Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The New Chicken Pen

A year or two ago I read on line or in a magazine that farmers used to make their garden on either side of the chicken house. They would fence off one side of the chicken house and let the chickens do the work of cleaning the garden and fertilizing it as they did so.  The next year they would block off that section and move the chickens to the other side of the chicken house to start the work all over again.  The old side would then be planted.

If you have ever had chickens in a pen then you already know they will peck and scratch an area completely bare like our old chicken yard.  The few remaining chickens were still the ones I had to catch to move to the new pen.  The front area here is where I plan to now plant a winter garden.  The back area is useless as it has massive roots from a live oak tree.  I have been dumping all of the goat manure in this front area and the chickens did a great job of scratching it into the ground.  Just a light tilling and I should be ready to plant.

 In the new area I had a small hoop house I used for plant propagation when we had our nursery business.  I decided to turn it into the new chicken coop.  The rooting house is made from pvc pipe and thick plastic.  Grandson and I made a small 16 x 16 doorway in the side and cut the plastic out of the new opening.

We then covered the entire hoop house with a tarp as it would be too hot with the clear plastic.  We even have an emergency stash of water by the new coop if needed.

The chickens have their work cut out for them.  I hope in a months time they have eaten every weed, weed seeds, insects and their eggs out of this area and then I'll move them to another side of the coop.

We put up two long roost in the coop but the chickens have refused to sleep in the new coop.  

I thought maybe that maybe the roost are too high but one flew up on top of the 6 foot fence to roost.

A few flew up on a cross brace.

The rest of them settled down alongside of the lattice back fence.

The only time they are in the coop is to eat the layer pellets.

I put some nursery pot containers with hay in them for some temporary laying boxes.  Only a few have gotten the hint.  The rest of the eggs are being laid right out in the enclosed yard full of weeds.  I go on an Easter egg hunt everyday.

I will try lowering the roost and see if that will help to make them start using the coop at night.  I also plan to build their new nesting boxes this week.  I don't know what else to do.  I accidentally clicked on a PETA site the other day with an article on why you shouldn't eat chickens and how intelligent they were.  They haven't met my chickens!  I think I will order this shirt and wear it to the coop every morning and see if any of them can read. 


  1. What a great idea, putting a garden on either side of the chicken coop. Our coop was already here when we got here and no room for a garden on any side of it. But that gives me an idea for a few mini-tractors. GREAT idea, MB!

    Love the Hoop Coop too. Snazzy!

    : )

  2. Pigs do a good job, too, if you can keep then in!

  3. HB.... Too Bad the chickens don't love the hoop coop. Maybe the next rain at night if we have any will force them into using the hoop coop!

  4. GS...we used to keep hogs about a hundred years ago LOL It is still on the agenda but we need to get caught up on a few more projects. I'd like to put some pigs in one of the old goat pens to root out all of the dead saplings so we can plant more pasture. Will save us some time and trouble with the tractor and chain and we'll have meat with they finish the job!

  5. HB... Forgot to say the chicken tractors work great as well. I built one last year, never did get any wheels on it to make it easier to move. I have a rooster in it now that I thought was sick. He cleaned out the area by himself in no time. He's back to his little perky self and I tried to catch him to move him back with the girls but he had no part of it. I even left the door open to try to coax him out. I guess I made the tractor too long. If he goes to the back I can't reach him.

    I am going to move the tractor to the side yard along the fence. I have torpedo grass there that is getting closer to my garden. I have tried everything but the chickens to get rid of it.

  6. What a great idea....I'm going to have to consider doing it.

  7. It's working our really well. The one side of the yard was bare in less than 2 months. We made a new door on the other side of the coop and closed the other off and the chickens are busy working on the new side. I should have already gotten the onions, garlic and potatoes planted in the cleared side but life has gotten in the way of my plans but it will eventually get done. I'm in NW Florida so there is still time.

  8. Hi, I came across your site while searching for hoop coop plans for some additional hens. I thought I'd write to give you a hint on getting your hens into the new residence at night -- light! They can't see in the dark, so are naturally drawn to the light as the sky darkens. Hang a flashlight . . . or run an extension cord out to a brooder lamp or a hanging workshop lamp . . . anything to get light in there, preferably hanging above the roosts or bright enough they can see the whole area well. You can leave it on all night or go out and turn it off after they are all in or (best) put it on a timer. You'll need to use it for a week at the most if your purpose is just to get them sleeping there at night -- often only a night or two is needed. Use it all winter with a timer to give them a 12 hour day to encourage them to continue to lay. BackyardChickens.com has a wealth of info.

    1. Ruth, thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, it was time for us to put the light back in the coop. Hopefully this will solve the egg laying dilemma. I did not know a light would make them use the coop. Before I didn't have a light but they finally figured out the coop was theirs!

    2. We've moved our chickens around a lot. We usually have to keep the chickens locked up in the new coop for about a week, night and day. After a week, then we let them free range. But during that week they are locked up, they learn to sleep and lay eggs in their new coop.

  9. there are some great ways to make portable pens that one can put over an area of the garden prior to planting giving enough time for the manure to not burn the seed after they are moved and prior to planting. I saw one at the flea market for sale that had wheels on one side and nesting boxes on that end. It had an opening on the opposite side of the nesting boxes and handles above to help move it. It was basically an oblonge boxed frame covered with chicken wire and made with as light of wood as possible to keep it both sturdy and light weight. It had a roll up tarp for the top. Really neat. I have been wanting to try this for a while and recently have been offered an old trampoline frame from a square trampoline that is not hard to move around. once my son helps me get it home then I plan on putting chicken wire around it and tarp on top to move around the garden area prior to planting that section.

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  11. Cool stuff you have got and you keep update all of us. heirloom vegetables


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