This is probably more a pensive “avoid this next time” post than an actual to-do list, though I am going to try to come up with solutions in case I actually get enough energy to act.
The “lips” of the frame around the body of the coop and nest box
Our coop (which we bought flat-packed) is built around frames, if that makes sense, which means we have a 3cm lip around the bottom of the coop’s floor. If it was flat, without the raised lip, I could simply sweep the woodshavings off the edge into a bucket, but because of how its built, I have to shovel everything out instead. I think it would be easier to clean if I could sweep them straight out.
The problem is exacerbated in the nest boxes because not only has the lip being built up further, I don’t have space in which to maneouvre a shovel or brush. I line the nest boxes with newspaper before adding straw to make them easier to clean out but again, I think it would be easier to get properly clean if there wasn’t the lip.
For the last couple of winters, I’ve been talking about fitting a fake floor in the main body of the coop, which would rest on the lip and have a layer of insulation under neither. I still might do this: I doubt it would be that much work and would have other benefits too (see below).
The nest boxes are a tougher problem to solve since there isn’t enough head room to add a fake floor. Not sure how I could solve that one.
The “frames” are covered with tongue-and-groove type wood, rather than flat single pieces of wood. It looks nice but the grooves in the floor collect a lot of dust and again, are a bit of a pain to clean out.
If I was fitting a fake floor as mentioned above, I’d use something smooth for the top/actual floor so it would be groove-free. If I don’t fit a fake floor, I could just fit a sheet of heavy-duty plastic over it instead.
Coop is really a bit big for the chickens we have/want
When we got our girls, we wanted flexibility so went for a slightly bigger coop than we thought we’d need. This coop officially can house about twelve birds, but I think ten would be pushing it. We don’t have enough room in the run for that many though, so our max is about eight, though we’re choosing to keep it at six for now. Having extra room in the coop isn’t a bad thing most of the time, and because it’s raised off the ground, it’s not taking up floor space (and is providing good shelter), but in winter, I think they’d benefit from it being a bit easier to keep cosy.
The suspended floor would reduce the size a tiny bit. I could also add a fake ceiling underneath the peak of the coop (although still ensuring there is adequate ventilation). I think it’s fine for six though: if we were going to keep less than six, I think it might just be easier to replace the whole thing.
Lack of access to the “roof”
Because we live in a foxtastic neighbourhood, our run is enclosed with chicken wire. The roof is at different heights in different parts – higher around the coop (which is raised off the ground by nearly 2ft) so I can clean it out without bending over and lower for the rest of the run, since I don’t need to spend a lot of time in that bit and it makes it slightly less imposing — but neither part is really accessible. This is particularly a pain at this time of year – this whole post was inspired by my adventures trying to clear leaves off the wire this morning: I can sweep the lower side near the path but because the ground drops away around the run, nowhere else without potentially dangerous climbing. It was also a pain when I tried to add plastic sheeting to the roof last year to provide more dry spots – only achievable by climbing stunts that would have made John cry if he’d seen me doing them ;)
Add access hatches in key parts of the roof – it wouldn’t be *too* hard really, just cut out a section of chicken wire and replace it with a hinged frame.
The run keeps “sinking”
We built the run on “reclaimed land”, going down a steep hill (hence the “ground drops away” remark above). John’s dad built us a surround (with scrap wood and corrugated steel panels a neighbour just happened to be skipping – win!) and we infilled it with rubble from our house renovations happening at the time. That was all topped with scrap carpet and layers and layers of wood chips. The woodchips are great – the chickens love scratching through them and they soak up a lot of the poo smell too. Needless to say – and as expected – the whole thing has settled, sunk and composted. We can keep adding more woodchips (and we do) but I can’t help wonder if we had built it on more solid ground, whether the chips would last longer before needing replenishing. We’d also be in a stronger position to treat it as a “deep litter” run – at the moment, it would be difficult and awkward to dig out all the lovely rich compost.
None really, unless we could get hold of a time machine or fancied a full rebuild (no!). Definitely a lesson for next time though.
If you’ve got chickens, is there anything you’d like to change about your set-up? Or any lessons you’ve learnt that you’d like to pass on?