When we moved out to the country and we were discussing what animals to get, I said chickens should be in the mix. What farm is complete without a few chickens running around. Jeremy said "No. They are too noisy and they stink." For the next three years I continued to explain my position - chickens only stink if you have a 3 dozen in a 10x10 ft area and never clean it - he said "If you clean it." I said "No roosters, so it won't be noisy." Then it came to "It looks bad" because our neighbor's run was covered in chicken wire and wasn't very attractive. I said we didn't need to cover it and he said "but the raccoons will get in." Mind you, this wasn't an argument, more of a 3-year-long discussion.
Last winter I said, "That's it, we have to get chickens. Our farm needed chickens!" Jeremy relented but wasn't excited about helping get it set up. We were also getting pigs that spring and he had a pig pen to build. So, I got my dad to agree to help me built a coop and run with the promise of more eggs then he and my mom could eat. We all agreed on the location and that it would be fine as long as we didn't cover it. In March, Jordan and I went to Wilco and bought seven chicks.
I spent considerable time research chickens, looking for the best laying breeds. I had decided on Buff Orpingtons, which are a pretty golden color and a good layer. I told Jordan that we would get four buff orpingtons and she could pick three of another breed, any breed as long as it was a layer not a fryer. She walked right up to the chicken brooders at Wilco, took a quick look in all the bins and said "those". I didn't know the breed so we asked the attended and it turned out she picked a good layer. (Phooey on my hours of internet research.) Jordan chose Light Brahmas, which are a gorgeous white and black variety.
The construction of the coop was quite an experience. I've never built anything. Again with the hours of internet research looking at designs. I drew out the design I wanted to do. Jeremy looked over and made some good suggestions. Then my dad and I poured over it for a couple hours, making a few more changes. Perfection!
We did an inventory around the house and barns and found most all of the materials needed for the coop. We would need to buy some plywood, hinges, bolts, roofing material and a few other specific items - but most of the materials were recycled from old decks and structures removed from the house. We had designed the coop to use 2 x 4's for the frame, but what we had was primarily 2 x 6's.
We started and within an hour started adapting the design to fit what was actually happening: the 2 x 6's were larger so everything was bigger, the roost design was impractical once we thought about it from the chicken's perspective, we needed more vents, the roof pitch was too complicated, etc., etc. Making all the adjustments also made the process very slow. Four weekends just to construct the coop and another weekend to do the run - thank god we weren't constructing a house, it would have taken three years. It's also amazing how tiring construction is. One day dad and I spent nearly nine hours, continuously, working on the coop. At 7pm dinner I could barely chew my food and had to drag myself to the bed, get the dirty clothes off and pass out. Lots of props for people who work real construction everyday!
The picture is of Jordan sitting in the coop before we put the front on. The space under the wire floor became drawers for easier cleaning. You can see the nest boxes in the back, which have turned out to be too large, but still work. The roost is large enough, but we had to really mess around with mounting it. But overall it worked out great and the coop has been perfect. The best feature is an easy latching front door that we close every night - eliminates any concern about the night prowlers (raccoons or opossums).
This spring, we are down to six chickens. One turned out to be a roaster and thus became fajitas. It was one of the buff orpingtons or as Jordan said "I'm glad it's one of yours not mine." During the summer, we got one egg per chicken every day. During the winter it went down to two eggs per day. Now we are back up to three to four eggs a day. (I am paying my dad for his help in eggs - half-a-dozen per week.) And it is true - farm fresh eggs are way, way better than store bought.
The run is still not covered and so far we haven't had problems with racoons and the such. Although some squirels have moved in under the coop. Every 3-4 months I clean the coop out. Chicken poop is surpisingly light weight and easy to deal with, plus the garden loves it. And the chickens only make noise when they are laying - the sheep are way louder than the chickens. Jeremy now agrees that the chickens have been a nice addition to the farm.