We put our focus on chickens this past weekend and went around and visited with a few friends that had some experience and started sketching out our thoughts on what kind of a coop to build.  It of course will consist of salvaged materials where possible and be built to house about 12 lovely ladies.  We have a lot of raccoon and other predators to consider, so we’re trying to set it up in a way that keeps them safe AND free….I’d love to just let them roam free most of the time, but not sure if that’s the best idea.   I used to drive by a house on my way to work that just lets their chickens run willy nilly and it would break my heart to see a dog running alongside the road with one in its’ mouth, or to see them get hit by cars because they were of course fascinated with what was on the other side of the street versus their own yard….ugh…I had to start taking an alternate route to work :) lol.

At first, Maddie wasn’t really on board with the whole idea…when we first mentioned it a few years ago, she burst into tears and cried “I don’t want to live on a farm”….. She later explained she was envisioning some large farm operation versus our little backyard homestead version of things….it was all quite funny, actually.  Today, she’s singing a different tune and is really excited about it all, thank goodness…as are Jon and I!  We’re focusing on layers and we’re going to wait to order our chicks until the coop is close to being finished….. hopefully in the next couple weeks.  What kinds of chickens you ask?  Well, we’ve not quite decided yet….I’m thinking a few different varieties versus one, though.  Still doing my research on that end of things….anyone have any recommendations?

Sorry for some of the blurry pics…I dropped my camera on the ‘cement’ floor at the studio a couple weeks ago and let’s just say I’m down a lens for a while and the one I’m stuck with doesn’t do well in close, dark quarters :)

The one farm we visited, also raised goats…… Loved the big guy with the beard. Not sure we’re quite ready for any goats yet, but you never know.


Another ‘farm’ we visited was smack dab in the middle of town….Loved the steel architecture in the windows of their coop.   It’s downright refreshing to walk into someone’s backyard and get a glimpse of chickens clucking around.  Meet the Kale-loving Gabor Sisters….ZsaZsa, Eva and Magda.

Will share more as we get closer….

Cheers to raising a few chickens and learning something new!



  1. Backyard chicken breed says:

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  2. Kelda says:

    Chickens are a joy! There are few things more peaceful than enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning watching your hens scratch and peck for their breakfast in the backyard…and being able to grab their little labors of love (eggs) on your way inside and cooking up a fresh breakfast for your family. Nothin’ like it!

    We live on Park Avenue here in Des Moines on an acre and although I grew up enjoying my Grandma’s farm on weekends, farm life was well forgotten and it was never my dream to own any livestock…but as I started giving my soul room to breathe, roam and be creative, I stumbled upon an article in Mary Janes Farm magazine on keeping chickens and I just couldn’t get it out of my mind (and heart)! Now I crave the thought of farm life…although I have an admitedly romantic view of it and understand that it’s actually very hard work.

    So, although I plan to stay in the city for now, last July I ordered 7 chicks (all girls) through http://www.mypetchicken.com. They are cold hearty, docile breeds, so they not only survive these Iowa winters, but are friendly doing it. ; )

    My girls are Bula (Cochin), Velma (Silkie), Daphne (Orpington), Sassy (Salmon Faverolle), Fanny and Fancy (Silver Laced Wyndonottes) and Goldie (Golden Laced Wyndonotte).

    Behind my garage was a dirt floor shed that no one liked entering (spiders, bats, wasps, the boogie man) but using repurposed wood I built a floor in (so that I could clean it more easily and thoroughly) and of course all the chicken accessories…roosting pole, laying boxes, and attached run. I bought lots of the materials from the Restore, including the screen door and little chicken door between the coop and run. The screen door is very old but still works great and their little door is an old window (that has a handle on it) turned sideways. Pine shaving is the best thing you can use on the floor because it is extremely absorbant. Every two weeks I scoop it all out and start fresh. The comments above about the hard ware cloth are completely accurate and important…especially for wherever they are spending the night. If the raccoon can reach it’s little hand in, it will grab and pull and not let go…icky.

    Each day I get about 6 eggs, which is alot for us…I’m sure as they get older I won’t get as many. But I’m able to share with family and friends.

    These are the things that I learned…
    – when chicks are babies, they fall asleep and just fall over…totally unexpected, I thought they were dying so I would pick it back up and “help” it get a drink. Silly me. It took me about an hour to figure out they were just napping. After a few minutes of napping they just pop back up and have a little more to eat and drink. Cute!
    – They are not cute in your house more than two weeks. Even with daily cleaning, they are a little smelly and they kick up a lot of dust. I was oh-so-ready to move them outside after a month.
    – Hanging feeders and waterers will save you SO MUCH TIME and energy!
    – Chickens are an investment of time, money and energy which likely will never be re”cooped”, even selling eggs…you have to want them for enjoyment purposes because they won’t save or make you money. They are work…daily work. For me it’s a good thing…I get outside at least two times a day no matter what to tend to their needs. To take it a step further, I have spent more time outside than I have in years. Not all for work, of course, but also just to sit out there and enjoy them.
    – In the winter it’s important to make sure their roosting pool is 1 1/2 inches around so that the ends of their toes are tucked under their feathers. Vasoline is relatively helpful in keeping their combs from frostbite. In the summer, a fan helps with flies a bit and circulation of course.
    – The run I built is a bit muddy (if I don’t add leaves, straw or sand) and their coop doesn’t have to be as big as it is…hindsight is 20/20, but I wish I would have invested in a chicken tractor…seems like the way to go!

    I know this is more information than you asked for but it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done and been a wonderful learning experience for me and the kids, so I wanted to share my experience. I hope you too, soon experience the joy of raising chickens.

  3. Linda Van Haur says:

    I just found your site & I am very excited about it, I love everything I can find about organics & reclaiming items, so this site is perfect. My husband & I just (2 days ago) purchased our first set of baby chicks, they are so sweet. Unfortunately we already lost one, :-(, but we’ve replaced her, and the others seem to be doing great. This is our first time with chicks, so we are trying to learn as we go. My husband has started to build their cage, & we are using as much reclaimed wood & items as possible, this also helps keep the cost down. I am very excited about raising these sweet babies.

  4. Michele says:

    Thanks, everyone! Have heard the ‘addictive’ and ‘leads to more’ component from just about everyone we’ve talked to…(which makes Jon a bit nervous!) lol…. One of the homes we visited did have a chicken tractor, but the way our yard is set up, I don’t know that we’d ever do much moving around of it.. Anxious to get started with it all! Cheers, all and thanks again for stopping by and sharing…appreciate it.

  5. Lori McClure says:

    I’m in the same mode as Celeste. I have been thinking about getting some “backyard” chickens for close to two years now and the plan I have had in mind is building a “chicken tractor” and have been doing some more serious learning about it over the last month in hopes of finally getting going on this. Love the fact that the chickens can be moved around the yard and are not confined to one area.
    Below is a link to a site where I am planning to purchase my build plan for my coup. The most expensive option is just $22.99 which includes printed build plans and an CD…which won’t be necessary for us, so $19.99 and cost of materials is it!


  6. Kristin says:

    We started with 2 hens. A few years later we added 3 more. We got up to 20. I hate when we lose one! We now have 14 hens and a rooster. We didn’t mean to get a rooster. We hatched eggs. All three that survived were roosters. We kept one. Then came the ducks. Two pairs. But we needed a higher ratio of female to male ducks. So we got three more females. Then one of them hatched some eggs and there were two more, so now there are 9 ducks….. and two rabbits, one of which is an angora. And most recently came the goats. It all started with two chickens! 😀
    Backyard homesteads are the best!

  7. Celeste Lux says:

    Two words….Chicken Tractor. This is a moveable pen/shelter that gives your chickens access to a variety of locations like free range, but keeps them safe from most preditors. They can also be anywhere from utilitarian to fancy–perfect for the small flock or backyard chickens. Here is a GREAT pictoral collection that I stumbled on online http://home.centurytel.net/thecitychicken/tractors.html, but if you Google ‘chicken tractor’ you’ll all kinds of ideas. You will LOVE your personal chickens, and they make wonderful and entertaining pets (not unlike having a fishtank) and they reward you almost every day with delicious, nutritious eggs.

  8. Jen Sawyer says:

    I got my 6 chickens almost 2 years ago and they are lovely! I did lose one (my Rhode Island Red, Flora) to a hawk 2 months ago – which was devastating. If you have raccoons, you need to make sure that you bury some hardware cloth or make a skirt of hardware cloth around the bottom of the run! They will dig. Also a covered run is best. Chicken wire keeps chickens in, but doesn’t keep predators out.
    My coop was about 85% reclaimed/recycled material and I was pretty happy with that! The one place I didn’t skimp on was fencing.
    Mostly, I was surprised with the initial expense, and feed prices have been rising steadily, but my girls are part of our little family, each with different personalities. I’ve currently got 3 New Hampshire Reds and 2 Light Brahmas. I handle them daily, which makes it easier to get them in from ranging, when hawks start flying by.
    Oh, and they are addictive… Best of luck to you!

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