Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DIW: Agnes' Chicken Coop!

Today's DIW comes from Agnes in Maine! Agnes has done a project that I have absolutely no experience with so I told her to do a write up for me- we hope you enjoy it! 

Chickens are probably the most fowl (ha!) creatures that you could keep in your backyard. They poop on and in everything. And these feathery fellows do not have nice rounded scoop-with-a-plastic-bag poops, the have white/brown/green/black runny messes. So how did two early–to-mid-twenty year olds decide, “Hey, we should get chickens!”. Well, I will tell you but it is not pretty… A swollen colon.  Christiaan has an auto-immune disorder called Ulcerative Colitis.  I am not going to bore you guys with the nitty gritty, and frankly disgusting details, but consider Christiaan as the canary in the coal mine.  Seriously, his innards can sniff out the slightest amounts of:  gluten, sugars, dairy, complex starches, pesticides, and additives like gum stabilizers.  Christiaan was on some pretty intense medications that had worked well at first but had lost their pizazz causing the doctors to say, “Next step, biological therapy!” This is the end of the line for people who suffer from disorders like ulcerative colitis, IBS, and Chron’s…  well, the last step before you get your colon removed that is. Understandably, he was not ready to give up on himself at 23 years old.  Enter present day: Christiaan sticks to a diet that is void of any gluten, sugars, complex starches (yes, potatoes too), and additives. This lifestyle change brought on many new things: a garden, a worm compost bin that is sitting in our 3-season porch, and now chickens! At some point we know we want to have a small homestead with a huge garden to sustain our very high vegetable needs, two pigs, two goats, chickens, meat rabbits, maybe a cow, and hopefully a horse…hopefully.  So we are starting small and learning the basics with chickens. 

At this point you may be thinking, “These guys really thought this through!” . No, no we did not. We had been toying with the idea but it was put into effect when my future roommate, Jen, said, “YES, LET’S DO IT NOW.” Christiaan googled DIY chicken coop, Jen and I read about chicken breeds and then BAM, we were driving home with these cuties.

The instructions… haha “instructions”… Christiaan found the coop design and materials list on the Purina Mills website, and here is a peak at what we went off of…

 As you can see there are no instructions and Christiaan has ZERO construction/building background. But he did it! We went to Home Depot and picked up all of the wood listing below the coop designs and they cut it to size for us FO FREE. Well, kind of… we still paid ~$200 for all of the wood and paint and nails. So we went home, dropped the wood off, and Christiaan got to work while Jen and I went out to pick up additional supplies: feeder, water, chick feed, bedding, and another “How To: Chickens” book for about $100.  Our coop has access from the back for easy cleaning, a small door in the front to let the chickens outside, three brooder boxes for egg laying, a heat lamp, and a sky light… A SKY LIGHT.  Once the chicks matured a bit we built them perches with the remaining wood from our original Home Depot run. Here is my warning: it looks crappy. REALLY crappy. But they love it! It has three levels that they can perch and sleep on.
Here is the coop after 3-4 hours of Christiaan sweat. 

And here is is only needing a coat of paint. The weird wood floor linoleum stuff cost us $12. We caulked it in so that the wood won’t rot through over time

Here is the view from the back so you can see the brooding boxes for future egg laying.

 This is the inside at first...SO CLEAN (never to be this clean again...) There is no bedding in the boxes because the chicks couldn't get up there at this time. 

We painted it a forest green. Here is the run area before they destroyed it and we put a second layer of fence in...

This is the inside as of now. We have added crappy perches and bedding to their boxes. Also, behold the glorious chicken poop.

And this is what their outdoor area looks like today. The strange object next to the house is a sawhorse that they use as their outdoor perch. It was free which was awesome. 

So as you can tell, the start-up is a little costly, especially for three graduate students. However, looking back I can give a few pointers on how to save some money. Craigslist! We had looked at buying a used coop on Craigslist but we do not have a trucker/trailer to pick it up. You can find them a bit cheaper BUT you can also end up with a pretty janky coop. You could find the feeders and waters for cheap on Craigslist or construct your own. The coop we Christiaan built took 1 day of hard work and 40 minutes of painting! 

If you are curious, the chicken breeds we selected were Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rock Whites. We selected these because they are considered “dual purpose” breeds. They lay nice large tasty eggs but you can also eat them. So here we go, judgment time. We purchased six hens, two roosters, and two turkeys. We do plan on eating the two turkeys and two roosters and yes, we are going to do it ourselves. Now before you close out of this window and say, “ANIMAL HATERS” let me explain. Christiaan and I both feel that if we are going to be consuming meat as much as we do (2x daily for me, 4x daily for him), then we should fully understand what the animal is giving us. By raising these guys from chicks, feeding the everyday, cleaning up after them, and rescuing them from the neighborhood cats, we feel that we will appreciate the meat more. I like to think of it as a give and take. We are providing the chickens a very nice, humane lifestyle compared to what they likely would have faced. These guys are outside scratching around from 9am until 8pm, we are providing them non-medicated feed, fresh greens and fruit, clean bedding, space, constant fresh water, and safety from predators. In return we will collect their unfertilized eggs, let them turn over our garden in the fall and spring, and we will use every part of them to nourish ourselves. I hope you enjoyed this non-traditional DIW!

Agnes & Christiaan

Snaps to Agnes and Christiaan! If you have a DIW you'd like to submit, please send details and photos of your project to


  1. love it! I'm so jealous of everyone that has chickens, I want them so bad. In the meantime, I at least buy my eggs from a coworker who lives on a farm.

    and good for them for eating the meat, I'd probably cry during the process but then love every bite. haha

  2. that's an adorable coop! great job!


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