Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

Add A Place for Eggs

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest. Be careful to secure the nest box somehow. Nest boxes that are lightweight can tip over, trapping a chicken underneath. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Coop Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. While all of that is fun, your flock will not feel less important if you don’t totally pinterest up the coop. (did you know pinterest could be a verb?) I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget




Chicken Wire and Hardware Cloth for Coops

chicken wire and hardware cloth

Deciding between chicken wire and hardware cloth is only one of the initial decisions to be made by a new chicken keeper, when building a chicken coop and enclosure. There are certain topics that veteran chicken owners are all too familiar with. But, what about those who are new to raising poultry? I often will cover a topic that may seem mundane and too basic but  I believe there are a substantial number of people who are looking for the very basic information to help them get started raising chickens. Knowing when to use chicken wire and hardware cloth is one of these areas. 

chicken coop decisions
chicken wire or hardware cloth

If it’s called chicken wire, it must be for chickens, right?

Chicken wire is widely recognized as the hexagon shaped welded fencing wire, commonly used on farms for various fencing. Experienced poultry owners know that the use of chicken wire for poultry is limited. Choose wisely between chicken wire and hardware cloth, because while one will keep your chickens in the chosen area, it will not keep predators out.

In the blog, Bytes Daily, Otto  wrote a little explanation of chicken wire.

“chicken wire was invented in 1844 by British ironmonger Charles Barnard. He developed it for his father, a farmer, the manufacturing process being based on cloth-weaving machines. Apparently the town of Norwich, where Barnard Junior had his business, had a plentiful supply of cloth weaving machines.”

There are some instances where chicken coop wire is the perfect choice of wire, but when talking about securing your feathered friends in their run or coop, I do not recommend chicken wire. While it may keep a small flock of chickens in a set area, it is not very strong. Predators can easily move it out of their way, rip it or tear it open to gain access to your chickens, or other small vulnerable livestock. It is similar to cloth in that it is woven together. Don’t learn this difference between chicken wire and hardware cloth the hard way.

building a safe chicken coop enclosure

Here are a few instances where chicken wire may be used successfully.

Chicken wire can be used to keep pullets separated from the older chickens inside the chicken run. 

Good choice when used to keep chickens out of the garden

Chicken wire is also useful when temporarily plugging holes at the fence base line to keep chickens in the run. Fold or crumple up a piece of chicken wire and stuff it into the hole. Cover with dirt and pack down. Make a more permanent fence repair as soon as possible.

Chicken wire and hardware cloth are both good for burying underground around the perimeter of the chicken coop and run to deter predators from digging into the coop. Most predators will only try to dig in for a short time. When they reach a wire barrier they will often quit digging and move to another spot.

Great for craft projects! Chicken wire is used for accents and building armatures for sculptures.

chicken theme memo board

And Chicken Wire makes a pretty interesting texture in a photograph.

chicken wire

When Deciding Between Chicken Wire and Hardware Cloth

The preferred wire fencing to use for coop security is called hardware cloth. I am not sure how it got the name because it is much stronger than cloth! It does not bend as easily and is welded making it a stronger product. 

chicken coop door

In our chicken coop we have six windows. (Here’s the story behind our coop ) All of the windows are covered with hardware cloth with 1 inch square Hardware cloth comes in various size mesh. The 1/4 inch size has a very tiny mesh and the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 mesh would be too large of a mesh, allowing small predators to slip through. I personally recommend either the 1/2 inch or 1 inch mesh. Hardware cloth is most often a galvanized, welded metal product that is extremely durable.

hardware cloth

Make sure you attach it to the window or vent openings using screws, and a sturdy board to hold it in place.

Safety Issues of  Chickens and Chicken Wire

Another reason to shy away from chicken wire is the possibility of it causing injury to your birds.

Since chicken wire is flimsy, it can break and fall apart leaving hazards for your chicken’s feet. Chicken wire should never be used as a flooring for a coop as it can contribute to foot injuries, including bumblefoot. Chicken toes can get caught in the wire and lead to broken toes. Broken, worn wire sticking out can cause scratches, eye injuries and cuts.

Paying attention to coop safety will help your chickens lead a long and happy life!

chicken wire and hardware cloth

This Post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Magazine.com




How to Fix a Muddy Chicken Run

muddy chicken run

Rainy seasons are necessary but what do we do with the resulting muddy chicken run? Are you tired of muddy eggs, messy coop floors and slippery chicken run?

I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you have an extremely muddy chicken run, it will take some labor to return the run to a better state. You will have to correct the grading and the drainage. The good news is, once you do it correctly, it’s much easier to avoid a muddy chicken run.

muddy chicken run
the flock spends more time inside the coop if there is rain and mud. You will have to clean up more often if they stay inside.

What causes the Mud

When rain sits on top of dirt. And then more rain. It’s been raining a lot lately. Add in chicken manure, coop bedding and spilled feed and you have a disgusting muddy chicken run mess.

Drainage issues– When the ground in the chicken area builds up with bedding, dirt, spilled feed, straw, etc. It should be regraded and returned to a somewhat gentle slope towards the downward side of the yard. Natural drainage should be worked with when ever possible. Some folks use a tiller to stir up the dirt and make it drain better. If they start making a whole lot of racket with that thing I can guarantee we won’t produce any eggs that day!

Run off – directing the run off away from other pens, and areas where it can cause more damage is important.

Grading Problems

Often grading issues are to blame for muddy coops. In our coop, the yard has a lot of built up bedding both from mulch and straw and from the coop itself being cleaned out. The flock loves to sift though the leftover bedding but if it’s left on the ground for long, it builds up. Re-grading is a big job but after a few years of the coop staying in one spot, it may need to be done to avoid a muddy chicken run.

Possible Fixes for a Muddy Chicken Run

Trenches to divert the water

Stone for filtering

Regrade the area

Fill material – adding well draining material to low areas to keep water from accumulating will help  avoid standing water issues. Well draining material can include wood chips, or small pebbles or stones. If you use stone or pebbles the area can be covered with wood chips for a softer ground and a well draining area.

Interim Fixes 

Straw

Adding a layer of clean straw to the chicken run, cleans off the chicken’s feet before they walk back into the coop. Adding a nice nest of soft straw to the laying boxes will also help keep the eggs cleaner.

Add a Board Walk or Porch

We have used pallets with the boards close together, and also wide plank boards as a platform for the chickens to walk on before entering the coop. 

Call a Tree Service

Occasionally we find a tree service that has some fresh pine tree grindings. I love his. The ground up trees smell great, and the chickens get a snack too. Pine needles are a healthy treat that helps with respiratory tract health.

Wood Chips

Not the fine sawdust. The squarish chunks of wood sometimes used on playgrounds. Continue reading for more about why wood chips are a great choice for chicken runs

Bales of Pine Needles

We recently found a local supply for bales of pine needles. These are more common in certain parts of the country than others. This is a great cover for muddy chicken runs.

muddy chicken run

What Not to Use in a Muddy Chicken Run

I have seen pine shavings and sawdust used on top of the run but this rarely works out well. The shavings just don’t stick around and the problem is often worse after these things are added to a muddy chicken run.

rocks and wood chips help with drainage in the chicken run

Why I Recommend Wood Chips for a Muddy Chicken Run

Honestly, I don’t just recommend using wood chips for a muddy chicken run. I recommend using wood chips all year long. Wood chips are much better for chickens kept in a run, and not just because they help with drainage.

Wood chips break down slowly over time. The chickens will sift through the wood fiber, finding insects that are helping break down the organic wood material. The wood chips contain quite an ecosystem and the chickens can naturally fit into the plan.

muddy chicken run

And more benefits…

In addition to providing a healthier ground cover than plain dirt, the wood chips provide exercise as the chickens scratch. Keeping them occupied helps control any pecking order issues too.

And finally, the wood chips help clean the chickens feet, so they track in less mud and chicken poop when they enter the coop. This helps keep odor to a minimum and keep the eggs cleaner in the nest.

After the Rains End

When we had a particularly bad year of rain and the run was awash in mud, we pushed the mud off to the sides of the run. The chickens had made a trench along the fence while digging for insects. The mud was sent back into the trenches. It was a tough job and not one I wanted to repeat. So we made plans to improve the run and bring in better draining ground material. The muddy chicken run had to go.

How to fix a muddy chicken run and keep it from occurring again.

Cover Part of the Run and Add a Roost

Adding outdoor roost bars gives the chickens somewhere to perch when the mud is a problem. If possible attach a tarp over the perch so that the area can be used during rainy times, and stay drier.

using wood chips to control mud in the chicken run

Leaving the mud to accumulate makes everyone cranky. The flies seem to enjoy the mud a lot which is kind of annoying because chickens don’t like them very much. It really is best for everyone if the mud is either controlled or taken care of somehow.

muddy chicken run

Dear Diary

This post was originally written from a chicken’s point of view. Hope you enjoy the following excerpt from the chicken diary.

Our dear Mother Nature has it a little messed up this year. The saying goes, “April showers bring May Flowers”. This year she has sent us May showers. It is actually more than showers and I am tired of my beautiful black and white feathers getting wet.

We try to explain…

The humans are quite perturbed. I almost feel sorry for them. Usually, I don’t because we are here doing all the work. Laying eggs, digging up bugs and worms, and various other gardening chores and all they do is stop by to watch us work. We toil and they take the eggs and run. But that’s not the point.

 They are trying to give us a dry chicken run around our coop but the rains just keep falling. Rain on top of dirt makes mud, eventually. Add in a little chicken poo that isn’t cleaned up and wham, you have some potent mud. Some of us don’t mind the mud. Other’s run through it quickly to get out for free range time and then run back into the coop full speed. And yet we still track in big globs of mud on our feet.

Continued…

Let me write down some suggestions in hope that the humans will see this notebook while snooping, I mean cleaning the coop. The ideas in this article does help the ground we walk on stay in better condition. When they bring in more straw or pine needles for the walking area. Of course we have to scratch them out of the way. But they try. It’s all we can ask I guess.

It helps to not add the soft shavings from inside the coop into the chicken run. Also, we are glad to have some outside roost bars that we can perch on under a tarp so we don’t have to stand around in the mud.

muddy chicken run



6 Easy Brooder Ideas to Start Chicks

How difficult is it to set up a brooder? Here are my favorite easy brooder ideas for you to use for your own chicks. Easily cleaned and commonly found items can make a good home for the chicks to begin their lives.

Your new flock of chicks will need a special home for the first few weeks. This home is called a brooder. It takes the place of what would naturally be provided by a broody hen. Chicks require a much higher level of warmth than full grown chickens. They are not able to maintain their body temperature well without sitting under a momma hen or under a mechanical heat source. Easy brooder ideas listed here are some of the ways you can duplicate the environment provided by a broody hen.

Most times this warmth is provided by a heat lamp and a red bulb. The red light is calming and results in less aggressive pecking between the chicks. Alternatives include brooder warmers. The warmers can be a safer choice as far as accidental fires are concerned. When using the traditional heat lamps, make sure they are securely attached to something that will prevent the light falling into the brooder.

In some cases you may choose to place the broody hen and her chicks into a brooder for safety from the aggressive members of the flock. In this case you won’t need an additional heat source.

Easy Brooder Ideas and Sizing for Growth

How large a brooder you choose will depend on the amount of chicks. The growth in chicks is fast but not as fast as ducklings which seem to grow overnight. Depending on the weather, you may have to switch to larger brooders as the chicks grow. You can read more about the warmth requirements and chick development in this post.

In addition to providing warmth, easy brooder ideas will also have room for food and water. Both of these need to be available at all times. Chicks are developing rapidly and eat numerous times in a twenty four hour period. Keeping the food dish or feeder clean and full, and the water clean are two ways to help your chicks grow happy and healthy.

Safety Considerations

Safety from household pets should be considered when choosing from the easy brooder ideas. Using a sheet of cardboard is helpful for covering the brooder when the chicks begin to fly. Sturdier covers will be required if the family dog or cat is aggressive toward the chicks, or just overly curious! Read about the safety considerations of setting up a brooder inside the chicken coop here.

When using a large plastic tote for a brooder, it is easy to adapt the cover into a secure brooder lid. The steps are simple.

  • Using an exacto blade, cut the center out of the lid.
  • Cut a piece of 1/4 inch grid hardware cloth (rat wire) that completely covers the opening and overlaps the remainder of the lid by an inch or more.
  • Mark and drill holes for bolts to attach the wire to the lid.
  • Secure the wire in several spots using small bolts, washers, and nuts.
easy brooder ideas
easy brooder ideas

The Best Bedding for Easy Brooder Ideas

The chicks need bedding to absorb moisture, droppings, and for secure footing. Using a sheet of rubber shelf liner, topped with a layer of pine shavings is my favorite method. It’s easy to dump into the garden for compost, and the chicks are able to scratch around as they would in nature. When using shavings, it’s a good idea to raise the food and water dishes up to chest height of the chicks. This helps keep the food and water from being filled with shavings as the chicks scratch.

My Top Three Easy Brooder Ideas

Large plastic storage totes as described earlier make fantastic chick brooders. They come in various sizes. If you don’t use the lid right away, keep it handy, After the first three weeks the chicks will begin to try out their tiny wings. Plastic totes are one of the easiest chick brooder ideas.

easy brooder ideas

A child’s plastic swimming pool works well for the first few weeks. These plastic pans are easy to rinse out with a garden hose. Wading pools are especially good when raising ducklings. The amount of wet mess from ducklings can be mind boggling. This keeps the wetness contained and easy to clean.

easy brooder ideas

Water and feed troughs work very well and are often deeper than most other easy brooder ideas. The cost is higher but they last a long time and can be reused year after year. If you have an older trough that leaks, it can still be used as a chick brooder!

easy brooder ideas

Three More Easy Brooder Ideas

Other ideas include large dog crates, large coolers (not with a lid!) and purchased chick corrals. All of these may require some modifications for use as an easy brooder idea. When chicks are small, they will squeeze through the openings on the dog crate. Attaching chicken wire or cardboard to the crate sides may work to keep the chicks inside the crate. The cooler can be a good re-purposed idea. When you need a cover for this brooder, do not use the lid of the cooler. It will prevent air getting to the chicks. Instead, cover the cooler-brooder with wire mesh.

Chick corrals are an easy brooder idea if you prefer to purchase. These can also be used as a grow out pen as the chicks transfer to the coop.

easy brooder ideas

What is your favorite method of preparing a chick brooder? Do you have easy brooder ideas to add to my list? If you are looking for further do it yourself style ideas, take a look at my book shown below.




Live Animals for Easter?

 

Live animals for Easter?

Its that special time of year. Spring has sprung, flowers are blooming, grass is beginning to turn green and we long to spend more time outside. When we visit the local farm and garden center,  everything is bustling! The seeds are in stock, bulbs, seed potatoes, and cool weather veggie plants are available. But what is that peeping noise coming from the center of the store? Baby Chicks are for sale! Look at how adorable they are, small and soft and downy. They chirp and peep and nap and run around. Wouldn’t the kids love them? Wouldn’t it be awesome to bring a few home? Surely the kids will love taking care of live animals. No, we don’t know anything, but we can just leave them in the backyard right? 

 

Live Animals for Easter?

Think Before Bringing Home Live Animals for Easter Gifts

The reality of this and other scenarios is being played out in garden centers and feed stores all across the country at this time of year. Hopefully, the store has someone on staff that can talk the impulse buyer off the ledge and return them to their senses. Giving live animals as Easter gifts has a long tradition but it is not one that I support. Are you shocked? Me, the proponent of raising chickens? 

Yes,  I believe that raising chicks, ducks and rabbits requires careful thought about how the animals will fit into your life. These cute little balls of fluff are a lifetime commitment, at least the expected lifetime of the animal. In our more agrarian past, many people had some sort of homesteading going on in their back yard. Or had a close by relative that lived on a farm. The future of any live Easter basket gift was certain to include a future move to a home coop, or a nearby farm. 

Now, this is not usually the case. Many live Easter basket gifts are turned out to fend for themselves once they grow bigger and messier. Or they are turned in to the local animal shelter which is probably not equipped for poultry and may have trouble placing grown rabbits too. Chicks and ducklings are considered livestock. Rabbits may be considered pets, but not everyone appreciates the behavior of a house rabbit. 

 

Live Animals for Easter?

Before buying live chicks, ducklings or baby rabbits for Easter gifts, consider the following questions.

  1. Do you live where you can keep the animal?
  2. Did you plan on raising animals in your backyard?
  3. Are your children responsible? Are they old enough to take on the care of a pet and the care involved?
  4. Have you considered the entire life span of the chick, duckling or bunny?
  5. Where will the animal be housed? Is this realistic?
  6. Can you afford the food, care and housing requirements for the animal?

If you are going to bring home live animals for Easter, start with research and not impulse. Buy the best quality you can and make sure the timing is right before giving in to the impulse and spur of the moment purchase. 

live animals for Easter gifts

Do you need more information on the topic of getting homestead animals? You might enjoy Before Getting Homestead Animals

 

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live animals for Easter

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Janet writes about many homestead and livestock related topics on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com   

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 This post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Mag.com