel, park a wheelbarrow underneath the coop, and BAM! The floor boards slide out, dumping all of the piled up bedding (and excrement) right into the wheelbarrow.

After that, it's a simple matter of scraping dried poop off the floor panels, putting everything back together, and I'm done! I don't need to go into the chicken coop at all. But don't go running away with the idea that doors aren't important, because nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm generally a big proponent of reducing the number of moveable parts (because the more moveable parts you have, the more time you're gonna spend fixing 'em). But if you ask me, there is no such thing as "too many doors" in a chicken coop. They might require a bit of maintenance every now and then, but I tell ya, they just make life easier!

We have one main door into our coop, two (soon to be three) side doors into the "run," and a nice little hatch right on top of the run for dumping kitchen scraps down to the feathery old moochers. We even have a hinged roof over the nest boxes so we don't have to go in there, disturbing the ladies every time we collect eggs. I tell ya, interchangeable parts and lots of doors — they help make chicken coop maintenance a breeze!


About the Author: Nathan and his family work and play and live on a 1.17 acre microfarm (a.k.a. "The One Acre Lott"), in a frigid Rocky Mountain valley, at the end of a long dirt road. He has been raising chickens for years, grows nearly all of his family's meat and produce, and loves every minute of it! For more of his exciting adventures, check out his personal website, www.oneacrelott.com.