This year is shaping up to be another busy year on the homestead. Last year was a huge establishment year, while this year is about expansion and tweaking what we've done. When we built our original chicken coop (for our 15 layers), we were not anticipating more than doubling our flock. Let's just say we love eggs :). But, because our flock is now running around 40, we are in dire need of an updated coop for our hens and their roosters.
The reason we decided to increase the number of layers we had was to keep us in eggs. We bought new layers last year as chicks, they are finally laying — prolifically, while our older hens will be ready for freezer camp this coming fall or so. The overlap can be a little inconvenient if the coop is not built to accommodate the large flock, ours was not.
This winter everything was fine because we had built an all-season hoop house which allowed us to home all the chickens in there. We utilized the deep bedding method throughout the winter, and added roosts and nesting boxes. The ladies loved it! So as we get ready to remove the bedding and hopefully unearth some beautiful, rich, warm soil, we need somewhere new to home our layers. What's a homestead without another project to complete? Answer: not a homestead — so along came the new hen house.
As we discussed design ideas (and browsed Pinterest), we decided that we really liked the solid design of the hoop house we had built in the fall, and the hens appreciated the space. Why not replicate it on the other side of our small upper pasture?
Utilizing the same design principles using wood and cattle panel, we upgraded the design by adding a solid floor covered with linoleum for easy cleaning. We included a "human" side allowing us to enter the "house" without having to disturb the chickens. This area will be the perfect place to store food, straw and give us easy access to the nesting boxes.
Because coops get dirty and need to be cleaned thoroughly a couple of times a year, we also put an opening at the end of the house that allows us to sweep the straw out and spray with a hose. Of course, there will be plenty of ventilation: on the roof, on both ends, and both sides, with plenty of roosts to easily accommodate all the "chooks".
The ladies will still spend the majority of their days clucking around the homestead, foraging for grubs, and pecking at fresh-growing greens, but as evening falls and predators appear, our hens will be snuggled safely into their new quarters.
As usual, this has turned out to be a bigger project than we expected (aren't they always?), but in the end, the girls will be happier which will continue our premium production numbers and make things easier for day-to-day care and feeding.
Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and strategies for the property. The property is a demonstration and education site where they teach workshops and raise dairy goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted more then 200 productive trees and enjoy wildcrafting and propagating plants. Sean and Monica can often be found podcasting or speaking and teaching at different events. Listen to The Prepared Homestead Podcast. To learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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