Liza Greis

Do-it-yourself projects and Home Decor

Raising Backyard Chickens

This post is from a few years ago but since I get asked about our chickens a lot, and because it is that time of year when baby chicks are showing up in feed stores, I thought we should revisit this topic. We love raising backyard chickens! We have since added a couple of bunnies to the mix and they do really well in the coop with the birds. The have burrowed under the hay and sleep there.  Since we can’t live on an actual farm, this is as close as we can get :)


red chicken coop with chicken

Why chickens?

Well, it is pretty simple. I grew up in the country. We had horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks. We also had an occasional other farm animal if I batted my eyes at my dad and pleaded while doing a head tilt. My husband also grew up in the country. And I want my kids to experience a little bit of what it was like even if we do live in a “city”. I think having animals to care for as a child teaches you so many things. Here are my top reasons why we have chickens.

*Teaches children responsibility

*Getting to watch eggs hatch (for us it is ducks and not chickens since we can’t have roosters)

*Fresh eggs (Organic baby!)

*Low maintenance pet (Food is cheap and we just have to have a neighbor kid feed them when we leave somewhere. Pretty easy!)

*They eat bugs  (We sometimes let them loose in the garden to eat slugs and earwigs)

If you are thinking of getting chickens there are some things to consider.

Make sure that your city or town allows them. Also decide what type of pen or coop you want and if you have enough room. Different types of chickens have different types of temperaments. Some are more prone to pecking each other and some are so laid back they don’t really. Our neighbors had some that literally pecked each other so much they all had huge bald spots and scabs. After much research I chose Buff Orpingtons. They are so mild that they say that if you have them, to not have other types of chickens because they won’t even peck back in defence. They let my kids pick them up and pack them around. We also like silkies. They are very sweet as well and get along with our Orpingtons :) What are the predators in your area? Do you have coyotes, snakes, weasels, foxes, or anything else that might steal eggs or harm your chickens? That may determine whether you want to have them or at least how to construct your coop. Another thing to consider is your climate. Some are not as well suited for cold.

This is the chart I used way back when we were decided on what breed to get. It tells you all sorts of information about the most common breeds. I also love the site called My Pet Chicken.

So basically I am telling you that just like with any other pet, you should do your homework.

 chicken coop and pen with chickens and ducks


The Coop

Since it takes up a bit of space, we have tried to make it look as nice as a chicken pen can look. I still have a few things I would like to do to make it even better but let’s be honest, a chicken pen is not high on my to do list. Especially when my basement is unfinished. But we have made it pretty decent so far.


backyard chicken coop and pen


My husband and don’t fight a lot but one of our biggest arguments was over the design of the chicken coop. I wanted a glorified doghouse that was simple and easy to build. Mr. Architect drew up plans for a 3 level chicken condo (Not really, but it was very elaborate). I realized it was our first building project at our new house and his first chance to design something for us, but we were planning on having four chickens, people. Four. They didn’t need guest rooms for visiting relatives. Now if you look at the coop we ended up with you would think I won that argument. But not exactly. Our budget won.

After buying a house and moving from out of state we didn’t have a lot to throw at a chicken coop. Especially when our house needed so much work. We actually used wood from a shed my dad had built a LONG time ago. My mom no longer has horses so she had the scouts tear a lean-to and a shed down on her property. We also had some 2x4s that we had ripped out of our house. And when we moved in we found a pack of shingles in the garage left over from when they re-shingled. We painted it with leftover paint from painting the trim on our house. So we really only had to buy the trim and the chicken wire for the bottom.


Chicken coop with roof that lifts up


Keeping things “Clean” and Fresh

Since I had had our whole marriage up until this point to think about one day when we would have chickens, I also had a lot of time to think of the perfect chicken coop. I wanted the chickens to have a lot of room to roam but I didn’t want poop in my grass and everywhere else. I didn’t want to have to walk into a stinky chicken coop either. So I decided I wanted one that was small and didn’t require you to walk in in order to get the eggs. So a small coop and a large pen (to contain the poop) was the perfect setup for us.

On the topic of containing the poop….. We have a plastic bin full of “chicken coop shoes” just outside the pen. They are really just my husbands old sneakers. You have to wear them in the coop and then they go back in the bin.

I also use our garden tiller and till up the dirt in the pen several times a year to keep it “fresh”.


backyard chickens and how to care for them


We made the roof lift up by using a piano hinge all along the seam. There are 4 nesting boxes along that side. The other side (that doesn’t lift up) has a 2×4 for roosting.

The bottom has two layers of chicken wire so that the poop can fall through. We dug a pit below. Then once or twice a year we tip the coop on it’s side and shovel the poop out. P.S. I can’t believe I am writing a post about chicken poop….


chicken coop


Along with raising backyard chickens, we also have a couple of ducks. Why ducks? Because they are stinkin’ cute. We use to have a smaller house, that really did look like a dog house, that they slept in. But once we built the lean-to last year they didn’t really use the duck house any more. A word of caution…Ducks are messier than chickens so if you don’t want to deal with that, stick to chickens.


I had a lot of small scrap pieces of old fence pickets left over from past projects. I made reclaimed wood floating shelves, the barn wood cabinet, added some behind my dining room mirror, and many other little things. So I decided to use them to cover the plywood side of the lean-to.


chicken coop1


how to raise backyard chickens


Would you ever consider raising backyard chickens? Do you have chickens?

Do you have any other advice? I would love to hear your thoughts!


chicken coop8


 chicken coop7

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  1. Ashley W. says

    I love the coop! My hubby really wants chickens…I’m still a little on the fence. But I’d love plans for the coop, if you happen to have them. :)

    • Liza says

      Thanks! This was built years before I started blogging so any sketches and plans we had are long gone. Sorry! The sites I linked too have chicken coop plans. You may find something similar or be able to modify them.

  2. Cath T says

    You certainly are self sufficient, between the garden and the poultry. Very impressive setup. You should add hawks to the list of predators. I heard the free-range chicken who lives across the street in our suburban neighborhood squawking quite a bit one day. Looked up in time to see hawk trying to carry her off. Really an awful sight to behold. She hid under a bush and the hawk flew away. I’m glad you keep yours penned and not allowed to roam into neighbors yards. I’m not really keen on having these two-legged visitors in my yard, even if they do eat the bugs. I like the idea of fresh, organic eggs with no added bacteria, but I can’t see myself raising any kind of livestock at all. Too frantic a schedule, too many trips out of town. Doesn’t appeal to me at all. I love your can-do attitude, and your ability to recycle and reuse materials and have it all look so great in the end. If you’re even sitting on the floor in tears over a failed project, just open your eyes and look around at all the cool stuff you’ve done.

    • Liza says

      I always love your comments! I did forget hawks so thank you for reminding me. We had a silkie disappear a couple of years ago and we think it might have been a hawk.

  3. Whitney H says

    I’ve enjoyed our neighbors having chickens. My little son loves to cluck at them and help me feed them our scraps. It’s been nice to use our fruit and veggie scraps to feed them and not just going into the garbage. Every now and then our neighbor will give us some extra eggs. They are delicious. I keep trying to convince my husband for us to get chickens.

  4. Pam (the Crazier Sister) says

    I’d love to have chickens but we have a hunting breed dog who, apparently, has hunting instincts kicking in hard. My dad lived in the country as a kid, though, and granpa thought the best way to keep a boy out of trouble was to give him animals to care for and a garden to tend. Two things my dad hates to this day; squash and chickens (unless the latter is fried!). But, he told me something he learned and I pass it on now to those who have gardens and chickens…. chickens love squash. If you have some in your garden, and choose to let the fowl in there to eat bugs, I’d suggest keeping an eye on them because they *will* eat them. Dad let all their chickens loose into the garden one year after he learned that about them. Says, in spite of the trouble he got in, it was worth it not to have to eat squash that winter! ;)

    • Liza says

      Oh my word! That is the cutest story! Hahaha! Ours don’t seem to mess with it but we do keep a good eye on them. My dad worked on a dairy all growing up and through college. He could never drink milk :)

  5. Hannah says

    What are the dimensions of your coop? I’m looking into building my own & I love your plan! Also, are the type of chickens you have good for laying eggs? I want friendly chickens that are great for laying eggs.

  6. Nikala says

    Loved this! I just got married a year ago, and we are living on my inlaws ranch. So sometime after we got married, I got the idea I wanted chickens! I kept peskering my husband, and kept researching it and pinteresting chickens to prove that it wasn’t just a phase. In December my parents were visiting and my hubby and dad built me the chicken coop! My husband does construction so all those lovely coops on pinterest didn’t happen! the coop is 8x8x8 (absolute minimal cutting of plywood!) All in all, I have 18 chickens now (16 hens, 2 roos, and 4 had died/dissapearred/got eaten) and they’ve just started laying! love them! have 6 ameracaunas, 4 gold wyandottes, 3 silver wyandottes, 3 assorted rock ones, a silkie and a top hatter! So much fun!

  7. Erica says

    How tall is your short picket fence? Thinking of moving and revamping my coop as well and the picket fence looks much nicer than the wire garden fencing I have right now! I do have an americauna that can fly over the current 4.5 foot fence but thankfully she stays in tge yard and flys back to safety when she feels threatened or needs to lay! Thanks for any advice :)

  8. Sheryl says

    I had 20 hens a few years ago. They were great and we really enjoyed our own eggs. The poop does need to be addressed as its everywhere and there’s a lot of it! lol! Don’t get chickens if you don’t plan to work constantly to keep it cleaned up. I miss them occasionally but don’t have a lifestyle now that accommodates them.

  9. Jo says

    Do you use any kind of heat in the coop in the winter or is it small enough that their body heat is enough to keep them warm? I love the style of yours!

    • Liza says

      Thank you! We use to but we found they do really well without. One of the reasons we picked the type of chickens we did, was that they were very cold hardy. The chart I linked to says how well each breed does in cold weather.

  10. Auntiepatch says

    When I was 5 y/o I bent down to pet the baby chickies and their Banty mother ripped every shred of clothes off my body. She scratched every inch of my bare skin. That was over 60 years ago and, to this day, I can’t be around ANY kind of bird.