Dreaming of putting a hen house in your backyard?
One couple made it possible. Get their plans here.
“Every morning, I open the doors so the hens can roam in the yard,” says Heather of the ground-level nook just off the pen. This foyer also doubles as the ladies’ dining room, with a galvanized waterer and feeder.
“No one wants to look at chicken poop,” Heather points out, “so we planted boxwoods out front to hide the coop floor.” The couple also surrounded the structure with an attractive brick walkway, which they can simply hose off as needed.
Tucked behind a drop-down door, this trio of cozy cubbies is situated so that eggs are within easy reach—as Heather demonstrates. A raised ledge keeps any from rolling out.
Connected to the nesting boxes and the screened pen, this area serves as the hens’ main sleeping quarters. “The minute the sun starts setting, the girls line up like little soldiers and march themselves to bed,” Heather says. Come sunrise, the birds know it’s time to get up, thanks to screened portholes that also provide ventilation.
The Bullards chose heavy-duty wire fencing for the walls of the coop’s main hang-out spot, in order to deter predators like coyotes, raccoons, even neighborhood dogs and cats. Eighteen-inch-deep concrete footings below the structure, plus bolt locks on the doors, provide extra security. A nap perch stretches from one side of the pen to the other, and a gangplank leads up to the roosting house. The design takes human comfort into account, too, with a 7-foot-high ceiling that allows the Bullards to walk in and refill food.
Do Your Homework
Before buying your own brood, check local chicken laws and ordinances. (The Bullards’ town allows up to five hens, but no roosters.) Also, be sure you have the right kind of space. “Hens are scaredy-cats,” Heather says. “They need to feel safe, so look for a spot far from a driveway or other busy area.” She also recommends backyardchickens.com for information about poultry supplies, care, behavior, and more.
Choose the Right Breeds for You
The American Poultry Association recognizes 62 breeds. Heather opted for medium-size hens known to lay three to five eggs a week, though she admits that egg color influenced her selections, too: “I love the mix of pretty hues!” Mypetchicken.com makes it easy to choose birds based on hardiness, size, and, yes, egg color—and sells day-old chicks for $3 to $8 each.