Considering Chickens

If Jane Austen wrote a book about me:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl in possession of a small farm must be in want of a chicken. (Or seven.)

However little known the feelings or views of such a girl may be on her first entering a Tractor Supply during Chick Days, this truth is so well fixed in her subconscious that upon seeing a trough full of fuzzy little baby chicks she will immediately consider how quickly she can construct a chicken coop.

Right? Right. I mean, you do not mess with Jane Austen.

So, here’s the thing… I was always planning to have donkeys and chickens at the Liberty House, but I was not planning to have them until some hypothetical point in the future when had my life under control and it wouldn’t be five degrees outside… I believe they call that point in time Summer. Or next year.

But here we are, middle of February, two donkeys and a weeks worth of farm chores later, and you know, when you’re shoveling shit out of a barn stall before the sun comes up every day, it gives you time to have dangerous thoughts. Thoughts like, “Well, hell, I build a barn stall and put a fence up inside of a week, I think I can build a chicken coop in the next month.” And, “I’m already hauling food and water out to the barn twice a day, chickens really couldn’t add that much more work.”


It takes at least 6 weeks before chicks are ready to go out in the coop, so all I’m saying is, if I got some now, I’ve still got plenty of time to plan and build. (I actually can’t tell if I’m being sarcastic or genuine in that sentence.)

Anyway, since chicken-switch has been flipped on in my brain, I’ve been obsessing a little over what kind of chicken keeper I’m going to be. I’m probably not tough enough to be able to raise and eat birds (I’m a softy) but I’m definitely in for fresh eggs and, you know, having attack chickens just in case anyone I don’t like comes over and needs a peckin’. (Yes. I just said that.)

So here are some things I’m thinking about chickens:

  • I want a small flock 6-8 hens, max
  • I’m leaning towards Black Rock chickens (they are “sex link” chickens, which is not something illegal you do with farm animals, it just means they’re bred so that you can tell males and females apart as chicks by their colors instead of… you know… chicken parts.)
  • I’d like to let them free-range as much as possible, but there are a lot of natural predators out here (coyotes and hawks for starters) and I can’t watch them all day every day
  • I think I’d rather not have a rooster (so that my neighbors don’t kill me because of the noise, and so there’s no chance of having fertilized eggs.)

I hear there are a lot of benefits to having chickens in the garden if you plan correctly, so I’ve started thinking about some potential chicken garden scenarios, and sketching them out on my iPad…


I’d like to plan for the coop to have a good sized covered chicken run (for when I’m at work) and three or four “paddocks” where the chickens can free-range in the garden when I’m home.


Because I’m now a master at installing electric fences (that was definitely sarcasm), I’m going to put a solar powered charger out by the garden and use low voltage electric net fencing around the perimeter to keep predators and anything that might want a taste of my veggies out.

Since I’ll be able to let the chickens free-range more if they have good coverage from aerial predators, I’m thinking some trellises like this might be a good idea..

Source: via Kit on Pinterest

Source: via Kit on Pinterest

And of course, raised beds, like the ones I built at Memorial


While I’m also planning sometime in the future to dedicate an acre of land to a small orchard (or vineyard?) I might plant some fruit trees and berry bushes, along with native grasses and flowers, in the paddocks while limiting chicken access to the actual vegetable portion of the garden.

Once I have a plan, I think I can legitimately knock out the coop in 4 solid weekends, and maybe another 2-3 for the fence if the weather holds and the ground thaws.

So… anyone up for Dueling DIY: Chicken Coop Edition?


45 Responses

  1. Whoops, now I realize I said yes to making my own chicken coop. Not sure that will work out in a 650 square foot urban condo…

  2. That’s a NO to the coop (space and possible moving house in the near future constraints) but I wanted to drop in and ask if you’d thought about geese? Geese make for good attack fowl and you can eat the eggs and roast potatoes in the fat (oh but you’re a softie, nevermind!)

    Yay! Chickens!

  3. Yes to the duel! I have been needing to build one since I bought the house four years ago…that’s what happens when you don’t have a set chicken date. I live in the City of Ypsilanti on only 1/4 acre, so I can only have four. First the stairway duel and now this, maybe you and Sarah are becoming my DIY life coaches, ha!

  4. So since chicks live inside for awhile when are you getting them? Also wanted to mention that I think you would fall deeply in love with a duck. They are messy but one is manageable. We had fryer chickens and ducks growing up. The day we butchered all 100 of them the whole family plus grandma, aunt, and uncle came. I was the youngest of 5 so to me it was like the 4th of July. I was the one who picked up the newly deceased and defeathered them. I think I’d see it very differently today but as a kid I didn’t know better. Get 1 duck to go with you chickens, you won’t regret it.

  5. Would re-doing a chicken coop work for the challenge? I built one last year with the hope of moving it around. It’s way too big to do that on a regular basis, but thankfully we’re also ready to pick a place to put it permanently. It needs a pretty full overhaul of the coop, and a new run built.

  6. I have 3 chickens, they are great entertainment and make delicious eggs. Don’t believe all the blogs/websites that talk about complicated coops… chickens are simple. You could even give them a chicken door in the donkey barn and not need to build a seperate coop. When I move and have enough room, I am planning on mini-donkeys. I’ve heard they’re territorial and your 2 guys might help protect your future girls. It’s not the classiest set up, but I use a batting cage as a run for my girls while I’m away. It’s 20×10 black netting and keeps the hawks out and is easy to reposition when they destroy the grass underneath.

  7. “but I was not planning to have them until some hypothetical point in the future when had my life under control”

    This is exactly how I wound up with a beehive when my house has marginally working plumbing, some exposed wiring, and all the flooring is subfloor.

    Can’t manage chickens right now – and seriously concerned that they cannot live in harmony with my dogs, but I can’t wait to see what you will come up with. And then next you can add bees – they will pollinate the hell out of your garden!

  8. Google “Velvet and Linen” chicken coop. Brooke has chickens and a fine coop. I wonder, how do cats and chickens coexist? Chickens are definitely a natural for a farm.

    1. Good question! I think when the chickens are big enough, cats don’t want to mess with them. I’d call it mutual respect and distrust. lol

  9. Up until a year ago I had a dog that would have not tolerated chickens, so I have never considered them. And two of my close neighbors also have chickens and leave eggs on my doorstep pretty regularly so don’t really have a need. And I actually like the sound of a rooster in the distance, as long as its not like right next to my bedroom window. The donkeys may chase them around at first, but then they will get used to them and just ignore them probably. I would actually love to have some rabbits, for pets only of course becasue they are my favorites, and now that my Sally dog is gone… But really its just one more chore I do not need.

  10. Please get chickens, if only so you write hysterical blog posts about them for my amusement. Also, you should google “chicken tractor” and then build one.

    1. Yes, please get chickens for our amusement. And ducks. And geese. And turkeys.

      I’m having so much fun imagining the stories!

  11. Argh! You had to come up with the perfect dueling DIY for me! I was amazed to discover last year at my first visit to the local feed mill that I could order chickens, ducks, geese… pretty much any fowl I desired. However, like the organized type A that I am, I’m waiting until my life is under control before I add animals to it. You know, ’cause husband and I need a habitable place to live ourselves more than we need fresh eggs everyday… maybe. This post is going to haunt me this weekend. You and your Austen may just move this project up the list a bit. Oh, and my garden plans look pretty much like yours too–although I’d never considered putting the coop in the garden. Hmmm…

  12. Just a little warning. Chickens inside (for those 6 weeks) make a really HUGE mess! So be prepared 🙂

  13. Wait until your life is in order? Seriously Kit you do want them and when that time will be is blowing in the wind as probably never.Don’t let it pass you by until then …in case then never happens.

  14. Well, now I have to do it….. I have been mentally drawing up plans for a chicken tractor for a while now, perusing Meyer hatchery catalog, thinking about where I would keep them until the weather breaks, etc. I’m in.

    PS: For a little inspiration (and a chuckle), check out the $1500+ coops on I love how they look (especially the cedar one with the flower box) but the cost is unreal when I can build a coop for $100 or even just out of my lumber scraps

    1. Those are definitely awesome, but I’m definitely not spending that money on one (I’ll totally knock off their ideas though… I’m a little shameless about that.)

  15. I am with Jenny up there in the previous comments. I am behind this chicken project 100% just so I get the benefits of posts involving funny chicken stories.

  16. I only have one chicken, and she’s actually really tough on the plants in my garden. She eat’s like a maniac. Everything. I can’t grow lettuce, because she eats it down to the ground immediately. She loves to just walk around and peck all of my beautiful ripe tomatoes.

    Maybe it will be different for you since you have far more space, but I’m keeping her out of the garden this year.

    1. I think I’m going to keep the “tasty vegetable” portion separate and just let them in to de-bug/fertilize at certain times. It’s probably going to take a couple of seasons to figure it all out!

  17. Ducks. Get ducks. Ducks are so very very awesome and cheerful and fun.

    And their eggs are incredibly delicious! 😀

  18. I will be getting chickens this spring as well! I’m building their coop out of a giant 6′ tall pallet that I got for free from work. Oh, and regarding the chicken/garden scenario, just an FYI, 6 chickens will poop. A lot. On everything. And sometimes they will eat your vegetables. But they do eat bugs and create great fertilizer. So, just a heads-up. Oh and if you haven’t already, you should check out Karen’s coop and assorted chicken stories over at … She is hilarious.

    1. I’ve seen her coop! I pinned it a while ago. We’re dealing with much different spaces though… I’m planning for close to 10,000 square feed for my garden area and rotating them through the different sections. What I’ve read is that if you’re going to have them in the garden you have to time it right so they are helpful but not harmful.

  19. Oh i love this idea, but (sigh) i choose a chicken hating small town and an association development to live in.

  20. I second the ducks, even if it’s only one that lives with the chickens, they can be so friendly (and they “talk” and follow you around). It’s too bad you still didn’t have the enormous tub in the master bath, it with a heat lamp would have been an awesome brooder, and a chicken door into the donkey barn will be fine until it’s warm enough to build your dream coop!

    1. There would be no way to close up the donkey barn at night as the run stays open for the boys and there’s no door on the front, so I don’t know if that’s a great option. I have often thought of ducks, but I heard they were much messier than chickens, and I feel this sense of responsibility for the animals I have… ducks are meant for water, but I don’t have any water features (and don’t plan to put any in) and to me something feels wrong about having an animal and expecting it to spend it’s entire life outside of its element. That’s probably just me being weird about it, but I think I’d feel guilty about it every day.

  21. Some good blogs for chicken info (and stories) are Front Porch Indiana, Casa Decrepit and (not so) Urban Hennery. Casa Decrepit lets hers out into the garden on occasion. (not so) Urban Hennery has had to deal with predators. And all three probably have some info about coop building.

    Because we all know you have plenty of time to kill reading blogs!

  22. I too am hoping for chickens this spring. Even some to butcher at some point, I figure if I am going to eat it I should be able to kill it (and I like that it will have lived a good life). Great post, and I love reading everyone else’s plans in the comments!

  23. Yes for chickens! They really aren’t much trouble and mine are always so excited to see me. I have one that will get up on the arm of the chair and sit with me when I am in the garden. But I will warn you that they will tear up a garden in no time at all. And they will dig holes in every shady spot in the yard.

  24. I don’t remember seeing a “Put in a pond” on your list from months ago, but with all that glorious land what’s a little Bobcat scooping of dirt and a few well run pipes? You would probably attract all kinds of great critters to the water source and what great photography that would make! I was going to say I vote for geese…great noise makers if someone or something is prowling around….
    but now that I am recalling the geese I am also recalling the coyotes….a coop at night is a very good thing, but if they are out during the day they could become a meal unless well fenced in.
    Tell me again when you think you will have time to read??

    1. My land is incredibly hilly, which would make a pond difficult. Plus there’s some degree of maintenance that comes with keeping it aerated etc, so that it doesn’t turn into a cesspool… so that’s probably not on my list. There’s a huge lake half a mile down my road if I need a little water!

      (Also, reading is like breathing to me… not optional. I read a book a week, easy. I finished The Fault in Our Stars in two days. There’s always time for the things I love to do, but oddly, never time for washing dishes.)

  25. YES you want chickens. We have 2 coops and LOVE them. Believe it or not, they are so much fun. They have their own personalities. We started with 5 the first year. We’ve had as may as 35. Currently we have 26. The sex links are good egg layers, but we have several varieties, both for the different colored eggs they lay and because we love all the different feather colors. is my go to place for information.

  26. I’ve had chickens in the past. I gave them to my mom when she moved to an honest to goodness farm. She now has 12 chickens. She (meaning me) had to end up building a fort-knox like coop because predators were constantly killing the birds. The previous owners had chickens the free-ranged, but they also kept dogs outside nearby. I can tell you from personal experience that chickens can do a serious number on a garden. they’ll eat anything that’s green and love berries and tomatoes.

    You read that their scratching and manure is good for the garden, which is true, but their voracious appetite is not. I’d plan on building a large pen/run for them for their own safety as well as your garden’s.

  27. I’m up for the chicken coop dueling DIY! I’m great at starting projects. I saw the cutest chicks at the farm store the other day, but they had not been “sexed” yet. With my luck I’d go home with all males. I asked how were they going to tell male from female chicks… they said they need to bring in an expert in sexing. Really, they told me in those words and it sounded so funny I laughed. out loud.

  28. I’m pretty sure that at least 50% of the reason I want chickens is so I can build a coop. Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you come up with. I may end up using it as inspiration for my own someday… 🙂

  29. Yes to chickens, I would have them here but I don’t think the neighbors would approve. I will help you clean the koop Great idea. I have a magazine Cindy gave me that I will send to you.

  30. Dear Kit,
    I started to read your blog in july and you made me so jealous with your nuggets that I started building a coop immidiately. I also got 6 black copper marans chicks, 5 of them turned out to be roos 🙂 Luckily the breeder offered a switch and now I have 5 pullets, one roo. It is funny, but although I know next to nothing about building anything, the coop project was the highlight of my summer and who knew chickens would be so much fun! Thank you!

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