The very fate of my marriage rests on the functionality of our newly made-over coop. The Texan has really put his foot down; this is the last time we are re-doing the darned thing. The. Last. Time.
The original coop design was….okay. It just wasn’t great (even after we gave it several cute cosmetic overhauls).
It really was more of a run than it was a coop, and a rather useless run, at that. Inside, there was a tiny curtain-enclosed roost box that also doubled as a nesting box. It was always a mess, and also, I fear, not really protective enough in the winter. In fact, last winter, we actually moved the coop and temporarily enclosed the whole thing with insulation and tarps to keep everyone warm and dry, which worked great, but gave the yard a rather shanty-like vibe. Which made me nuts.
We finally decided that tweaking it one more time was just adding insult to injury. With a year and a half of chicken-keeping under our belts, we went back to the proverbial drawing board. I knew we could do better.
Additionally, my once gorgeous ‘secret garden’ that originally looked like this:
Was now looking more like this:
So, I knew that it was time to make this garden a ‘chicken garden’. Which meant planting only chicken-friendly and chicken-proof plants. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
The driving force behind the design of the new henhouse was insulation, insulation, insulation. And a legit peaked, shingled roof (as opposed to the old slanted corrugated plastic one) so that this adorable weathervane had somewhere to sit.
This summer, with temperatures hovering up over 100 degrees, the inside of the henhouse stays pretty darned nice. Fingers crossed, the same will hold true this winter.
I wanted every single element of the coop interior to be removable so that I could easily clean things–because cleaning was a real bear in the last set-up. The roost bar, shelves, perch, and nesting boxes all come out easily. Additionally, the shelves, nesting boxes, and floors are all lined with sections of vinyl flooring and oil cloth so that they slip easily out for quick cleaning.
I must sing the praises of this set-up. With the shelf under the roost bar to catch all their nighttime droppings, this house stays SO CLEAN. I simply take out the removable oil-cloth lining and hose it off every morning.
The chicken garden surrounding the coop has been a bit of give and take. It is a finely-tuned balance; equal parts protective plants and shrubs, pest-deterring herbs and flowers, edibles for the chickens, and a few little bits of annual color (which are hard to have because the chickens usually qualify these as ‘edibles for the chickens’).
I make a point to plant lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil wherever I can possibly find room for them in this garden. The chickens are not interested in eating any of these plants, so they remain lovely, and they really help to deodorize the area and ward off flies and other creepy-crawlies. Basil, especially, seems to send the flies packing.
Despite this lovely little chicken-oriented garden, I still let my girls free range in the rest of our small yard for the majority of the time. I like to allow them a ‘soft-supervised’ free range, which is where I am home and keeping a fairly close eye on them, but not stalking them throughout the yard. When I have to leave for short periods (ie, running errands or something of the sort) I lock them in the chicken garden, which keeps them contained and fairly reliably safe from aerial predators. There are times when we leave and know we won’t be coming back until after chicken-curfew, and these are the moments when they must be on lockdown in the coop and run. It all seems to be working pretty well for us, so (knock on wood), I don’t see a Coop 4.0 happening anytime in the near future.
Do you hear that?? Somewhere a displaced Texan is sighing in sweet, sweet relief.