The six new lovely chicks in the Ferry house have settled into their new digs. No more ridiculous quantities of wood shaving litter that cover the garage floor. No more constant cheeping within earshot of the couch while reading a novel. We have moved onto roomier, stretch your legs, eat your worms and peck your weeds living arrangements. Beckett and I are loving it. Jacob is liking it. The chicks are digging it. And, Tucker is hating it. The chickens provide Tucker with a combination of constant entertainment and annoyance and most of his behaviors illicit a barrage of scolding corrections from Jacob and me. He has yet to lay even a tooth on one, but he has taken to stalking them in a unhindered effort to smell their rear ends. I suppose dogs will be dogs.
The coop is kind of a hybrid design that pulled together ideas from other coops we had seen and read about and budget constraints that revolved around free and recycled wood scraps. Being the Kate Ferry that I am I dove headfirst into chicken books and checked out anything that hinted at a mention of coop design and chicken needs.
I can surmise what I learned into five quick statements:
- Laying boxes should be about 12 inches wide, 16 inches high and 12 inches deep; all in relatively-ish exactness
- Make your coop easily accessible to humans, but vermin and rodent proof. Good luck with this. I suppose that this is a learning process and after an invasion you know to fortify the coop. And, after crawling on your hands and knees, you will see the need for a different size door.
- Hang the feeder and waterer and have it in a covered area. Chickens are M-E-S-S-Y and the last thing you want to see littering the floor of the coop is feed that should be in the chickens bellies not on the ground.
- Make your run and your coop big enough for the number of chickens you have. Use common sense. If eight large-ish chickens cannot comfortably stretch their wings and wiggle their claws, your run is too small.
- Come to terms with the reality that your chickens will need to run around in your yard from time to time. The joy of watching them hunt and peck for worms and pull weeds is absolutely delightful. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a good episode of the “Chickens On Parade” show.
The sketch we drew was loose at best and seemed to be tweaked with each cut of the miter saw and swipe of the paintbrush. If you like the design, please don’t ask for the blueprints or drawing, because the only thing I can provide are the actual, current, real-time dimensions. The final product is about 90% perfect and seems well suited to the number of hens we have and the size of our yard. I do have to crawl on my hands and knees to get to the far reaches of the coop, but we made sure to install a swinging door to access the laying boxes, so at least we got one thing right.
The coop is the perfect size for our six ladies and their homing behaviors suggest that they consider it home. Countless man hours went into its building, but our unpaid wages and a gallon of barn red paint were the only costs. All the other materials were recycled building scraps and leftover parts from our garage. Honestly the coop will work for the next few years, but as our flock expands, so will we. Don’t tell Jacob, but chickens have captured my heart and just might reach honeybee population proportions!