Coop 7: Brendel-Reed Coop
(1) When did you start keeping chickens and why?
We started keeping chickens about six years ago, we wanted the access to fresh eggs obviously, but also wanted them for the composting purposes. I bring home a lot of veggie scraps from the restaurant, and the chickens love it.
Chrissy and Noah have built their compost bin in their coop so that the chickens can rummage through the compost. Here some of the chickens gaze out over a volunteer tomato plant alongside the compost bin.
(2) How many chickens do you have and what breeds?
At the moment we have 5 laying hens. We have one Wyandotte, two Plymouth Rocks, one Rhode island Red, and one Buff Orpington. We don’t really have names for the gals although we do call the Buff Orpington “Goldie.” She is the most gentle hen. We can pick her up easily and get her back in the coop without too much trouble. The other gals are a bit more spunky and not as trusting. We chose our breeds with a little help from our friends Meg and Gus who hatched them for us. They are simply a smattering of sturdy laying hens.
(3) Where did you get your coop?
We are on our second or third iteration of the coop right now and we like this one the best. We have built each one ourselves. Our first one was simply a little pen on wheels. The flock would stay out in the yard free-ranging all day and we would close them up at night for safety. We built our current coop to be much larger so that the hens would have more space. We have lost some hens in the past to predators, so we didn’t want them to be out and about if we were not home. We also incorporated our compost bin into their coop so that we can access it and so can the hens.
(4) What are some of your favorite features of your coop?
We solved all of our problems with this coop so we are very happy with it. The wood we used is cedar so that it won't rot any time soon. We also created an easy cleaning system involving a piece of tin roof that acts as a manure tray that we can easily empty. And lastly, we created bins for compost that the hens can access and so can we. This keeps them well stocked in bugs and fresh scraps and results in great soil for us to use in the garden.
(5) What would you do differently?
I think it would be useful to create a door that we could use to get into the coop easily. Instead we sort of have to squeeze through their little chicken door if we need to do anything inside. Chrissy had to get in there a while back to help the chickens with a little foot problem and it was a bit of a fiasco.
(6) Talk a little about your feeding and watering systems.
We have a gravity feeder for the food which is pretty easy to use, we fill it up whenever it’s low, and it typically lasts for a few days. We use a 5 gallon bucket with chicken water plugs, and our roof catches rain water which then feeds the bucket. Unless it’s dry for a week or so, the rain usually keeps it full.
They get natural chicken feed pellets and all of our compost from home and Seabear, along with any grubs we may find in the garden.
(7) What considerations did you keep in mind with the coop/run design regarding predators?
We simply made a large area covered entirely with chicken wire. We built the frame and buried the fencing at the ground for digging predators. We also wrapped it over the top for aerial assaults.
(8) What kind of features address extreme temperatures?
Our coop was built under a holly tree for some shade and we've planted jasmine to vine and grow over the coop for additional shade as the temperatures rise in the future. They all cuddle up in their little house at night so they stay warm enough through our very mild winters.
(9) Do you consider your chickens to be pets?
Maybe? We have a shepherd mix dog, June. She is our pet and I like to think that the chickens are her pets that she takes care of.
(10) Is there anything that surprised you about keeping chickens?
Not really. I find it interesting how loud they can be and that they don’t only lay in the morning-they sort of all take turns throughout the day.
(11) Describe your coop maintenance regimen?
Empty the manure tray. Clean out and refill their nesting if needed and that’s it.
(12) Do you have any advice for people considering getting chickens?