One Acre Lott

How To Build A Good Chicken Coop: Part 2

Nathan LottLooking to build a new chicken coop? Well, you've come to the right place!

In my last article, I talked about some of the factors that go into determining the SIZE of your chicken coop. Today, we'll be talking about:

Location.

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My first chicken coop, located near the house (but not TOO close).

To use an old cliche, LOCATION is everything!

I mean, you can't just go plopping your chicken coop down all willy-nilly. (Unless, of course, you've got a small, portable chicken coop or "chicken tractor," in which case, feel free to plop it down as willy-nilly-ly as you please.)

If you're planning on a bigger, bulkier, less-mobile coop, however, there are actually quite a few things you ought to consider before selecting a permanent location.

For starters, let's talk about your environment.

Are there strong, prevailing winds where you live? If so, you might consider building your chicken coop behind a wind break of some kind. It could be a fence, a hedge, a bush, whatever. What about sunshine? Your chickens will love it in the winter, but they'll do anything in their power to avoid it in the summer. Some kind of seasonal shade is the optimal solution. Does your property offer anything like that? Is your property prone to flooding? (We know all about flooding...) If so, you'll probably want to build the coop on the highest ground available, or build a raised coop.

It's also important to consider the distance from your house to the coop.

You'll be walking out to the coop at least once or twice a day (feeding and watering the chickens, checking for eggs, etc.), so you might be tempted to build your coop right next to the back door just to make chore time a little easier on yourself.

That might work well for some folks, but at the same time you probably don't want it too close to the house, because, well ... How do I put this delicately?

Chickens poop. Not an inordinate amount, mind you. And, assuming you keep things cleaned out properly, it really doesn't raise too much of a stink. But still, I'm not too keen on the idea of eau-de-chicken wafting into my open windows on a peaceful summer's evening.

You might also find that your chickens can get a bit noisy. Even if you don't own a rooster, you should be aware that your hens will make noise (at least a little). So if you're not the type of person who likes waking up at the crack of dawn to the peaceful, relaxing "AHHH-I-JUST-LAID-A-REALLY-BIG-EGG-AND-I-WANT-TO-TELL-THE-WHOLE-WORLD-ABOUT-IT!" squawk, you'll probably want to keep some distance between the coop and your bedrooms.

And let's not forget about rodents. Mice (and other opportunistic pests) are often attracted to the chicken coop for a variety of reasons. Fortunately for us, we have a bunch of half-wild farm cats running around the place, so we've never really had an issue with it. (And even if it weren't for all those cats, our chickens have been known to catch and eat mice from time to time, too, so I think we're covered either way!)

At the end of the day, there are a lot of different things to consider when placing your chicken coop. I wish I had a magic bullet for you, some kind of golden rule that would be perfect for everyone. But unfortunately, as with most decisions in life, you just have to weigh the pros and cons, make a choice, and live with it.

At the very least, I hope that this article has given you some food for thought.

I know one thing for certain though — I've never regretted the decision to raise chickens!


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.

How To Build A Good Chicken Coop: Part 1

Nathan Lott

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It all starts with a plan.

I love raising chickens!

And what's not to love? I mean, they poop all over the place, they churn up a bunch of dust, and they force you to go outside into the cold and wet. Every. Single. Day.

In actuality, though, I really do love keeping chickens. Sure, they come with their share of inconveniences, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

The fresh eggs and meat that they provide are so much better than their store-bought counterparts. The yokes are a rich, deep orange. The meat is juicier, tastier, and ... well ... meatier. And then there's the fact that you had a hand in raising it, because let's face it, everything tastes better when you've invested some time into it.

On top of all that, chickens are a hoot to be around! Granted, I don't often have a lot of free time to just sit and watch the chickens "doin' their thing" ('cuz I'm usually too busy doin' my thing), but I tell ya, the entertainment those silly old birds provide is well worth the cost and effort of raising them.

I've even learned some incredibly valuable life lessons from our chickens, like this one.

So, now that we've established that you need chickens, let's get into the nitty gritty details, shall we?

One of the first things to consider is the coop.

Chances are, your chickens are gonna spend a whole lot of time in the coop (especially during the winter), but what you might not realize is that you are gonna be interacting with the coop quite a bit, too. You'll be collecting eggs (hopefully) every day. You'll be feeding and watering the chickens. You'll be scrubbing the whole thing out every once in awhile ...

What I'm trying to say is that it's important to optimize the chicken coop not only for your birds, but also for yourself.

Sounds like a daunting task, doesn't it?

Well, I'd like to share a few key factors (along with some personal experience) to help you design and build the best possible coop for your situation. The topic of this post is:

Size.

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32 square feet was perfectly adequate for our little flock — until we decided to hatch 18 more of 'em!

How big should you make your chicken coop? Well, that depends on how many chickens you plan on keeping.

Whatever you do, don't try cramming a whole bunch of chickens into a teeny tiny coop! Believe me, that's asking for trouble. Everything from disease and parasites to beat-up birds and bullying. Kinda like what happened last year with our roosters ...

Most experts would agree that you ought to provide a minimum of 4 square feet per bird, plus 1 foot of roosting space. And I have to say, that's worked out pretty well for us. I will throw out one word of caution:

Chickens have a way of "multiplying." (And I'm not talking about the birds and the bees!) You get a few chickens initially, and you find yourself falling in love with them. They weasel their way into your life and into your heart, and before long, you find yourself keeping twice as many as you started out with!

Take us, for example. We started out with five chickens (and never thought we'd keep more than eight at a time), but we actually ended up having to build a second coop last year to accommodate our growing flock.

Just before butchering day, we were the proud owners of 24 of those silly old featherbags!

If you want my advice, build your coop a little bigger than you think you'll need. You'll probably be glad you did.


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.

Foods You Should NOT Feed To Chickens

Nathan Lott

Story time!

A few years ago, on a warm, sunny, October afternoon, I found myself armed with a dust mask, a pair of gloves, a shovel, and a broom — all geared up and ready to clean out the ol' chicken coop.

It may sound crazy, but before long, I was having the time of my life: hummin' songs, scrapin' dried chicken poop, and scoopin' up dusty straw ... But I was jolted out of my peaceful reverie when a little gray mouse came out of nowhere and scampered right over my feet. (Apparently, I'd inadvertently demolished his nest with my cleaning.)

The poor little beggar made it out of the wreckage unscathed, but then he made the mistake of running right past me and into the chicken yard, where our fat old hens were scratching!

Now, I was still kinda new to raising chickens at the time, and I'd always thought they were more or less vegetarians, y'know? Sure, they’d eat a grasshopper now and then, or scratch up the occasional earthworm, but their diet consisted mainly of grains and legumes and other plant-based stuff, didn't it?

Certainly, they wouldn’t go for any actual meat!

Well, I was dead wrong — and unfortunately, so was the mouse.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Chickens will eat just about ANYTHING, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be eating it.

So, without further ado, here's a list of common foods you should NOT feed your chickens:

Dry Beans

According to this article, uncooked dry beans are extremely toxic to both humans and chickens alike thanks to a nearly unpronounceable protein called phytohaemagglutinin. (Quite the mouthful, right?)

They say that a chicken can die from eating as few as 3 or 4 beans, with death occurring in as little as an hour.

Avocados

Avocados contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. I've heard some folks say that it’s only the skins and the pits that you have to worry about, but the flesh is fine in moderation. Other people will tell you to steer clear of avocados altogether.

In our neck o' the woods, avocados get slicked up so fast we've never had any leftovers to feed to the chickens anyway!

Chocolate

I don't know why a person would go wasting chocolate on their feathery moochers — especially since a chicken's palate is more geared towards maggots and mealworms —but more importantly, chocolate contains an alkaloid called Theobromine, which is toxic to chickens (and dogs and cats too, in case you were wondering). Even a very small amount can be fatal.

Green Potatoes

When potatoes are left out in the light for an extended period of time they start ramping up their internal preservation processes, turning them green and resulting in high accumulations of solanine, which can cause all sorts of health problems for your chickens.

Onions

Onions (and garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, and all the other members of the “Allium” family) contain various forms of thiosulfinates, which can oxidize the hemoglobin in a chicken’s blood, leading to severe anemia.

Mold

There are a lot of molds out there. Some good (like penicillin), some bad. Feeding moldy food to your chickens can lead to everything from respiratory problems to liver cancer.

Apple Seeds

Apple seeds (and pits from peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, etc.) all contain a substance called amygdalin, which, when fully digested, produces a small amount of cyanide.

Citrus

Citrus is one of the more controversial foods in this list.

Some people will tell you that the high acidity in citrus fruits leads to thinner eggshells. Other folks claim that it will reduce egg production ... There are even anecdotal tales of citrus causing feather plucking and diarrhea!

Closing Disclaimer:

I am not a scientific authority on this subject! Nor am I a biochemist (that would be my wife).

Although I have done hours and hours of research for this article, I’m still not an expert on chicken physiology, nor do I understand all of the mechanisms at work in toxicology. At the end of the day, this list is just a very small sampling of potentially harmful foods.

For a more comprehensive list, please consult your veterinarian.

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