Awake or asleep, chickens are messy. Messy chickens are good if they spread that rich soil repairer throughout the yard. Chickens that are sleeping can be good too, if that mess is being made on straw or the like that becomes compost…not so good if said chickens decide to sleep in their nesting boxes! No one likes a messy egg, and we were getting far too many.
The chicken coop was one of our April projects, and I’m glad to finally be getting around to writing up about it! You can read more about the start of our chicken journey, and how we inherited a coop by clicking this link, Chickens, Coops, & a Fox.
I’ll save you the horror that had become of the nesting boxes when I decided to clean them last. Needless to say, something had to change. All six of our chickens would tuck themselves away into a couple of nesting boxes each night, and that made the eventual egg collection a nasty business. A couple other problems were that the roof to the chicken house wasn’t quite long enough and water streamed in when it rained, and the only other options for the chickens were two little perches lower than the nesting boxes themselves!
With the coop freshly cleaned by yours truly, Mr BirdCat set to work fixing.
Outside the Coop
First thing came the roof (which I don’t have any pictures of…ladders and my clumsiness don’t mix). He removed the old one, and replaced it with insulation and larger pieces of tin. Chickens don’t do well in damp environments, and the last thing we want is for our flock to get sick (besides that, we want them to be comfortable and happy!). At the same time as the roof fixes, Mr BirdCat reinforced the walls so we wouldn’t have to worry about the fox trying to squeeze through a loose board. The coop felt more secure and protected almost instantly.
The Nesting Boxes
The next step was to put something in place to stop the chickens from sleeping in their nesting boxes! We discussed a number of ideas (that’s about the extent of help I can offer when it comes to building) and settled on a drop-down door.
Having drop-down doors in place meant that we didn’t need to go out and buy hinges to have something that swung up or anything. Every penny saved counts, so even though they wouldn’t have cost very much money, it still works out much better to use what we have!
Mr BirdCat created a track groove in place for the door to go on each side, and then attached sturdy rope to the doors themselves. He then hammered a couple of nails part-ways in above the doors so the rope could have something to hook over.
Now when we go out there in the morning, we also open up the nesting box doors so the chickens have access. If we remember in the late afternoon to close them, then that keeps the chickens out at night, or Mr BirdCat simply takes out any rebel chickens and puts them on their roosts when he closes the coop up at night.
With doors stopping the chickens from sleeping inside, they now needed somewhere to sleep that wasn’t on the ground! Thankfully we had a number of large branches handy that would do the trick. Again, we played around with different ideas, and found one we were both happy with.
A ladder system seemed to be the best way to go, hopefully with enough angle so chickens above wouldn’t leave a mess on the chickens below… We also tried to find branches that would be the most comfortable for the chickens to grip onto while they sleep. It didn’t take long at all for Mr BirdCat to come up with this solution:
Originally I thought it would be best to have the ladder roost on the wall opposite the door — but having it this way makes much more sense as it’s so much easier to clean! Chicken coops are bad enough to muck out as it is, no use making it harder by having to crawl around branch structures 🙂
The chickens are reluctant to use their roost after the comforts of squishing into the warm nesting boxes, but over time they seem to be getting used to it. I wish we had’ve put these measures in place right away, as then it might not be so much of a shock for the chickens having to learn how to roost…but glad it is all in now!