A homestead of any size is always a work in progress. Since every situation is slightly different, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to setup, equipment, and routine. Often something that seems like it would work, just doesn’t quite cut the mustard and I find many times our first attempts need revision before they work the way they should. This was definitely the case with the chicken house. In fact, it has been revised three times.
The first chicken house was a doghouse with a nestbox attached and set outside the pen, all situated under the deck. This was a quick and easy solution, but was only large enough for 3 hens and was very had to clean. We decided we wanted at least 6 hens (the old wartime government bulletins recommended 3 hens per family member), so the first revision of the chicken living quarters began.
Our second chicken house was a cute little shed built from recycled pallets. It had two levels and three nestboxes. Unfortunately, the nestboxes couldn’t be put outside the pen, so we had to walk in the pen to gather the eggs. It worked well enough while it was under the deck, but we decided to put hay storage under there since it was already roofed and the hens spent all their time in the paddock anyway. The chicken house was moved into the lower corner of the paddock. This didn’t work as well as we were hoping. We had to go into the paddock to gather eggs and that corner stayed muddy the longest. Also, it was built to be under a roof and the nestboxes leaked and the bedding in them quickly got nasty. We decided that the rabbit shed was going to go in that corner and began looking for another solution.
The Chicken Condo is the third (and I hope final) attempt at the perfect solution for us. We put it along the back of the goat shed, taking advantage of the existing roof. It has two levels, one for roosting that is completely enclosed for winter warmth, and a lower level where the feed and nestboxes are. Everything is accessible from outside the paddock so it is very easy to use. It’s large enough for 12 hens, so it won’t be a problem if we decide to double our current flock of six hens next hatching season. There is a PVC feeder (also accessible from outside the paddock) that holds about a weeks worth of feed at a time. The bottom of the chicken house is easily scraped out with a hoe through the door, and the roost area has a removable tray for easy cleaning. There is even a spiral staircase for the hens to get “upstairs”. All that remains is to add a brooding nestbox that can be closed off when we don’t need it.
So far we’ve been very pleased with this setup, but we know there is always room for improvement.