Pet Chickens


Chickens like to share nesting boxes so you don't need a nest for each hen. They will wait for their turn to use a favorite nest or wait for one that is currently being used. I have 3 nests for nine hens. Usually only one or two is used and the eggs are all gathered there.

The individual nest boxes are about a foot wide by a foot deep and 18" tall. There is a lip in front of the box to hold in straw for their nest, and of course to hold in the eggs.

Hens fed a good diet of layer pellets, varied foods and supplemented with oyster shell (for added calcium) have harder shells then those sold in the stores.

Its wise to install a top to the nests that rests on a slant to discourage roosting on top on the nesting boxes. Without the slanted top they will roost there and increase your clean-up work as they love to poop when they sleep and the top will become covered in droppings in no time.

We change the straw in the nests whenever the floor is cleaned. That's about once a month. The straw in the nests is usually clean but gets matted down with daily use.

When a hen is laying her egg, she will make a fuss if you enter the coop. They make a strange gurgling sound that is a growl. They take their laying seriously and do not want to be disturbed. In the past I've had hens peck to keep me away. The hens I have now are so tame, they make the growl sound but I can pet them if I like. I usually just respect their privacy, they want to be left alone while doing this task.

Although I have provided 3 nesting boxes for my hens, they often will wait their turn and just use one box. It's amazing that they don't break other eggs more often. If you see a broken egg in a nest - remove it immediately. Otherwise the hens will develop a taste for raw eggs and will break open their eggs to eat them.  

Please see the photo below to see a wood extension from the roost to the nesting boxes. This way the hens can walk along the front of the nesting boxes to safely and easily get to the nest of their choice.

It's wise to check for eggs several times a day. Eggs need to be refridgerated to be kept fresh.

Always place the eggs in the carton with the pointed end facing down, this insures middle placement of the yolk.

Chicken Roost

Chickens are birds and birds like to sit on branches in trees. When they sleep at night, they like to perch on a piece of wood as if they were on a branch in a tree. They will line up close next to each other and sleep all night in that position. The top perch is the most coveted and the ones who hold a positon in top pecking order usually gets those sleeping spots.

The wood they perch on should not have sharp edges, it should be a surface a chicken can comfortably put her feet around.

In the above photo you can see a brown object just below the third step down. That is a heater that is made of two pieces of rain gutter wired together. Inside this is about 4 Christmas lights. They are attached to a wire that has a light sensitive "eye" on it. When the light outside dims in the evening, the heater goes on. The ends of the metal gutter are sealed up so light is not leaking out. This puts out enough heat that rises to keep the chill off of the birds.

Metal Watering Bin with Heater

In the coop yard I have a galvanized metal basin. This shows the watering system sprinkle nozzle that extends above it. Chickens love fresh clean water.

On the bottom of the basin there is a fish tank heater. The heater has suction cups that keep it attached to the bottom of the basin. This prevents ice from forming in or on the water in winters. The winters here are mild, but it does get below freezing in winter. On some extra cold mornings we've had to poor warm water in the basin to melt some of the top layer of ice that had formed.

On cold days chickens really appreciate warm water. The only drawback is that the tepid water helps to create algae formation. That just means while the heater is in use, cleaning of the basin needs to occur more frequently.

Floor in Coop

 C.J. the cat is helping us clean the coop. The floor is make up on planks of special material that will not rot. 

Directly under the roost is a lid to a plastic bin. We decided to use that covered with straw under the roost to catch the most droppings. Cleaning the coop is much easier because instead of just raking the soiled straw out, we just pull the straw and poop covered lid out and empty it in the wheel cart.

A small feeder and water dish is kept under the nesting boxes for when the hens are inside the coop.                                                                       

Design of Coop

After reading several books on chickens and coop designs, as well as using past experience with chicken coops, we designed this coop.  The area where you see the hens gathering is where the door is, it is now open to show the interior. The ramp is so the chickens can go up into the coop when they like. The whole coop is raised above the ground so there is no chance of flooding from rains. We put strips of denium in front of the hen door to keep the winds out.

On the left, the lower wooden door is on hinges so it can be raised and latched up for coop cleaning. It is a great design and has worked out very well. We put a wheel cart beneath that door and just rake out the straw and droppings into it. We then had a better idea. We took a lid to a big tupperware type bin (see above photo) and placed it beneath the roost. Chickens do a lot of pooping while setting on the roost. The straw in the plastic lid catches much of the droppins and it's east to just slide it to the edge and empty it into the wheel cart.

Cleaning the Coop

Keeping your hens in clean straw is easy when the coop is designed well. After scooping out the old straw, it can be bagged up and tossed out, or composted for a later time. Spreading new clean straw on the floor and in the nesting boxes complete the coop cleaning.