Can I Really Raise Chickens?

By Holly Giles | Simple Living

love and a chicken coop

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Can I really raise chickens?

Yes, you can really raise chickens at home. For twelve years our family has had a blast with a small backyard flock in our suburban neighborhood. Knowing a few things in advance will help you be successful from the start. Let’s start with the coop.

Is a homemade chicken coop better?

Curtis and I have been married going on 25 years, and we have gone back and forth about keeping a chicken coop.
He wanted to. I didn’t, I did, He didn’t.  However, when the boys got a little older, I decided that raising chickens would definitely be a part of our home education. Curtis, not so much. By then, he had utterly ruled it out.
First, I began with my rational discussions. For instance, we would be an outcast in the homeschool community if we did not have a chicken coop full of chickens.  We would be teaching our boys hands-on where their food comes from, and the list went on, but my pleas went to closed ears.

The chicken coop present

Then, on my birthday eight years ago, I received a very odd-looking gift.  A box made out of chicken wire, with a lip balm tube inside in the shape of an egg. Curtis is a man of few words and odd gifts. One year I got a garbage can. The next year I received a hose for the backyard. You get the drift. So, I was puzzled about which household task this wire cage was attached to.
“It’s a hen house, and I will build you a chicken coop!” Curtis said. My prayers were answered.  I get to have chickens!  Do I REALLY want chickens??
After much thought and debate, we decided to use the boy’s cedar playhouse and renovate it into a country hen house. The process seemed long and tedious, and MANY hours of Curtis’s spare time over the next month.
cedar playhouse turned into a chicken coop
turning a child's playhouse into a chicken coop

How to design a chicken coop

Curtis built a platform about 2 1/2 feet off the ground so there would be a run for the chickens underneath.

  •  He removed the playhouse’s front porch and used the pieces to make the interior larger.
  •   Curtis used old cabinets from a house he was working on to build nest boxes and built a perch bar that attached to the boxes.
  • Curtis built a wall and front door and attached chicken wire to windows.
  • He built a run down one side and attached it to an existing fence and to the coop, so they would be completely encapsulated from predators.  We buried wire underneath to prevent digging.
  • A trap door was cut in the floor, and a pully was attached for the chicks to get to the run from the hen house.
family building a chicken coop together

The chicken coop construction

We painted the floor and exterior trim then added some wagon wheels we already had.  Next, we attached hook-type closures to the egg window and side door. So, there is access on 3 sides of the coop to feed, water, and clean. In addition, we would be able to collect eggs without having to climb inside. This design was all Curtis’s idea to keep me poop-free.
When it was done, I thought it was the prettiest chicken coop I had ever seen.  It all came from Curtis’s imagination.  It was hard to see his vision during the process, much less understand it. But when it was finished I finally understood.
how to build a chicken coop in your backyard

When to put chickens in the coop?

 Our chicks had been living in a dog pen inside our house. We were ready for them to move out.  The next few weeks were exciting, watching them learn about their new home.  We added all kinds of touches to make the hen house even more pretty and look like it had been there all along.

building a chicken coop
He had me at poultry

A year later, I was visiting with a friend. Our coffee time conversation was on husbands. The realization hit me on what the chicken coop meant.  Curtis loves me; He really loves me.  He showed me his love even when he didn’t want to go along with the idea of having clucking creatures in the backyard. Also, he wanted me to have the experience and be happy.

 I know that sounds crazy, but life can get busy and messy. Not that I purposely neglect my marriage, but sometimes in the middle of the chaos, I wonder, is the love still there? Is this going to last beyond the kids?
So the man of few words showed me loud and clear. Yes, we will make it.  He tells me every late night out with the mosquitos that even when I have crazy ideas like chickens, he loves me anyway.  We could have bought a hen house. Most likely a really nice one for the time and money he put into customizing this one for me.  But he was showing his love and approval for a passion I wanted to pursue.
So, each day when I visit the girls, I feel the love.  Curtis is still a man of few words and isn’t much on chicken keeping either.  He likes to tease us about our flock and how we cater to them.  Also, he changes their names to “fried violet” and “BBQ Gypsy”, just to hear the boys squeal. Although I’m pretty sure I have seen him out there talking to them a time or two when no one is looking!


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.