Image of our coop by Benjamin and Elise Photograph

My chicken area has expanded dramatically over the years as the flock has grown from 2 chickens to some years…I lost count how many chickens I had! It is divided into 2 main parts with 3 separate houses, the main coop gets used daily, the other two coops are closed off till needed. Over the peak of summer when all the chickens are laying, I often open up another house so that there are other places for them to lay. The chicken area is a large ‘L’ shaped space that has lots of sunny and shady spots for them. There is the main coup, named ‘The Hilton’ which is a pretty and grand house that my (builder) husband built them. It took 7 weekends to build, it is fully lined and a beautiful house for them. It has perch space for up to 20 chickens and 3 nesting boxes. Outside it has a large open flat area where they eat, drink, scratch around, take dirt baths and lay in the sun. It then backs into the bush and trees where they like to rest in the shade and they also have perching areas up there too for day naps.

The second area has a gate that divides the sections, and usually this is left open so the chickens can roam the entre space. Inside this second area are two houses. The first is the original house we had when we had only 2 chickens (but it is large enough for at least 6). It has the house at the top, with a ladder down into an enclosed area below with a door that can remain opened for free-ranging. I keep the nesting area of this house closed off with the ladder down (as I do not want to encourage the hens to lay in here) but they like to hang out in the covered bottom area of this coop when it is raining to keep dry. The door is left open for them to come and go.  This house area can be closed off however and used for any sick chickens as an “infirmary” so they do not get the other chickens sick, which I have only had to do once. It has also been used as a “maternity ward” when I am letting a Mamma hen sit and hatch fertile eggs as they appreciate the peace and quiet away from the other hens of the main coop. When a chicken goes broody, they usually go broody in the main coop area, so once I have ordered fertile eggs, I put the eggs with the broody hen in this “maternity ward”. It is perfect for when the babies come as they have a little house and a place to scratch around in below and they are safe and it is closed off and is sound from the other hens. Some hens do not take to kindly to new babies! Also in this second area, I have a large rabbit hutch house too. When the mamma hen and her babies get too big for the ‘Maternity ward’ they move to this area which has a large area to be free and is completely covered with trees and bush. It is great that this area is covered as it protects the baby chicks from the sight of seagulls or hawks. In this area I have fenced it off with small chicken wire, much smaller than the main area as one time a baby chick escaped and my cat Couscous would have loved to have had her paws on it! So it is now double lined. Also, by having that gate that can separate the two areas, when there are baby chicks, there is that all important interaction with the other hens at the gate, but with protection. It means that when they do all get introduced to each other eventually, ie no gate between them they are familiar with each other already. When area two is not been used for Mamma hens and baby chicks or sick chickens, the gate remains open with free rein give to all the hens to all the spaces.

The coop features:
* Recycled rimu framing
* Walk in (with door for us) for easy cleaning
* Slide out poop tray under the perch so that we can just pull the tray out and dump it and re-line with wood shavings
* Windows with mesh behind that have shutters that we can open for air flow. 
* Window boxes with flowers for cuteness
* Nesting trays for egg laying - 3 individual slide out trays for easy cleaning also
* Nesting box with access from outside of coop with lift up lid for egg collection

The coop as you can see is nestled in and among native trees. We are really lucky where they are situated, they are really protected by hawks and birds of prey. Especially when we are hatching baby chicks its nice to know they are in a safe area. We think they are really lucky to have such a lovely home. And if you ever wondered why i'm called The Forest Cantina - this setting and all the native trees that surround us is why. And i am always in my kitchen (cantina)

So very pleased with the outcome of the coop and the works of my talented husband! Cubby house for the kids is next! Watch this space!