The very fate of my marriage rests on the functionality of our newly made-over coop. The Texan has really put his foot down; this is the last time we are re-doing the darned thing. The. Last. Time.
The original coop design was….okay. It just wasn’t great (even after we gave it several cute cosmetic overhauls).
The made-over original coop.
It really was more of a run than it was a coop, and a rather useless run, at that. Inside, there was a tiny curtain-enclosed roost box that also doubled as a nesting box. It was always a mess, and also, I fear, not really protective enough in the winter. In fact, last winter, we actually moved the coop and temporarily enclosed the whole thing with insulation and tarps to keep everyone warm and dry, which worked great, but gave the yard a rather shanty-like vibe. Which made me nuts.
It still makes me twitchy to look at. Make it go away!!!
We finally decided that tweaking it one more time was just adding insult to injury. With a year and a half of chicken-keeping under our belts, we went back to the proverbial drawing board. I knew we could do better.
Additionally, my once gorgeous ‘secret garden’ that originally looked like this:
Was now looking more like this:
The junk scattered in the background is definitely because of the chickens. Definitely.
So, I knew that it was time to make this garden a ‘chicken garden’. Which meant planting only chicken-friendly and chicken-proof plants. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The driving force behind the design of the new henhouse was insulation, insulation, insulation. And a legit peaked, shingled roof (as opposed to the old slanted corrugated plastic one) so that this adorable weathervane had somewhere to sit.
This sucker is sturdy: studded walls, filled with insulation sandwiched between an interior and exterior layer of plywood. The entire coop and run sits on a bed of cement pavers.
This summer, with temperatures hovering up over 100 degrees, the inside of the henhouse stays pretty darned nice. Fingers crossed, the same will hold true this winter.
I wanted every single element of the coop interior to be removable so that I could easily clean things–because cleaning was a real bear in the last set-up. The roost bar, shelves, perch, and nesting boxes all come out easily. Additionally, the shelves, nesting boxes, and floors are all lined with sections of vinyl flooring and oil cloth so that they slip easily out for quick cleaning.
Gertie’s telling me about the egg she just laid (lefthand nesting box), while broody Clementine grumbles at both of us from the righthand nesting box.
I must sing the praises of this set-up. With the shelf under the roost bar to catch all their nighttime droppings, this house stays SO CLEAN. I simply take out the removable oil-cloth lining and hose it off every morning.
A shelf holds important supplies up out of chicken-reach, and hooks allow for bundles of fresh herbs to be hung (which ward off pests and deodorize the joint naturally). This is a good shot of the oil-cloth lined ceiling. A note about oil-cloth–it gives off a lot of fumes when it is new; I cut these pieces and aired them out outside for several weeks before installing in the coop.
The Abominable Brood-Monster….oh, broody girl, you really must get out and do something with your life! Obviously, the new coop suits her just fine.
The new run has a living roof and a offers a little bit of shady outdoor space for them during the rare times when they must be locked up.
The roof is built on a gentle slant, and consists of a ‘planter box’ frame built of sealed 1×8′s, with corrugated plastic roofing (salvaged from the roof of the old run) as the bottom of the box. Moisture and weed barrier layers affixed to the inside of the ‘box’ assure that the soil will stay put, and that any water will funnel off the end of the roof and not into the run.
I absolutely heart the green roof.
Some might say I did this remodel just for this adorable weathervane.
The door’s vents are covered in hardware cloth for safety, and cut into star shapes for cuteness. Certainly gives it a little bit of an outhouse-y vibe, but I think that’s hilarious, personally. The little lantern has a timer-operated candle that comes on every night at dusk.
Millie has a knack for perfectly-timed photo-bombs.
To the right of the hen outhouse is an armoire that I rescued from the curb and fitted with doors. This serves us well as a chicken supply cabinet.
Some rusty star washers serve as stepping stones to the supply cabinet.
The chicken garden surrounding the coop has been a bit of give and take. It is a finely-tuned balance; equal parts protective plants and shrubs, pest-deterring herbs and flowers, edibles for the chickens, and a few little bits of annual color (which are hard to have because the chickens usually qualify these as ‘edibles for the chickens’).
The annual-lined pathway leading to the chicken garden is ‘paved’ with bits and pieces of wood salvaged from the old coop and our recently renovated old deck. Had to put all that scrap wood to good use somehow!
The bits of wood are adhered down with concrete and then backfilled with soil (as my intention is to try to grow some sort of creeping green, like thyme between them). Most of the wood bits are painted and sealed, but I did leave many completely naked so that they would weather. Obviously, if you want this sort of thing to last as long as possible, you need to seal every surface. I regret nothing!!!!
The entrance to the chicken garden is still this lovely old door (which was the original front door to the house), though I have gone and painted it a chippy green. I’ve had it pointed out that the sign phrase, which I intended to mean something like ‘Little Chicken Garden’, really doesn’t hold up in French. It should probably read ‘Potager des Poulets’, as the term ‘de poulet’ refers to chicken as an ingredient–as in chicken soup, chicken sandwich, or chicken McNuggets. I was going to change it, but upon reflection, I kind of found it funny to leave it this way…anyway, you can see a tutorial on how to make the sign, improper French or not, here.
Just inside the gate is the frog fountain which is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It adds a fantastic amount of lovely water background music. I’ve obsessed over having this fountain since the first time I saw it in the Ballard Designs catalog.
This photo cracks me up. Eloise is on a mission. Around the backside of that fountain is a little protective, shady area where I actually have an automatic waterer set up for the girls. This is where she is headed. So far, the girls have wanted NOTHING to do with swapping spit with that frog.
The main chicken garden is full of rose bushes, which offer great predator-protection and shade. A couple of wine barrels overflow with mints and basils and bright annuals. I have also planted a small swatch of lawn for the girls to snack on.
I make a point to plant lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil wherever I can possibly find room for them in this garden. The chickens are not interested in eating any of these plants, so they remain lovely, and they really help to deodorize the area and ward off flies and other creepy-crawlies. Basil, especially, seems to send the flies packing.
The girls wonder why I have a random yellow chair in their garden. Sometimes I wonder this, too. It’s there because I like it and it offers a fabulous place to sit for a spell and get your ankles pecked.
At the far end of the garden is a designated dirt bathing spot (even though they have about twenty other self-designated spots throughout the property).
A bench (and a mirror!) under a vine-covered arch offers yet another tranquil spot to sit and be pecked at.
This is a cute, colorful little moment I set up for the photo shoot….I give it a day.
Despite this lovely little chicken-oriented garden, I still let my girls free range in the rest of our small yard for the majority of the time. I like to allow them a ‘soft-supervised’ free range, which is where I am home and keeping a fairly close eye on them, but not stalking them throughout the yard. When I have to leave for short periods (ie, running errands or something of the sort) I lock them in the chicken garden, which keeps them contained and fairly reliably safe from aerial predators. There are times when we leave and know we won’t be coming back until after chicken-curfew, and these are the moments when they must be on lockdown in the coop and run. It all seems to be working pretty well for us, so (knock on wood), I don’t see a Coop 4.0 happening anytime in the near future.
Do you hear that?? Somewhere a displaced Texan is sighing in sweet, sweet relief.