Our chickens (who still aren’t named, sorry y’all – we’re slacking) are almost six weeks old! Most of them have all of their real feathers and are almost ready to pack their things, move out of the garage, and out into the wide world. And by the wide world, I mean the chicken coop and tractor we’re building to keep them safe and secure.
When we brought our ladies home, all we had was the brooder box and the basics for keeping chicks, knowing that we’d have a few weeks to figure out a plan for a chicken coop and to build it. Every time we’d drive into town, we’d slow down as we passed farms with chickens, trying to get a glimpse of that family’s coop, to see if it was something we liked.
I’m actually surprised at how long it took us to decide on a chicken coop design – but before bringing home our chicks, I didn’t realize how many different designs were out there and how much there is to consider. There’s the style of the coop: is it like a shed, or is it raised off the ground? Do you let the chickens free range the property, or keep them in a pen? What type of nutrition will they get based on where they are scratching or “ranging”? How many chickens will the coop hold? Will we have to rebuild or expand in a few years?
Initially we talked about building a chicken house with a fenced in yard attached to the coop to act as our chicken run. This way our chickens would have a secure coop and would also be allowed to “free range” while still being safe from predators in the fenced-in area. We want our chickens to gain the nutritional benefits of free ranging, but we have lots of hawks and other predators in the area. Then, we questioned how quickly the chicken run would turn into a mud pit. Chickens can scratch and tear up grass quickly, so it would be a short amount of time before our fenced-in area no longer provided any nutrients. We also threw around the idea of building a chicken tractor, so we could move the birds around the property during the day time, but I was hesitant about carrying the birds all over the property in the morning before work, in order for them to get some fresh food – and then having to wrangle them again in the evening to put them back in the coop.
Our goal for the chickens is to produce healthy, deep orange yolks that you only find in free ranged chickens. We also want to utilize our chickens to fertilize and enrich the land on our property.
Thankfully, other bloggers I follow had the same concerns and came up with a solution: an A-Frame Chicken Tractor with a built-in coop. We found this design from Farmhouse on Boone, who bought design plans from Green Willow Homestead. Phill was able to look at their images and draft his own design!
Our chicken coop will be raised off the ground and secured from predators, so we don’t have to worry about our chickens at night. It will also feature a 120 square feet of open land below the coop, so our ladies can scratch and peck and eat all the nutrients for those rich, orange yolks. Then in the evening, we’ll guide our flock up the ramp to the coop, and move the whole tractor so they will have fresh pickin’s for the next day. Win-Win-Win. Our chickens get good eatin’, we get good eatin’, and the ground gets good fertilizin’!
We’ve spent the last two days during nap times constructing the frame for our mobile chicken coop.
We started with the A-Frame and added the bottom boards. Next, we put together the middle A-Frame and added the platform that will be where the chickens nest and roost. Lastly, we added boards along the width of the frame to stabilize the coop and provide us with a place to adhere the wire netting.
We still have a decent amount of work left to go, but it’s coming along quickly. There’s still poultry netting and metal roofing to buy, doors to frame, and nesting boxes to build, but I can’t wait to share once it’s completed!
What designs did you use for your chicken coop?
And, may your hearts be full.