Desert Chickens and their Hen House – Lessons Learned

Chh Chh Chook Tuesday
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Where are you going to put those hens in the desert?

Apparently, for us it is in the Palais de Poule aka Hen Palace. Seriously, this thing is large enough to accommodate our dozen hens and a family of four. Okay, maybe not the family of four, but certainly a little craft room for me. Our hen house is a veritable palace. Those chickens live in the lap of luxury. Perhaps Will and Kate might want to move from that cozy cottage near Anglesey to the Palais de Poule?

Chicken Coop w/ chickens

The hen house was built primarily by Green and his parents, and because they’re from Nebraska and are all farm folk, they do the farm thing in style. Now, a hen house does not have to be this large, but I do have suggestions based on our experience. Some of these things we didn’t think much about when we built the hen house (Hey, I was up there on the roof nailing in the roof covering stuff so I get to use technical terms like stuff and the royal we.)

First things first. What are you going to build?

Architectural Plans
We used a plan from mypetchicken.com and expanded on it. The original plan was for a hen house about half this size. There are loads of plans out there and according to Green and his dad who are well versed in such matters, the one from My Pet Chicken was straightforward and easy to adapt. And for desert dwelling chickens, adapt it you will.

Issues to address before you start digging and building that coop:


Location, location, location AND orientation.

Important in real estate and of course, chicken coops. Now if you have a yard the size of a postage stamp then there might not be much discussion, but we live right in the middle of town in an area that actually has relatively large lots. Check out my fancy architect impersonation. Totally at all to scale.

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We placed our coop on the east side of the yard. It runs length ways, north to south. What you need to consider: In the summer is this going to be a home for my chickens or a boiler?

We’re lucky, we have a fair bit of shade thanks to trees in the yard, so that the afternoon sun which pours in the west side of the coop isn’t horrible, but we also help cool the area off with shade cloths, misters and bottles of ice (I’ll share more about that another time). If we were to do it again, I think we’d move the clothes line and shift the coop further into the shade of the mesquite at the back of the yard. As it is, we have trees growing that will provide substantial shade within the next few years. Where in your yard would you get good summer shade?

Orientation
To run it north south or east west?
I question the wisdom again of having the afternoon sun shine along the long side, but what is of more concern is the aspect of the nesting boxes. Check out the picture again. See, the nesting boxes are right there on the north west side of the coop? Nice little cooking crates for both eggs and hens. Make sure your nesting boxes are located on the North East corner of your structure in a nice shady area. When one of our Buff Orpingtons was broody this summer I worried constantly that I was going to find baked chicken in the coop one day.

Adaptations

1. Make sure your nesting boxes are on a shaded area
2. Build your hen house is located in a manner that makes adding misters easy, if necessary
3. Consider adding one of those twirly vent thingees (rotary attic vent) to the top of the actual coop area. No matter the orientation or shade, that coop is going to be hot in the summer. A vent will eleviate some of this I imagine. We’re going to add one to our coop.
4. We extended the roofing beams to provide more shade, and actually covered the run unlike the plans which show a translucent roof for lots of light. I figure we have excess of light here in the desert. No worries about them getting enough, plus our ladies get to free range it for a fair bit of the afternoon. The thing with light is that the length of day does impact egg production. It hasn’t effected our egg production though I think.

If I think of anything more I’ll share. I’m sure there is a really cool adobe hen house you can make, we just didn’t.

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4 Comments

Filed under chicken, Cluck, Domestic Diva

4 responses to “Desert Chickens and their Hen House – Lessons Learned

  1. Have you seen Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown? Carmen Maura keeps a pair of hens on her penthouse balcony. When her boyfriend leaves her, she moves his silent butler out to the balcony to serve as a perch. Obviously keeping chickens in Madrid is a different thing!

  2. Wow. If I was a chicken that’s where I’d coop.

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