Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hen House Lessons-Learned

Yesterday dawned cool and clear and I, somewhat later than the sun, arose ready to get completely through my lengthy list of fall tasks.  As experienced homesteaders have already figured out, I got one (just one) mostly done.  But it was a good one, and I got a chance to reflect on some chicken coop lessons-learned while I was doing it.

#1 - It seemed like a good idea at the time 
When we built our coop a friend suggested we put a cheap plastic tarp down on the floor before I put in the bedding (pine shavings in our case).  The theory was when you did your once-a-year right-down-to-the-floor cleaning you just haul the tarp out and, as if by magic, the rest of it comes right along.  At the time it seemed like sheer genius and I went with it.  The reality was a)  Having the cheapo plastic tarp on the floor snagging your pitchfork or shovel made it much harder to do the in-between weekly cleanings. b)  Near as I can tell, there was far more muscle than magic associated with getting the floor clean.   Pitch it down far enough to get to the edges (that means most of it), rip it free from wall, roll it up into a messy bundle, and draaaag it out leaking the contents all along the way.  Lesson Learned - The new stuff went down right on the floor where it belongs.

#2 - This'll work, won't it?
Since we refurbed an existing structure when we built our coop we had less choice in the floor plan than we would if we had started from scratch.  Getting a decent perch in he limited floor space was one of the challenges.  What we ended up doing is getting a section out of a pine tree that needed come down anyway to sit in the corner.  In reality this worked pretty well with a couple of exceptions.  Since tree was pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get affair, some of branches where less than optimally placed.  The birds liked it, and still do, but some of those less than optimally places branches had the unseemly habit of catching your clothes, or shovel, or your head.  Lesson Learned - I don't care how much the birds liked their pine-tree perch  Au naturel, we need to get in there, too.  Yesterday there was some tree trimming.

The 'snags' sticking right out towards the door.  You can also see the "magic carpet"  (See #1)

A little tree trimming does wonders for access!

#3 They must know what they're doing!
When we outfitted the coop we looked over the available options for feeders and selected one a common commercial version.  It fit, mostly, in the space we allocated for it.  After awhile, though, the flaw in that design became clear.  Our store-bought feeder seems to be inviting the birds to waste feed.  Big time.

Yep, all the stuff on the 'magic carpet' is not pine shavings.  You can see the "Magic carpet" here too.
 There had to be a better way.  We found it at the local hardware store in the plumbing section.  After a little bit of sawing and gluing we assembled our alternative.

3" PVC cut and assembled

Installed before putting the new bedding in.

We set them to be filled from the "Foyer".
Feed and water ready for use!
Lesson Learned:  The jury is still out on this on since we just put it together, but the home built solution gets great reviews from other folks. It frees up space and will be no worse than the "store bought" option for waste.  I do plan on also adding some plumbing so that the water bowl can be filled from the foyer, too.

#4 And while you're at it.
The last job was not really a lesson-learned thing.  It was just a job the needed to be done.  A few weeks ago the glazing on one of the window panes gave up and let the window out with predictable results.  Yesterday, as part of getting ready for winter, the pane got replaced.

Guess which pane is the new one....

I still have the rest of list to do, but getting this done just about makes the coop ready for winter. 

It was a beautiful day to be outside, and a lot work got done.  We are blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,



  1. great post I hae seen a few people use down pipes for feeders and was thinking of trying it out when we re-build the hen house :-)

    1. Hi Dawn! I'll keep everyone up to speed on how it works out. Early indications are there is going to be less waste and De loves being able to fill the feeders without getting into the messy part of the coop.

  2. There's always room for improvement . . . and what works for one person, doesn't for another. I think when we stop learning from our experiences (and experiments!), that's a signal that it's all over!

    Love those tube feeders!

    1. For me its a matter of forcing myself to take the step back and really look at what had worked and what hasn't. And, when I have my list of 50 things that really could be better, just picking one or two and getting them done.

  3. I've been wondering about those feeders. I'll be watching for a follow-up post!

    1. I'll see how it goes for few weeks and then report back to everyone.

  4. Mark, what an excellent post. I think every homesteader gets the heart of this 100%. We make a go with what's available and learn from it.

    Once Dan and I were finally able to build a brand new chicken coop I was so glad we made-do with the one room in the old shed. We learned a lot. Even so, we've had to re-do things in the new, like the tree roost. We replaced it with a conventional roost for the same reasons you cite.

    It is so true that experience is the best teacher.

    1. I so agree. My next coop addition is a brooding box, so broody hen's don't hatch out chicks 20 inches off the coop floor in a nesting box.