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Our Chicken Setup

We have had chickens for a little over a year now, so I thought it would be a good time to share our setup – how and why we do our chickens the way we do. I didn’t want to get too far into the details before we were happy with everything, and for our current situation, we seem to have found a great setup.

Our Chickens

Owl Moon Farms Chickens

Our Happy Hens

We purchased our mixed brood from MyPetChicken.com as day-old chicks. 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 Dominiques, 4 Plymouth Barred Rocks, and 4 Rhode Island Reds. Initially, I was hoping to receive one male and three females of each. It turned out we received 4 female Rhode Island Reds and because the Barred Rocks and Dominiques look exactly the same until their combs start to grow, we had trouble telling them apart for the longest time. One of our black and white chicks passed away early on, though we’re not sure of what, so we ended up with twelve hens and three roosters. We anticipated choosing one rooster to keep, and since I really wanted the keeper to be a Buff for future use in a possible breeding program, I was discouraged when we discovered he had a badly deformed foot, and was not a good candidate for breeding. We were gearing up to cull one or two of the roosters, when a fox mama visited and killed the Buff rooster, 2 buff hens and 1 Rhody hen. It was a very sad day on our farm, and we are still trying to recover, having searched for weeks for replacement hens.

If I were going to do it again, I would purchase straight runs of just Buff Orpingtons. We wanted heritage breeds, and all of the birds have been wonderful, but if we plan to get serious about a breeding program, Buffs tend to be very good mothers and would make a better choice.

We were able to hatch 2 babies this spring, and one is still growing strong. She is about 4 weeks old now, and I’m still not sure how to introduce her to the main flock. Currently, she’s living in solitude and I am concerned about her ability to adapt to living with other birds.

Homemade chicken brooder

Homemade Chicken Brooder

The Brooder

I found a photo online and showed it to dear hubby. I said, “Please make me this!” and he did. It is heavy so we installed some trunk-style handles on the ends to make it easier to lift. We also installed a small hook & eye loop on the roof/front door so it can be safely opened without worrying about the door smashing our little ones’ fingers. After a few days it was clear the chicks needed somewhere to roost, so we put two roosting bars inside across the back two corners. We are using it again right now as we brood our home-hatched chick, and this time I put a 1’x1′ stool/bench/table inside which helps keep the food and water clear of pine shavings.

Homemade mobile chicken coop

Owl Moon Farms Chicken Coop

The coop

My very handy husband worked evenings for 3 straight weeks, getting our “eggmobile” up and running in time for our first brood in August of 2012. We started with a standard 4’x8′ utility trailer that we purchased from CraigsList. He framed it out, added siding, a roof, 2 5-opening nesting boxes, and 4 functional windows. We put rubber stall mats on the floor, three straight-from-the-woods nesting bars, an AC vent in each end and suspended a galvanized feeder from the roof supports. We put lots and lots of shavings in the coop – on the floor an in the nesting boxes. Even in the 95+ heat this summer, the coop does not have an overpowering odor – the birds seem to do most of their…eh hem…business out of doors. Last year I left most of the shavings inside the coop and used them to help generate heat during the cold weather this winter.

I plan to update with some pricing very soon.

PoultryNet from Premeir1Supplies.com

We elected to purchase one, 140-foot section of electrified poultry netting for our birds, to give them the freedom to roam while also offering them safety from most ground predators. We would prefer to allow them to range more freely but we are currently “leasing” our land in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. In the future, we hope to give them a much larger area.

Premier PRS 50 Solar Energizer 

Premier PRS 50

Premier PRS 50

Because we wanted our chicken coop to remain completely mobile, we chose a solar energizer which has worked extremely well for us over the past year. The charge seems noticeably weaker after a few days of cloudy weather, but generally it seems to hold a good strong charge.

Things to consider:

  • Be sure your nesting boxes open up, not down if you have a choice. While our henny was sitting on her eggs, she and the eggs were living in a small, borrowed chicken coop with a down-opening back door. Every time I opened the door, shavings and poop would fall into the crack, making it impossible to close without clearing it – and spilling shavings all over the ground.
  • We feed our grit and oyster shell in a raised dog bowl set from Target. It holds two average-sized dog bowls and when placed under the coop, allows the birds free-access. If it were to be kept in a place where it might collect rain, I would have drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • Make sure there is a way to secure all of the doors open so that when you’re inside, or gathering eggs, the door will not accidentally close. We have a heavy-duty hook & eye loop on the eggmobile door which prevents it from blowing closed in the wind.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to ask any questions you might have!

4 thoughts on “Our Chicken Setup

  1. Great post, Rebecca. Very informative. Already use deep litter management but I plan to use some of your other ideas-the utility trailer set up is great. So glad to learn of real life experience with Premier net. Have only heard good things about it.

  2. I’m considering building something similar to this. Do you have any more pictures so I can see how you constructed it? I was considering using expanded steel on the bottom so the poo falls through and we can move it around the yard.

    • Since we started with a utility trailer, we removed the wood base and replaced it with expanded steel. Unfortunately, we felt the steel was too sharp to have underfoot – and adding pine shavings or straw for a smoother surface would make the whole poo through the floor idea impossible. Additionally, we felt it would be too cold in the winter. SO, we have a steel floor covered with rubber stall mats (made for horses). We let the coop fill up with shavings/poop throughout the year and depend on the composting of those materials for additional warmth in the winter.

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