Problems with coop and run design, problems with flies....


6 Years
Aug 17, 2013
My husband decided he would indulge my son's desire to have chickens. I knew I would be the one taking care of them. He built the coop and run, based on a youtube video with accompanying measurements. We did not collaborate on the design, nor did either of us think about what we wanted out of the design - I relinquished this responsibility to him as it was his idea. So, basically, this was not at all well thought out. But, my husband insisted: "taking care of chickens is easy..." Famous last words!
I thought I had what I needed to get started: coop and run, feed, feeder and waterer, hay/shavings, crushed oyster shells - which I discovered only after talking to a lady sitting on an over-turned bucket in a feed store, and a list of acceptable treats.
We have had TWO chickens all of three days and I have found myself literally crouching into the run to clean out poop - to no avail - that has attracted an insane amount of flies. Upon some inquiry and research, I learned I should spread some shavings and then the chickens will scratch for whatever may be underneath - mistakenly, I thought they would just naturally scratch at the ground - trip to the store to buy scratch. I read vanilla-scented car deodorizers would repel the flies - another trip to the store, and they DON'T work! Wait, DE will dry them up - another trip to another store. Try sand - which sand, no one agrees upon. I am not using the DE, by the way, because as I read more, the claims made about this product cannot be scientifically proven.
The access door to the run is too small and too low to the ground, the access door to the coop is too low to the ground. The nesting box opens from the top instead of the backside, thus creating a leak when it rains - thankfully it has only lightly rained one time so far. The whole thing is too low to the ground and supposedly is big enough to house 6 chickens comfortably when my two are just trying to find a poo-free spot!! Everyone talks about a compost pile - there's no room for that even. I so desperately hope that once I throw out the scratch, the poo gets worked into the ground, but I hate that I am basically throwing it onto, well, poo!
I am absolutely obsessed with these chickens, George and Grace (both girls), and want to "do right" by them, but I am utterly frustrated and ready to give up! This is NOT easy! I have had to fashion kitchen items, beach buckets and cleaning tools into chicken maintenance paraphernalia. My husband and I have invested a lot of time and lots of sweat. I have designated one pair of shoes as my chicken poo shoes (insert chuckle here). I have made several trips to different stores and spent a considerable amount of money! FOR TWO CHICKENS! (I am also trying to raise two boys, work a couple 12- hour days a week, take care of a dog, house and husband)
This is our fault, I know, for not being properly prepared. Consider this a venting if nothing else, but if someone - anyone- can relate, or better yet help, your advice is muchly needed!

Sorry for the hassle that you are going threw. Many of us have rebuilt our coops several times because we learned from our starter coop what we didn't like. I now have a simple coop and love it, 2' off the ground, inside= 4'L, 4'W, 3'H. Total 5' high with the lift and easy to access, cost me $40-50 total. Much cheaper than my $300 first build that I hated and couldn't get into. If you post some pictures of your coop and run (or one like it if you don't have a camera) it would be easier to make a recommendation on how to fix it cheaply.

BTW: I use uncolored play sand in my coop and it works great. They couldn't decide and all Lowe's had was play sand $3.88 for 50lbs, so I went for it. On really dry days it can get a little dusty so I spritz a little water to combat it before cleaning. My chickens love it much more than the old pine shavings!
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Take a slow deep breathe, now do it again and repeat after me, I can do this. Seriously sounds like you need less stress not more. Chickens are gonna poop and there are gonna be flies where there is poop. You only need 4 square feet of space per chicken according to the experts here. You don't compost in the coop. The folks that compost usually use a barrel or drum and mix the poop with dirt or mulch and let mother nature decompose the waste. But here is the bad news it is gonna stink and attract flies, that is why it is usually placed somewhere on the property where it is not offensive to yourself or the neighbors.

Some people use deep litter method; deep mulch like pine shavings, some use poop boards, some use sand, some use buckets, some clean up poop daily, some don't clean it up at all they let the sand or mulch absorb it and let the chickens scratch it under in the mulch. Some people use poop hammocks, some use poop slides. If your going to keep chickens you got to figure out which poop control method works best for you. You need to put your foot down with the husband and son and make them clean the poop too or tell them the birds are gone. I'm the one that bought the chickens here, my son and I clean the coop, and we also feed and water the chickens. I don't ask my wife to do anything but collect eggs.

Personally the free range method works best for me but that is not always an option for some. I use a poop slide and bucket in my coop and clean it daily. I still get the flies, but the flies have always been bad here anyway because I am near several farms. The fly traps work best for me but they stink too.

All the vanilla air freshners are going to do is make chicken poop smell like vanilla chicken poop. JMHO
WOW!! That's a lot of trouble for 2 stinkin chickens.
People really overthink this chicken thing. Chickens are simple, stupid birds, no reason to make it complicated. They are the cheapest, easiest, lowest maintaince, least time consuming animal you can have around your house. In 40 years of raising chickens I've never bought any hay, shavings, sand, DE, oyster shells, car deorderizers, special tools, cleaning supplies or dedicated poo shoes. ;) Takes me all of 5 minutes daily to feed & water 50 birds in 5 different pens. And I don't shovel poo and 1 dump from my dog attracts more flies than all my birds combined.

Not meaning to be harsh here but if your son *wants* chickens they should be *his responsibility* to care for.
The coop is the root of your angst & knashing of teeth. Ditch the present coop and build one that all inside areas can be accessed from outside, OR one that you can completely stand up in while inside. I haven't used a coop in 30 years, a walk in pen is much easier to work with.
Your chickens should be enjoyed, not endured.
Thanks for the perspective. A good night's rest and a reality check are exactly what I needed!! You are right - too much fuss is made over these birds! And yes I will get my child more involved!
Glad to hear a good night's sleep made for a brighter morning! Chickens can and should be fun!

By the way, I know a lot of people don't mind the flies but I hate them. I ordered fly predators as recommended here from another thread. They're little bugs that eat the fly eggs so I put them in my compost and I noticed a HUGE difference within 3 days. It needs to be repeated and I think next summer I'll be spending about $15 a month on them - but to me it's worth it.
Don't know where you live but flies are especially bad this year. I have 30 birds and before this year I really didn't have a fly issue. I look at it this way they will all be gone on the first frost. They are not in your house so I wouldn't sweat it one bit.
As far as the poo, don't sweat that either, chickens don't care they will walk in it and I swear they prefer to. If it really bothers you spray/dissolve it with the garden hose.
Now just enjoy your birds and don't sweat the stuff that really doesn't harm man nor beast.
Trust me if a little animal poo was deadly I would have never lived to see the age of 5. Helps build the immune system.
I built my coop by sinking 4 posts in the ground, then putting up a roof on top. Gradually (using my Saturday's off) I got the sides on, the door built from 1"x4" and hardware cloth and the nest box built. It is supposed to be 8'x7', but it is more like 8'2"x6'9"x7'11"x7'1"
A hammer, nails and a skill saw does not a carpenter make.
This was for 2 hens. The floor is dirt. I am not out there daily obsessing over every poo pile, nor do I care all that much. I deep litter the coop and run. Sawdust, shavings, pea hulls, corn shucks, grass clippings, leaves, garden trimming-in short-just about anything organic that they will or will not eat. They eat what they want, poo and scratch up the rest. They make compost for me and it rarely smells. I added 6 more hens to the original two and it still worked for them.

When I wanted more chickens, I built a hoop run from cow panels covered in hardware cloth. It is 8'x12' and it went up fairly easy.

Build it tall enough to walk in. Build it big enough for a few more hens, cause you'll want more than 2, eventually. But most of all, just enjoy the girls. I love my chickens and I don't know what I ever did without them. I now have 27-it doesn't sound like very many if I say it fast.

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