Chicken Coop Stories From Around the World

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Hey everyone! If you’ve ever emailed us with questions about building your chicken coop from the plans you purchased from us or general poultry raising questions you know we’re always happy to help.

We are so blessed to get the nicest people contacting us and we wanted to share some of the interesting notes we’ve recently received from our community. Our community ranges far and wide…

…like Emmie, who wrote to us from Australia, where she has a flock of Australorps:

“In addition to the wonderful eggs and entertainment benefit, I consider my chickens (“chooks” in Oz) an important part of home security.  I live on the edge of swampland and deal  with snakes every summer.  I discovered years ago that movement in and around the yard, animal or human, discourages them from coming too close.”

ByTeneche(, via Wikimedia Commons
ByTeneche(, via Wikimedia Commonsdiscourages them from coming too close.”

I think that’s an interesting observation she’s made.

Emmie goes on to say:

“Early in 2000 my chickens had a 4 ft tiger snake bailed up at the back door.  They were all pecking at it (must have thought they hit the worm jackpot!) and my husband dispatched it quickly.  It would have died from infection of the peck wounds, anyway. Go chooks!”

I can certainly imagine this (although I may have some nightmares from it).

More Readers From Afar

Continuing on with our customers from outside the U.S., Jill wrote us from Bermuda, excited to get her book of chicken coop plans:

“Yippee!!! So geeked right now, my family ran a dairy farm and when I was younger we used to supply the island with eggs. Government took back the land and there’s only one on island chicken farmer now… but it’s a new start!” We’re really hoping she’ll share more with us on how that goes.

Courtesy of Dawn Nurse
Courtesy of Dawn Nurse

Closer to home, and dealing with another pest issue (smaller than Emmie’s snakes), Dawn wrote and asked “I want to know if my hens can eat these caterpillars which are all over my cauliflower plants, I don’t want to give them as food if they may harm them but if I can would be a great source of food, hope you can help”. Our reply: Those are the caterpillars of the cabbage butterfly and they can be very destructive. Let the chickens eat as many as possible and good luck!

Courtesy of cskk via Flickr
Courtesy of cskk via Flickr

We also get a lot of questions about breeds. ModicaFarm asked us if Silkies and Rhode Island Reds were a good mix. Our response: “They should be. Both breeds have pretty docile personalities. There will be a good size difference between the two though which may cause some pecking order issues but if they’re all raised together from the start (and you don’t have roosters) you should have a pretty peaceful group.”

RI Reds seem to be pretty popular with our readers. Brian and his wife are raising chickens in the Detroit area:

“Read your article on RI Reds, very interesting and I’m glad we made the choice we did. I started reading through your site and I really enjoyed it. My wife and I have been looking for a home on some acreage to start a small ‘organic farm’. It’s been a little tough finding something but that’s our ultimate goal. Your site is right up our alley! “

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture via Flickr
Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture via Flickr

Questions About Chicken Breeds

Toni is a frequent writer. She and her husband have some land in Virginia. They’ve raised cattle, Boer goats and hay. They’ve now got a good size flock of chickens, a horse Toni trained herself and rides, an orchard of fruit and nut trees and they sell their excess eggs. Although Toni claims to be “slowing down” due to her age (she’s 70; her husband is 79), we find it hard to believe! She wanted to know about frizzled cochins. We told her:

“It’s pretty interesting – on the Frizzles, their feathers curl forward instead of laying flat so they look curled! But their feathers don’t keep them as warm as other breeds. People say they’re a good choice if you are concerned about your birds flying over fences, since their feathers make flying difficult. Because they can’t fly though, it may be hard for them to roost. They have feathered legs and don’t lay a lot of eggs (only about 3 per week) but they make good mothers. Being banties, they’re going to stay small (males will weigh 30 oz and the females 26 ounces). According to the My Pet Chicken website, “Like Silkies, Frizzles are favorites of children and all others who are young at heart.”. 

You’re Never Too Old

Toni’s not our only reader who inspires us: Billie, age 83, had some questions about her flock: “I was thinking about increasing my flock of 5 to maybe 10 but I think I will remain happy with 5. My chicks were purchased in April and were old enough to already be getting little feathers. One out of 5 is now laying perfect but small brown eggs. The weather has been 100 + . They get the best food and I feed them twice a day and keep a good supply of fresh water. Any suggestions? If I turn them loose in my gardens, won’t they eat the plants?   I am also afraid they will fly over the 4 ft. fence and at 83, I can not chase chickens in the neighbor’s yard.”

We replied, “If the weather’s been over 100 degrees that would affect their laying. When it gets that hot, they’re gonna slow down. You could try giving them some cold pieces of melon (or even overgrown squashes) to peck at and see if that helps a bit. Do anything you can to cool down the coop. The breed you have will determine the size of the egg. As far as flying over the fence, that also depends on the breed. Plenty of mine wouldn’t even think of it (for a 3 foot garden fence) but my Dominiques and Rhode Island Reds sure would, if there was enough to tempt them”.

Some Sad News…

We get questions about other types of poultry as well. Sadly, Nanci wrote, asking about an issue with her Rouen duck, Squeeky. “About 6 days ago Squeeky started going off by himself. We were told he was depressed because mating season was over. Two days ago he started having problems walking. We were told to give him electrolytes which we give him thru a syringe. He is about 1 1/2 years old and when the girls come back to see him, he’s very alert. My ducks are free range.”

Courtesy of mikenan1 via Flickr
Courtesy of mikenan1 via Flickr

The most heartbreaking thing was not being able to help her or Squeeky, who died a few days later. If there’s anyone out there with experience with ducks who’s gone through something similar and can offer advice, please let us know. Meanwhile, we empathized with their family and their loss.

…And Some Good News

Steve wrote and told us, “My house is sort of like the old TV show Green Acres. My wife went to the feed store for pig food (we have a mini pot belly pig as a pet) and came home with the feed, and the chicks.  We have 5.  I am not sure if they are hens or roosters, but we will figure it out when they don’t lay eggs! I will send pictures when we are done with the coop!”

One Heart Wild is a nonprofit sanctuary in Washington that rescues hens and horses. They used our coop plans (The Mul-T Coop) to build a coop to house up to 20 hens and allow their clients (at risk kids) to visit with them, bringing healing and teaching empathy. According to Drea Bowen, the director, “the chickens are a huge hit with everyone”.

And Melissa made our day with her note: “I recently decided to start raising chickens in my yard so that my family always has access to fresh eggs (as a baker I go through a ton). My kids are super excited and have been helping me with research on raising chickens. We thought your page, had some really great info and we wanted to pass along a thank you. A big thanks from future chicken owners. Have a wonderful day!”

And we hope you all do too! Email us with your news, updates and questions – as you can tell, we enjoy hearing from everyone!

Helpful Resources

If you’re not familiar with what we have available for resources, please take a look here:

To find examples of customers’ coops built, using our plans: Success Stories

And, as always, never hesitate to contact us at

Pastured Chicken: Huge Potential for Your Meat Birds

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So this was “big news” – all over the Internet a few months ago. The story was picked up by news outlets worldwide. And it was a good story:  A 12 year old  4-H kid,  in Texas who raised this huge, 23 pound chicken. It made me curious – the stories claimed it might be the world’s largest chicken.

I wondered who held the record? What breed of chickens were these? What’s the story behind this? And when I began to dig into it a little more, it got even more interesting…at least for us chicken people.

It turns out, Dakota’s 23.47 pound chicken (named “Big Mac”) did not break the record. The record was considered to be held by “Big Boy”, weighing in at 24.18 pounds, raised by Sue and Don Ritter. It was mentioned they raised him as pastured poultry, on grass.

Now in case you aren’t familiar with it, pastured poultry is where your chickens are in movable cages and every day (or every few days) you move them to a fresh area of grass. This way, they’re raised eating the grass, weeds, bugs as well as their feed, which is generally organic. You can do this with chickens raised for meat or for eggs. There’s a lot of benefits to doing it this way:

  • Healthier birds
  • Healthier meat
  • It can be more cost effective
  • Cleaner
  • More environmentally sustainable and more natural for the birds
  • If you’re raising a hybrid meat bird, bred to gain weight quickly, they generally don’t do well free ranging. This is a great way to keep them safe and get them the fresh “pasture” to eat.

Now all of this stuff I find really interesting but it’ll take too long to go into it all here so we’ll have to save that for another blog post! This is something being used by farmers and backyard people because it makes a lot of sense.

But let’s move on to the record holding chicken, shall we? Sue and Don raise chickens for meat and eggs and have a thriving business. One unique aspect is they raise chickens for Thanksgiving instead of turkeys. They decided they liked the taste better (I’m in agreement here) so every year they raise some birds to a dressed weight (meaning what they weigh when you buy them) of 10 to 18 pounds, enough for the holiday dinner. Customers claim this is the sweetest, best tasting chicken they’re ever had.

Now this is not something your Perdues and Tysons can do. They’ve got a strict schedule in the factory: the birds reach a certain age, they should be within a weight range. They’re butchered. Done! Next batch, coming in! It’s an assembly line process because that’s the only way they can keep their profit margin high. And we’re talking thousands and thousands of birds at a time.

The Ritters weren’t trying to break any record. They noticed Big Boy was 18 or 19 pounds and they decided to see how large he’d get. The thing is with broiler type chickens, they generally are known for a lot of health issues. They gain so much weight, so fast they tend to have leg problems; they love to eat and can even die from overeating. People usually butcher them at 6-8 weeks of age when they’ll weigh out at about 5-7 pounds. These breeds aren’t meant to live long.

But obviously the Ritters are doing something right – and different. Their pasture has been free of pesticides and fertilizers for over 35 years. Their feed is certified organic with no animal by-products and the chickens have constant access to the earth, bugs and sunshine. No antibiotics are needed. Don is adamant that grass is the building block for food. Because of all of these factors, Big Boy lived until 18 months old and died when it got a bit too cold in Pennsylvania and the grass stopped growing.

12036394425_7145a69443_zDespite documenting Big Boy with photos and videos, he was sadly not accepted by the Guinness Book of World Records. They no longer keep records for livestock weight. But the Ritters have started their 2016 season.  And what about 12 year old Dakota and his chicken? Dakota’s Dad said he was probably giving up chickens, due to the early morning feeding. And they planned to use “Big Mac” in gumbo.



For more information on things mentioned in this post go to:
Sue & Don Ritter’s website:
Dakota’s “Big Mac”:
Pastured Poultry information:
Chicken photo courtesy of:
Gumbo photo courtesy of:


Superbowl Most Valuable Player and Chicken Farmer?

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Von Miller final

In my family, we’re football fans.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but I grew up rooting for the NY Jets. When we moved to North Carolina the year the Carolina Panthers became an NFL expansion team, we decided it was only right to root for the local team. I love the game but lately the headlines that come along with it – the concussions, the insane amount of money involved, the bad choices and behaviors often exhibited by players off the field – can make me question the morality and wisdom of this as a “fun” sport.

So I read with great interest a story about Von Miller, Denver Bronco’s linebacker and Superbowl Most Valuable Player, and his chickens. What??! Turns out Von attended Texas A&M where he took a poultry class because it was supposed to be easy. He had planned on sleeping through it but the professor got him so interested he graduated college with a minor in poultry science. He now has a flock of 40-50 chickens and plans to expand this to a full time business when his NFL career is over.

When he got the first chicks, he joked he had named them all after his teammates. (I can relate after naming two big, blocky Cornish hens after Carolina Panther running backs Biakabatuka and Floyd). He keeps the birds on the eight acres he owns in Dallas, where the weather is a bit milder than Denver. He’s named it “Miller Farms” and acknowledges he’s just starting out. But he feels he’s found his calling and, as he told the magazine Business Insider, “… I just feel like, ‘Man, this is for me.’ It’s just something I can see myself doing and my family and my children doing for a long time.”

Von has also noted that even though we use the word “chicken” as an insult, he feels they’re actually brave and courageous. Hmm…I’ve never quite considered them in that respect but perhaps I should. He plans to grow 3-4 flocks a year and when his NFL career is over, he feels he can make a good living, and be happy, with a second career as a poultry farmer. And I think you’ve got to admire that.


Sources: Photo courtesy of:

Wild Chickens In Hawaii Part II

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We did a story about the wild chickens in Hawaii a little while back. We decided to see what new developments have happened since then.

chickens-hawaiiAt the end of July, an army barracks decided to offer the 150 wild chickens living in their parking lot to anyone interested in adopting them. They offered several caveats, though: chickens may have lice, mites, fleas and other parasites; chicken droppings can cause respiratory diseases. In spite of those dire warnings, Jennifer Alexander, an entomologist at the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, urged people “They can be raised to become loving and affectionate just like any other pet, and the hens produce eggs. They’re fun to watch and good at keeping bugs and pests out…Actually, they can be pretty awesome – just not at a health clinic.”

They noticed the population began growing since the beginning of the year. They’ve now put into place a program to trap the chickens using baited cages or nets. Any not adopted will be euthanized by lethal injection.

Meanwhile, in Honolulu, the mayor has hired a private pest control company to begin what they call an “Integrated Feral Chicken Management Program”. Targeting city properties, including golf courses, they’re trying to trap 1,500 wild chickens. The birds will be euthanized with carbon dioxide. Animal rights advocates have countered, saying the chickens should instead be given a bird contraceptive called Ovocontrol. Either way, private property owners are on their own in figuring out how to deal with the chickens.

Roosters Crow In Pecking Order

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red jungle fowl crowing

Believe it or not, there’s still a lot we don’t know about roosters crowing even though, according to recorded history, they’ve been doing it since 2600 B.C.

We all know about the pecking order of our chickens – certain ones are the “top” in the group and tend to get to the food first or get to have the best roosting spot but according to a study published in Scientific Reports in July, the top ranked rooster is the first to crow every day.

Chickens are very social animals and the theory is crowing helps to announce their territory and avoid aggressive moves from other roosters.

Tsuyoshi Shimmura from Nagoya University in Japan studied groups of roosters and determined that the rooster highest in the pecking order determined when to begin the daily pre-dawn crowing with each rooster following after in order according to their rank. When the top rooster was removed from the group, the second in charge took over and filled his job, with each subordinate rooster, again in order, crowing next.

The timing of the crows is regulated by an internal biological clock, called the circadian clock. Although it can also be influenced by things like light and the crowing of other roosters, it’s mainly this 24 hour internal cycle that determines the time of the first crow each day. The scientists concluded that when in a group, roosters suppressed their own internal clock to accommodate the social rules of the group – in other words, the pecking order. So even though the second or third ranking rooster might feel inside “hey, it’s dawn and time to crow”, they won’t do it – not until the highest ranked has started the group off. The team also noticed that the highest ranked rooster crowed more often than the others.

Wild Chickens in Hawaii

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We recently received an email from a listener in Hawaii who mentioned that where he lives – on the main island – there are thousands of wild chickens. He said they have eight hens and ten roosters who drop by daily for food!

This intrigued us so much we had to find out more!Chicken on the Beach

In May, Hawaiian TV station KHON reported Honolulu was trying to find a solution because the problem had become so widespread people were complaining. This is in an urban and suburban area.

But where did this exploding population of wild chickens come from? Some people theorize that many of the chickens are descendants of birds that escaped when hurricanes hit and destroyed chicken coops. Annual bird counts done by the Audubon Society confirm the numbers jumped after the hurricanes. Others speculate the birds are wild ancestors of the original chickens brought to Hawaii from the Polynesians and relatives of the Red Junglefowl.

Eben Gering, an evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University has been studying these birds, specifically the chickens on Kauai Island,an island even more overrun with the birds than the big island, maybe due to the lack of mongooses, a natural predator, on that island. He published his findings in April. Analysis of the birds’ DNA reveals lineages from both our domesticated chickens and wild Red Junglefowl from Asia.

Dr. Gering and his researchers are hoping the interbreeding might help us improve our domestic breeds. They hope that by studying these chickens they can find out how and why an invasive species establishes itself somewhere new and at the same time what happens when a domesticated species goes feral.

Most of the wild chickens look like Red Junglefowl, with striking red, black, and green plumage. Others are speckled with white and reddish-brown, more like most of our domestic breeds. Their feather patterns match their calls: the ones who look like red junglefowl crow like wild birds, while the ones birds with more chicken-like feathers sound like domestic chickens.

But what about the residents of the islands who are complaining about crowing roosters at all hours of the day and night? Legally speaking, the chickens are protected by state law and residents can trap them but can’t kill them.

Apparently the chicken problem has been growing since the early 2000’s. In 2005, the Honolulu Advertiser reported volunteer trappers had captured more than 700 feral chickens around the island. A city contract was granted to The Hawaii Game Breeders Association, paying them $40,000 a year to catch the chickens. Birds that were healthy were given to people interested in eating them. In 2007, there were an estimated 20,000 chickens running loose on Oahu (the “big island” in Hawaii). Then in 2013, the city budget was cut and the program ended.

Meanwhile it’s been suggested that the Game Breeders Association had connections to cockfighting and routinely shipped birds all over the world for both legal and illegal forms of cockfighting.

Since 2013, the problem has gotten worse. This year, Honolulu has $80,000 budgeted to take care of the problem but the city so far can’t find someone to take on the job. In the past few weeks, owners from two condo complexes and an elementary school got together and hired a private exterminator to take care of the problem in their neighborhood.

And as for our listener in Hawaii, he’s planning to build a coop to protect the chickens from the main predators there, mongooses and rats. Apparently, despite all of the wild chickens roaming around, the price of grocery store eggs is six to seven dollars a dozen!


This post was written by Kim Torchy, for those of you who haven’t been in touch with Kim yet here are a few words from her:

“Hi everyone – my name is Kim and I’m lucky enough to be working with John. I’m very excited that’s he’s asked me to write a post! Let me tell you a little about myself: My husband and I moved from NJ to 15 acres in the mountains of NC and decided we needed chickens. We started with a flock of 8 laying hens and, well, one thing led to another (as it so often does). We ended up getting eighteen more plus raising enough meat birds yearly that we completely stopped buying chicken and eggs. I’m also Mom to two daughters, ages 24 and 8, and two beautiful grandchildren, Rylan and Sophia.”