Coop 1: Brendel Coop


Tour de CoopSarah and Zack Brendel have been keeping chickens for eight years now. They built their first coop when they lived in the country and when they moved into Cobbham neighborhood near downtown Athens a few years ago, they had the opportunity to build a new coop, making design improvements.

View their coop.


(1) When did you start keeping chickens and why?
We first got chickens the summer of 2013. I actually had to call Zack inside from building the chicken coop because I had gone into labor with our first child!   We lived in Farmington at the time so we had the room.  Our neighbor had a Silkie mother hen with two chicks that were being bullied by other hens so we agreed to take them in.


 Sarah and Zack with Shadow

Sarah, Zack and Shadow the Australorp stand in front of their coop.

(2) How many chickens do you have and what breeds?
We are down to 2 chickens. We started this round with 5 chicks we got from Meg & Gus over at Community Meat Company. We have Shadow aka Opal and Chenille aka Pancake. RIP to Waffles (raccoon), Figgy (dog) and Black Bean Chicken Taco (unknown predator).

(3) Where did you get your coop?
Zack built the coop. We wanted it to be easy to clean and easy to harvest the eggs. Also, our first coop was more of a cabin and since we had recently moved to town we needed a smaller coop. Zack built our current coop more like a large cabinet for chickens. It has a removable tray floor, a single door access, and an area for easier egg gathering. We also installed netting over most of their run to prevent attacks from above. 

Zack designed the coop with removable panels that can be taken out in warmer weather allowing for cross ventilation inside the coop.


(4) What are some of your favorite features of your coop?
It’s built out of thermo-treated poplar so it has aged really well and turned silver like old teak.  The egg gathering is easy thanks to a separate hinged roof.  The girls also have plenty of room where they are and it has removable windows for easy seasonal weatherproofing.

(5) What would you do differently?
I would like to have their door on a timer so they can be let out every morning and locked up every night on a regular schedule without us manually having to do so.

 Buff Orpington

Chenille, the Buff Orpington, can seek shelter under the raised coop.

(6) Talk a little about your feeding and watering systems.
For watering we use a five gallon bucket and lid with two little water access drinkers drilled in. This watering system is a huge improvement over an open aired watering bowl because they are constantly knocking it over or kicking dirt in.  For feed we tend to give them a morning bowl of pellets, scratch grains, mealworms, and crushed up oyster shells for grit.  They get a big bowl of kitchen scraps in the evening. I love turning veggie scraps into protein. They love leftover noodles and rice! We give them peanuts, raisins and dried oatmeal for treats sometimes.

(7) What considerations did you keep in mind with the coop/run design regarding predators?
The run is fenced in with chicken wire and 75% is covered from above with bird netting.  All of our chickens have historically found any gaps in a fence and escaped. We have rocks or concrete around the base of the run to prevent predators from getting in.  We do let the chickens out of their run when we are home so they can roam the backyard during the daytime. 

(8) What kind of features address extreme temperatures?
All of the coop’s windows have hardware cloth for summer venting and in the winter we add double paned windows to the openings. When the chickens were young we had a heat lamp out there on cold nights but once they grew full sized we stopped. 

(9) Do your neighbors have an opinion on you keeping chickens?
Our neighbors mostly enjoy the chickens and neighborhood kids love checking for eggs.  Sometimes when the chickens get out we do get texts from neighbors letting us know our chickens are loose.  Since we don’t have a rooster they are mostly quiet, but sometimes they get noisy.

(10) Do you consider your chickens to be pets?
Yes. They have personalities and attitude and our kids consider them part of the family. 


The national bird of Australia, Australorps are friendly chickens that are very popular with backyard chicken owners.

(11) Is there anything that surprised you about keeping chickens?  
They aren’t as friendly as I had hoped.  It takes constant attention to make them friendly and we had two small children we were focused on.  I’ve also been surprised at how long they continue to lay eggs and how frequent they lay eggs is surprising. 

(12) Describe your coop maintenance regimen?
I keep a cover of 3-4” of pine shavings inside the coop that gets changed once or twice a month in winter and more frequently in summer.  Zack turns the soil over in the run twice a year and adds mulch.  They love having access to good clean dirt for dust baths. 

(13) Do you have any advice for people considering getting chickens?
Our advice is to have a secure coop because most animals enjoy eating a chicken.  They require space and they are noticeably happy when allowed to forage.  A well designed run and coop can minimize how much effort you will put into the day to day maintenance.

(14) Do you have anything else about your coop that you‘d like to share?
Elevate the coop a few feet so the chickens have a shady spot with dry dirt to enjoy. 

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