Chicken Coop Fiasco

Last year I was determined to replace the old chicken coop we had. So, I found a guy who seemed like a capable carpenter and ordered a chicken coop. We went over the details as he drew it beautifully on a piece of paper. We agreed that he would give me a good deal on the price if I waited until winter. That was in July.

A month ago, he came by and collected old wood and fencing materials to use for the coop construction. One of the things I really like about him is his dedication to reuse of materials. Two weeks ago, as agreed, he delivered the coop. The problem was, that he had just finished the floor and it needed time to dry and off-gas (I had requested a surface that could be cleaned readily). So, the old coop was left in place for another week.

As I looked more closely at the awaiting coop, I realized that it did not fit the design he had drawn. I had asked him to put 4 or 5 nesting boxes on the outside of the coop at waist level, with a lid to open on top to reach in and collect eggs. I even showed him a picture. Instead, he had built 6 huge boxes inside the coop with doors that open from the ground up. I decided not to say anything, as it really was a beautifully built coop and I figured it was too late to fix such a major design element.

Well, then, the coop was actually put into its rightful place and we started to use the coop. As the week went on, I realized how many problems there were with the design. These are issues that only became apparent with the use of the coop.When, I opened the door to collect eggs, the chickens in the boxes were frightened away.

Box doors

There was no back to the boxes, so the eggs could roll out when opening the doors. In fact, the box edges at the front were quite high and made it harder for the chickens to get in the boxes. And, the doors were so long that I couldn’t just peek in and see if there was an egg to collect. In the picture here, the old door is on the left and the new placement on the right.

Then, there is the roosting bar. Did you know that chickens like to roost like on a branch when they sleep?  This way, when they poop (yes, they do this while sleeping!) the poop drops underneath them and they stay clean. A good chicken coop can mimic nature and offer comfort for the chickens. The roosting bar needs to be readily accessible so the chickens will use it. This one was too high and placed so that it was hard for the chickens to get to it. They preferred to sleep on the top of the nesting boxes which should have been outside and unavailable. Since chickens like to climb on things (remember they’re birds) their poop is all over the nesting box surface. So, they have been sleeping in their own poop.

roosting bar

Having the nesting boxes inside created a space problem as well. The lovely width of the coop is now compromised by the boxes taking up space. Having a place for the feeder (inside the coop in case we actually get any rain this winter) was the next issue. At first I placed the feeder on the top of the boxes, but that didn’t work because the chickens pooped in the feeder. They’re really not very smart animals. Ever heard the phrase “birdbrain”? So, anyway, then we put it hanging from the rafter. But, with the roosting bar in its place, the chickens still were pooping in the food (there actually was one or two that achieved the roosting bar to sleep). A definite fiasco!

Thankfully, I have a capable husband, a willing son and a creative imagination. Between the three of us, we have rearranged to make a functional coop for our peace of mind. Here’s what we did.

1. Cut the roosting bar to a more reasonable length and put it in a corner so the chickens can get to it easily.

2. Block off three of the nesting boxes, so we don’t have to play “Where’s the egg?”

Open box door

3. Turn the nesting box door upside down so it opens from the top.

4. Raise the floor of the nesting boxes so the chickens don’t have to step over a big lip to get into a box and it is easier to reach in and collect eggs. My arms aren’t as long as the doors. Now I can peek in and see if there’s an egg without scaring the poor chickens to death!

5. Hang the feeder from the rafter in a new place away from pooping activities.

Inside coop

6. Fix the door latch so that the raccoons can’t open it.

door latch

The good news is a useful electronic door was installed (see it at the back of the photo on the left). When set properly it will open the door in the mornings for the chickens to get out and close them in at night. Now everyone is happy and we are celebrating our new coop!

The moral of the story is, be extra careful when getting a coop (even pre-fabricated stuff can have mistakes).

New coop

With the cold weather this year our feather-footed chicken, Coq au vin (Coco for short) has grown amazing feathers on her feet. I’ve never seen them look this way before!

Coco's long foot feathers

Caramel