When we first started looking into getting backyard chickens, I did a lot of online research. Not going to lie, according to the internet, keeping chickens in your backyard is a BIG task. Its high maintenance and requires extensive knowledge. In the 2.5 years since we got our first flock of chickens, I’ve found that this is anything from the truth. Backyard chickens are incredibly easy to maintain. If you have a husband, children and a dog like I do, they will be the easiest members of your family.
The Coop and Run
Figuring out the coop and the run is the hardest part of backyard chickens, in my opinion. Here in Dallas, there are companies who will come to your home and build a coop and run. However, these companies are super expensive. A small coop is typically at least $2000. So we set out to find a coop on the cheap. I found one online that was less than $200. It came disassembled but had pretty good reviews. When it arrived, Ace was able to easily put it together. It was small, but perfect for our soon to be flock of 6 chickens. Unfortunately, it started to fall apart in less than a year. The material was cheap and couldn’t hold up in Texas weather. I did some research online and found some solid blog posts about building your own coop. After showing them to Ace, he agreed that he could easily build us one. The material was about $150 and it took him less than a weekend to complete. This coop has been up for around 2 years now and even survived a move. In retrospect, we should have just done this from the beginning.
Here are the blog posts that we based our coop on:
The coop mid-build. This was at our old house, when the chickens lived in an enclosed side yard.
This is our coop right after Ace built it and I painted it. I used left over paint that we had from other projects. The white is the color we used on our kitchen cabinets and the black is the color we used to paint the front door. I bought the lantern, rooster decor, and door knob at hobby lobby.
View from the side. The pull down door on the right opens up to the hen loft where the girls lay their eggs. The one on the left opens up and shows the roosting bar, where they sleep.
Our current house does not have a side yard like our old house did so we had to build a run. Ace build the run on a strip of grass on the side of our yard. Some people simply have the coop and let the chickens roam the entire yard. We didn’t want this for a couple of reasons. 1) We wanted Murphy to be able to be outside at anytime without having to coop the chickens up. 2) We didn’t want them to ruin the grass in the large part of our yard. Chickens will destroy any grass they are given access to. Ace has a post hole digger so he simply dug holes, cemented the posts in, then wrapped everything with chicken wire. He created a door closer to the coop to allow us easy access in and out.
We placed the coop close to our car port so that it is partially covered. The door is just to the right of the coop.
The run extends the length of our yard, giving the gals plenty of room to roam. There used to be grass in this area, but they destroyed it. Another advantage of having a run is that we don’t have to “coop” them at night. If they are not enclosed, it is wise to go close their coop door at night and then let them out in the morning to keep them safe from other animals.
Building your Flock
Many people build their flock by first ordering baby chicks from hatcheries or local hard ware stores. When doing this, you get to see the chick go from a 1 day old baby to an egg laying machine. Pretty cool, especially if you have older kids who can help and appreciate it. Going this route is more work, you need a brooder, lights and the time to raise baby chickens. You can also buy chickens, for a bit more money, as pullets. Basically they are teenagers on the verge of laying eggs. The price is a bit higher because the hard work of raising them out of infancy has already been done. This is the route we decided to take. We didn’t have the space for a brooder at that point and paying a little more for pullets was worth it to us.
Our original flock soon after we brought them home. Plus, our first egg!
My biggest advice in building your flock is to do simple research on the breed. We basically researched everything about chickens except for the best and easiest breeds to keep in your back yard and ended up with 6 high maintenance gals. They went broody constantly and only laid 3-4 eggs each per week. We have a completely different flock now, consisting of 5 easy going gals who lay 6-7 eggs per week.
Here is a great article on easy chickens:
Chicken food and bedding
Our local hardware store sells chicken food that is made in Texas, is organic and non GMO. We have been buying this from the beginning and pretty much every local chicken owner we know uses this brand. Check out your local stores to find a similar food in your area. I bought the feeders and water unit from amazon. We put shavings down in their coop that we also find at the local hardware store. I used to change the shavings every week or so but realized that was overkill. Now I do it every few months or when its been raining and everything is wet.
Here is the late Rachel nestled in some bedding after she laid her egg. RIP, Rachel. You were a good chicken….kind of.
Tips and Tricks
Collect eggs daily.
Make sure they have plenty of clean water every day.
Feed them 1 time per day. We used to leave a feeder full of food out at all times but quickly realized that those bodacious gals will eat constantly if given the opportunity. Plus, squirrels were eating the food at night time. Just feeding them what they need once a day will save you from wasting food.
Have “chicken sh*t” shoes that you keep in the garage so you don’t track chicken poop into the house.
Relax and just go for it. Chickens are super easy so don’t let other online articles intimidate you. Build a simple and sturdy coop, buy some chicks or pullets that are on the list of good back yard breeds, give them some food and water, and enjoy!