New at this, need help


6 Years
Aug 21, 2013
We got 5 baby hens this spring. They are laying now.

I am brand new at this. We are raising them in our backyard in an urban neighborhood.

I feel like we are doing a lot wrong. My husband originally started the project with me but now isn't able to help.

We have a big box, that has some sort if a door that I can open up. Then a whole cut out of the box that leads into an old chain link fence dog run which is our chicken run. My husband has some wood on top if the run to keep predators out.

There are perches in the dog run that are outside, and that's what they've been sleeping on all summer long.

They were just laying eggs outside in nests they made or found themselves (I go out every morning & open the run & let them out & they free range outside until it gets dusk then they walk back into the run on their own & I go shut the chain link dog kennel door.

Now my husband made some nesting boxes that are under one of their perches. Although the boxes have a top, it's not the best idea because the birds poop all over the top of the nesting boxes. The nesting boxes aren't very good. They don't have privacy, they don't like them. They use one that they kicked in and modified themselves to get privacy & they all fight over it.

I just feel like we are doing this all wrong & not providing the best place for them?

The "coop" which is essentially a box is not being used. They don't even go into it. They sleep outside in the run. With winter coming, will that be bad? We don't always get snow here bit sometimes we do & we get a lot if rain. The run is under nice big trees & stays pretty dry however.

And also the run is such a poopy mess. Should I be scooping that all out? Or throwing straw or hay on top of it all?

How can I easily convert this box into a coop with nesting boxes & perches? With little help & tools?

I can take pictures & post too if this helps. Thanks everyone.
Also the nesting boxes that we do have, out in the run, are on the ground & this seems unsanitary? There is a lot of poop in the run & it can get kicked around it dragged into the nesting boxes.
To answer some of your questions:

1) A box (assuming it is cardboard) is good for a brooder. Once they are feathered, it is time to move them to a more permanent structure. There a loads of options for coops. Browse through the coops section and hunt for some ideas. There are also many options to make things easily, on the cheep, for someone with no building experience and very little tools.

2) Chooks want to sleep off of the ground as high as they can get. They will prefer to sleep on the roost outside, because it feels safer to them.

3) Nesting boxes should not be under the roost, but the roost does need to be higher than the boxes. Not only is it gross for them, but you will need to gather eggs from a pooy mess. You can use anything for nesting boxes that provides a clean, dry and private setting. An old dresser with the drawers removed, milk crates or a simple wooden box can be used. If the nesting boxes are not in your coop you'll need to provide some privacy for them; consider hanging something like a cloth in front of the box, just make sure they can get into them. Also, make sure there is something in the nesting box for them to ‘nest’ in, straw, grass clippings or pine shavings all work.

4) They probably don't like to box because it is low and does not feel safe. Not to mention, as you are describing this, its probably filthy and smells.

5) Again, you need to provide a DRY place for them to be. Cold is not as much of an issue as wet. If you are using a dog kennel for their coop, maybe a tarp overtop of the run will be a quick and cheep fix. With winter coming, they will need a dry place to be that is free from harsh winds.

6) As far as your poopy mess; browse the forums and look up deep litter method. A lot of people on here also prefer to use sand, but sand needs to stay dry.

7) Post a few shots of your set-up so recommendations can be offered as to other improvements.

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