New to Chickens

middle TN Nancy

Jul 2, 2018
Hello chicken people! I have been reading BYC articles and forums and studying coops for about 3 years now. I feel like I know everybody already.
Almost 3 years ago I bought about 6 acres with woods and a creek, and almost 2 years ago I started building a chicken coop and run under an existing 7x12 shed roof which was attached to the garden shed. SO much fun. There was no rush so I took my time and built it just the way I wanted it. Family members have since accused me of not actually wanting chickens, just wanting to build a coop. I used LOTS of information from all of your experiences, and it's just as good as it can be without any actual chickens in it LOL. My 8 one-day-old chicks arrive today. Only 4 of them will be mine to keep - my sister who already has chickens asked me to raise 4 for her for a month or 6 weeks as she is too busy right now to focus on little chicks. I ordered Dominiques and I'm so excited.
My coop is about 4x6.5 plus exterior nest boxes, and the covered run is 6.5x12. All the eaves, openings, and the whole run are covered in 1/2" hardware cloth attached with screws and fender washers, and I also buried it in a trench about 2 feet down and out all the way around. We have raccoons, possums, snakes, skunks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats - who knows what else is out there. Minks probably. Besides the eaves, one whole coop wall - where the coop meets the run - is hardware cloth for lots of ventilation because here in middle TN our winters are relatively mild but our summers are hot and humid. I can cover some of it with plywood this winter if it gets really cold and seems necessary. I designed the coop and run for deep litter and I managed to source shredded hemp for the coop itself. I've started putting together the deep litter material in the run, consisting so far of leaves, pine needles, wood shavings, wood chips, straw, grass clippings, and hemp. It's a good start, only a couple of inches deep, and it's very soft and smells great - I'll let you know how it works (and smells) when there are actual chickens in it. I am already planning to build them (my imaginary chickens) a larger uncovered area with a netting or wire top, and I'm also looking at some simple moveable fencing options.
I read stories of people who lose their minds at tractor supply and spontaneously buy a bunch of chicks and THEN have to figure out and build a coop. That is so completely against my nature - clearly - I like to have everything prepared and ready and waiting. I have a treadle feeder for when the chicks get bigger because I can't stand rodents - really have a hard time if I see a mouse and I cannot even talk about rats - so I'm trying to avoid attracting them in the first place as much as possible. I have a dog crate brooder set up in my guest room where I plan to keep the chicks just for a few days until I'm sure they're doing well. Then I'm moving them to the coop with a platform heater (the kind they go underneath). I wish I had read about Mama Heating Pad before I ordered the heater, because I love the videos of the chicks running in and out of their little warm cave, and how soft it must be underneath.
Thanks for all the great information - I look forward to hearing from you.


Jan 28, 2019
Hey Nancy, welcome to BYC! I see you're a person who likes to plan :) better to be safe rather than sorry. Also, I wouldn't worry about scaring away rodents, (at least when the chickens are bigger), chickens have quite a way of letting even cats know to stay away, and they'll even eat smaller rodents such as mice! (Not to gross you out or anything XD)

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