In this post we are going to look at each of the different coops/housing areas for our chickens here at Willow Creek Farm. To read the first post in the series, which covers basics about our housing, click here. We have 6 chicken housing areas on the farm. We call them The Lower Coop, The Upper Coop, The Mama Hen Pen, The Small Grow Pen, The Large Grow Pen, and The Broody Coop. This doesn’t include our indoor brooder area, which will be discussed in a later post in this series.
First, here is a sketch of where all the chicken housing areas are located in relation to each other.
Now, on to each area specifically.
The Lower Coop
This was the first coop we built on the farm. Back when we built this coop, our plan was just to have 7 laying hens for our own use. Since then, our flock has grown and we now sell eggs, chicks, and chickens, as well as selectively breed our own chickens.
This is our smallest full coop with exterior pen and one of our smallest housing areas for multiple birds. Interestingly, this coop was our most expensive housing area. That is because we bought quite a bit of the materials for this coop, whereas the other housing is mostly recycled and free materials.
This coop resides in our backyard, near the garden and the kids’ play area. We use this coop mostly as a breeding coop – to separate off a breeding group (a roo and 5-6 hens usually). It is also used to separate off the cockerels headed for butcher to grow them out from 8 weeks to 16 weeks sometimes, or occasionally we use it to separate off hens that need a break from the rooster’s affection. We try to be sure no one chicken lives in this coop for longer than 3 months at most, because this coop doesn’t have access to free-ranging in the barnyard. It is a convenient place for separating off a group of birds for whatever reason.
To read a post done last year about this coop specifically, click here.
The Upper Coop
This is our main coop/housing area. It is attached to the barn. The majority of our flock lives here, and when we cull down to our smallest flock in the winter they all live in this coop and all the other housing is vacant. This coop is our $1800 coop made for $120. It includes an indoor coop, an enclosed and covered pen area, and opens into the barnyard for free-ranging. This coop also contains our 4 trap nests, which we use as needed to identify who is laying. To read about how we built those trap nest boxes, click here. To read a more detailed post about this coop and how we built it, click here.
The Mama Hen Pen
This is our most recently built housing for the chickens. The purpose is exactly what it sounds like. It is used to house our hens that are setting on eggs, and that have young chicks. It includes nest boxes directly on the floor, and lower roosts. This pen is built into our barn, in an area that used to be she sheep stall. It is accessed from inside the barn, but it also has access for the chickens to go into the barnyard to free-range. It shares a chicken-wire wall with the barnyard, so it makes it easier to integrate the mamas and chicks back into the flock when the chicks are big enough to not be an easy meal for the barn cats. But a sliding door can close off that wall for warmth and security at night. It also shares a chicken-wire wall with the Large Grow Pen inside the barn.
Here is the chicken section of the barn. On the far left you see the doorway into the Mama Hen Pen (MHP), on the right you see the Large Grow Pen, with the Broody Coop on the lower far end of the Large Grow Pen with a small window into it near the floor. There is a wire wall that separates the MHP on the left from the Large Grow Pen on the right.
Here is the entrance to the MHP from inside the barn.
And this is the inside of the MHP. The shelf up on the wall is a nest the hens used to use when this was the lamb stall, it isn’t used now, it just hasn’t been removed yet.
Here is the exterior wire wall and chicken door from the MHP into the barnyard. As you can see the big stall door slides shut at night.
Because this pen was a pre-existing area, most of the cost was simply putting up chicken wire all around it to secure it. There was a little framing needed, for the wire to hook onto at both the interior human door, and the chicken-wire wall/chicken door that goes to the barnyard.
This pen measures 8×11, and contains four nest boxes at floor level. It is our hope it might someday house 4 mama hens at once. For now, it is housing some of the chicks we hatched inside and brooded ourselves, as well as the mama hens with their chicks. It is a nice space for separating off a breeding group as well, when there aren’t any broodies living in it.
The Small Grow Pen
This pen is inside the barn. We use it as a brooder in the barn (for 1 week old chicks and up depending on the season). It is also useful for a hospital/quarantine pen. It measures 2.5 x 5 and is only 2.5 feet high. There are no roosts or nests, but we could add a nest if needed. Because of the low height it has it is best for young chicks, or a broody hen with chicks. As a side note, this pen is also used as a grow out pen for our rabbits from weaning to butcher age. I also plan to use it as a kitten nursery if our barn cat ever has kittens. It could also house a young lamb if need be for some reason. It is a very useful multi-purpose pen.
As you can see there is a boarded section on the left side of the lid, that is removable to hang a heat lamp down into if needed.
The Large Grow Pen
The larger grow pen measures 3×11 and is 8 feet high. Part of that space is taken by the broody hen coop (as seen in the right side of the photo). It is built into the barn, right next to the Mama Hen Pen. It includes roosts, but no nests. This is used to grow out cockerels for butcher mostly. If a nest was added we could use it as a breeding pen, but we haven’t needed it for that yet. Because this was built into the barn it only used a little recycled wood for framing and roosts, and chicken wire.
The Broody Coop
This is a tiny 3×3 coop that is only 20 inches in height. It has a floor level nest and an optional enclosed exterior pen which is also 3×3 that is inside of the enclosed pen for the Upper Coop. We built it for broody hens originally, but with the Mama Hen Pen we now use it more for a hospital/quarantine area. Because it shares a wire wall with the Upper Coop via the optional exterior pen, it can be useful when integrating birds together. It has a wire window into the barn so we can easily keep an eye on what is going on in there. To access it for feeding, cleaning, etc. we have to go into the Large Grow Pen and lift the lid of the coop.
Here it is looking down into it with the lid lifted. I am standing in the Large Grow Pen to take these photos.
And here it is looking in from the interior of the barn. This is the wire “window” we put in so we could keep an eye on the chicken(s) inside of it.
Here is the optional exterior pen for the broody/hospital coop. It is inside of the Upper Coop’s exterior pen. When not in use, we tie the one section open so the Upper Coop birds can use the space if they want to.
That covers all the different chicken housing areas we have here at Willow Creek Farm.
In our next post in the “Managing Chickens Series” we will discuss how we manage the feeding and watering of our chickens here.