Almost two years ago, we got our first chickens and chicken coop. I am convinced that with a little space and thought, anybody can raise chickens. We don’t have a huge property and had no experience with chickens before adopting ours, but with a little effort we now have a pretty great chicken setup.
Our chicken adventure has involved some trial and error. We started with a tiny coop, tried free-ranging our chickens, and eventually settled on building a large, totally enclosed coop and run. Sadly, even living in the suburbs we have dealt with chicken losses from raccoons and bobcats, but we are always learning and adapting to keep our chickens safer and happier.
Our first coop was a tiny one that was generously gifted to us. It worked fine while the chickens were pullets and could free range, but they quickly outgrew the coop.
You really should have at least two, probably three chickens to make sure they have company. In my experience, the coops that are sold online or at big box stores are not large enough to provide full grown chickens with the room they need to thrive. Knowing what I do now, I would invest the money into building a much larger, sturdier coop instead of settling on a manufactured one.
After many failed attempts at modifying the coop and providing a run for the chickens, we eventually designed our own coop and run. It cost about $400 in materials to build. I was very careful about designing the coop in a way that would maximize the lumber and other materials to save on costs and reduce waste. If I had a bottomless budget, I would change some parts of the run to make it safer. But even as is, our self-designed coop has successfully kept our ladies safe and happy for about a year now.
We currently have four hens, all Barred Plymouth Rocks. We got them from two different people, but they integrated fairly easily. They are friendly, hearty chickens that lay all the way through the winter for us. We get three to four eggs a day. They are incredibly easy to care for.
One of my favorite benefits (aside from delicious, fresh eggs) of having chickens is their role in recycling. All of our food scraps that are safe for chickens are fed to the ladies, who love the extra treats. And every time I clean out the coop and run, I get extra manure for our raised garden beds and compost bins.