I used to have hens and thought I might have some again—someday. I just didn’t expect “someday” to arrive so soon.

Under normal circumstances, my dad and I would’ve put our heads together and cobbled together a nice coop. But, in the age of coronavirus, normal’s out the window. I’m sheltering in place, experiencing economic uncertainty, and really missing my friends and family.

To be more self-sufficient, I’ve planted a larger-than-usual garden and I stepped up my chicken timeline, too.

Although finding chicks is somewhat tricky these days, I’m lucky to know a woman who raises her own. And she kindly loaned me a few of her older hens while I wait for some of her extra pullets to be ready.

First Things First

Want to add some hens of your own? There are a few things to consider first.

  • Are you in the city limits or county?
  • What are your local livestock regulations?
  • Are you bound by homeowners’ association rules?
  • How much room can you provide? Make sure each of your hens will have plenty of personal space.

Depending on your surroundings, neighborhood cats and dogs—or raccoons, foxes, hawks and more—may be eyeballing your flock. That means whatever kind of coop you choose had better be impenetrable. The amount of land as well as your building skills and materials will dictate the kind of coop you choose.

Learn more about ways to protect your chickens from the threat of predators.

Extra Protection

While my last coop included a fancy outbuilding and large, fully enclosed run, this time I opted for a small chicken tractor.

Without help and without trips to the lumberyard for supplies, the best I could hope to do was to order a flat-pack kit for a chicken tractor online.

As I assembled the contraption, I reinforced some of the more wobbly sections with some old pallet wood. I also added chicken wire as an added layer of protection for my hens.

For security’s sake, I also positioned the chicken tractor where I could easily see it from my house. (Bonus: I can also hear the chickens as they lay their eggs!)

Finally, I added a couple of stakes, a small padlock, some cement blocks and landscape pins to further tie the whole thing down.

And now? Every few days, I move the flat-pack chicken tractor a bit. The ladies scratch up fresh patches of grass—and I’ve already scrambled up several freshly laid eggs.

Susan Brackney is a freelance writer and author of the Insatiable Gardener’s Guide (Five Hearts Press, 2004) and Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet (Perigee Books, 2009).

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