A month ago, we were put on notice by my husband’s dad that he was going to be giving up his chickens. He’s getting a little older and doesn’t feel up to taking care of them anymore. If we wanted them, we could have them, he said, but we’d have to act fast–he was ready to be done!
Thankfully, our new house came with a shed with a lean-to at the back that’s just perfect for chickens. We just needed to make some nest boxes and enclose a yard for them. So that became our first project as newly-weds. Instead of a honeymoon…carpentry!
We wanted a fully enclosed yard for the chickens, to protect them from chicken hawks. And we wanted it to be tall enough that we could walk around in it without difficulty. So we sunk 8-foot 4″x4″ treated posts a foot in the ground 10 feet apart and braced them with treated 2″x4″s. Then we covered the whole thing with chicken wire, tacked on with roofing nails. (Well, we haven’t done the top yet. We ran out of steam and need to get back to that before the hawks discover how easy it is to get in there.) C. made a snug little door from 2″x2″s, with hook-and-eye latches inside and out.
The nest boxes we built from 1/2″ untreated plywood, joined with deck screws. From a 4’x8′ sheet, we got 7 boxes (one unit of 4 and one of 3), though we had to use a little scrap wood for the lip of the second unit. Each box has a cubic foot of space inside and a lip on the front to keep straw and eggs from falling out.
Ten days ago, our ladies arrived. Well, actually, we had to go fetch them. Which was an adventure in itself, since as we were chasing them around their former home, one of them shoved the door open and then they all started pouring out into the yard. (That’s why the door to our coop has a latch on the inside as well as the outside!) Thankfully, they soon decided they wanted to get back in, but, not realizing that the door was the only way to do that, they would stick their heads through the chicken wire and get caught just long enough for us to grab them.
When they first arrived at our place, they were a bit stressed and not laying as well as they had been. But after a week here, they’re up to an average of a dozen eggs a day. Selling them at $3/dozen, we’re able to cover the cost of feed ($15.40/week for a 50-lb. bag) and have a few eggs for ourselves. It’ll be a long, long while before we recover the costs of the henhouse construction (about $370), but honestly, I’m not too worried about that. I just enjoy having them here! They’re fascinating to watch, and they make great garbage disposals.