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

Freedom Rangers: A Meat Bird Alternative

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A few months back, a customer emailed us wondering about “Freedom Ranger” chickens. A friend of his was raising them and he was curious. I had never heard of them and got curious, too. So I started doing some research.

The name gets your attention, doesn’t it? Makes you think of America, and self sufficiency, and independence! All the good stuff, right?

OK – stop right there because the good ol’ Internet has an awful lot of misinformation floating around there about these guys!

Courtesy of Wendy Smoak FlickrTHE NAME GAME

First, there’s a good reason for that catchy name, kids: marketing. Yep, the Freedom Ranger is a brand name for a hybrid chicken. There’s also Red Rangers and Black Rangers. That means you can’t breed ‘em at home. They come from a cross of 4 different breeds so if you hatch out the eggs, they won’t be the same as the parents.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of the chickens sold specifically as meat birds are hybrid birds, created from a cross between a few different breeds, designed to grow fast and plump and be little eating machines. And the most popular of these are the Cornish and White Rock cross breeds.


But you’ll find sites out there calling these a “heritage breed” and forums where people talk about how wonderful they are so they can raise their own meat birds from the eggs of these chickens who will sit on them and be broody hens. Not true. There are sites that say the Cornish Cross breeds are “genetically modified”: also not true except that they’re bred for certain characteristics, just like that early producing tomato I grow every year to guarantee some tomatoes by July.

There are sites that seem to claim they can get most of their food supply by free ranging. Not true either. Without a high protein, but balanced food source, you’re gonna end up with birds that have health problems (one may be incurable: death) and birds that will take a looong time to reach an eating weight.

We’re not going to get into any of the big thorny issues that people raise about monopolies on breeding stock and who controls what and “Big Agriculture” business; that’s a whole other story for another day so don’t ask!

Take a deep breath. Don’t get sucked into the nonsense.

THE MATH (FOR US REGULAR FOLK)By Jessica Reeder (P1080817) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re raising a bunch of birds strictly for meat, it makes a lot of sense to do them all in a big batch: you get all the chicks at the same time, raise them all together for a few weeks, and then butcher and process them all at once. You’re then set with your year’s supply of chicken for the family or to sell. These are the breeds the “big guys” like Perdue use and the organic, pastured poultry guys like Joel Salatin use.

And it makes a lot of sense to raise these birds as fast as possible, as cheaply as possible, in the most healthy way as possible. You want to lose as few chickens (ideally none!), have no health issues, and make your profit margin as large as possible:

cost of feed + care + cost of chickens / by pounds of meat after butchering = cost per pound of meat


Now I don’t care if you’re raising these for a business or for your family but I know you do not want to end up paying some ridiculous price for your efforts (if you do, please call me and let’s discuss a business venture!)

Your cost difference comes down to the amount of feed you have to give the birds. That can be kept lower by reducing the number of weeks until they’ve reached a butchering weight; it can be kept low by free ranging to reduce the amount of feed you have to buy. So far I haven’t found anyone who has done a test that compares exactly the same type of feed and the same type of free ranging between the two breeds and offered any kind of definitive answer.


The advantages of the Cornish Cross hybrids is that they convert their feed well and efficiently. They’re economical. The Freedom Rangers do, too, but at a little slower of a pace which helps them mostly avoid the health problems that faster growing meat birds can be prone to like leg problems and heart attacks (due to overeating). With the reduction of leg problems you’re trading off for less breast meat (so less white meat) and either a lower weight bird or a few additional weeks to slaughter, compared to the other meat breeds. You’re still not escaping these problems entirely and have to watch. But keeping a feeder full of food of them at all times isn’t recommended for either breed. We’re talking chickens with some eating issues here…

Courtesy of Cowgirl Jules FlickrHOW MUCH LONGER DO I HAVE TO FEED THEM?

So to give you an idea of what to expect, the Freedom Rangers are supposed to reach their butchering weight of 5-6 pounds in about 12 weeks.

Cornish Cross breeds generally – and the same variances apply here – you’re talking 5-6 pounds in about 7 weeks.

By the way, you will find this differs depending on your source because it’s gonna depend on the feed and the protein levels and the specific genetics of the breeding strain you’ve bought. Don’t take any one source’s word for the gospel truth.

Also keep in mind a few things: Males get plump faster than females; and either way, there’s definitely a learning curve involved with raising these breeds. But don’t let that scare you off. Trust me – it’s possible (and not as hard as you’d think!). But you will be relieved come butchering day because regardless of breed, compared to any laying hens you’ve raised, these puppies can eat!


Now, to get a little technical, Mother Earth News had an article in 2010 by Harvey Ussery – who’s written extensively on chickens and homesteading for many years – where he wrote about the details of raising Freedom Rangers compared to Cornish Cross. He started the birds out on relatively high protein feed (24%) but started to see extremely fast growth and leg problems so he dropped down to 20% feed and then, a few weeks later, to 15% and supplemented it with whole oats.

In another article, the producer raised them using only 17% protein feed but did lose some birds and they were slower to reach a good butcher weight. I find this very interesting since I’ve always started my Cornish Cross out on the highest protein feed I could get (actually it was a game bird feed, at 28% protein). I like the idea that using a lower protein, and less costly, feed can have the same results. However, it’s still cautioned that you should not always have feed available as they can tend to overeat, just like the Cornish.

FREE BIRD?Courtesy of Green Mountain Girls Farm

The advantages of the rangers seems to be more of an ability to forage for their food. They’re better adapted for free ranging and have more energy than the Cornish do for it. The Cornish will forage and free range but not quite as aggressively as you’ll see with the “old timey” breeds who will knock you down to get to that flying insect. Some of mine are more eager to plop down on the grass and relax. Of course, they’ll still eat the grass around them, just from a non-moving position!

Another big difference is when it comes time to butcher. The Freedom Rangers have dark pinfeathers. If you’re raising these to sell, consumers aren’t used to seeing that on the skin; you’re family isn’t either if you’ve been used to grocery store chicken. It’s not considered as attractive and is definitely something to consider if you’re trying to make a go of a business or even if you want the kids to eat the dinner you made for tonight without dealing with the “Eww…it looks weird” thing.

PARLEZ-VOUSE FRANCAIS? Photo ID 556170 UN PhotoRick Bajornas

Back at the start of this post, we mentioned the name was for marketing. However, the genetics for these Freedom Ranger birds come from France – specifically from a company that developed chickens for a strictly government regulated quality labeling system called Label Rouge. These are chickens that are required spend a certain amount of time outdoors with a specified amount of space for each. The label is considered top of the line there. Maybe this is more patriotic than you think considering the French gave us the Statue of Liberty and they do have Bastille Day on July 14th, kind of their own version of our “Independence Day”?

Some good reputable links for more information:

And, I’m not sure how definitive this is, since it’s just one farm, on one season but it is interesting:

Photos courtesy of: 1. Wendy Smoak Flickr 2. Jessica Reeder (P1080817) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 3. Cowgirl Jules Flickr 4. Green Mountain Girls Farm 5. Photo ID 556170 UN Photo: Rick Bajornas


Now Here’s a Bird That Stands Out From the Crowd! The Golden Laced Polish Chicken

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This bird’s wild feathered top hat, or bouffant, is probably the first thing you’ll notice about him. He bumbles around the chicken run, his feathered fringe partially obscuring his vision and causing him to bump into things and startle. The birds big personality is another noticeable trait, making this breed prized for their personalities as well as their ornamental looks. Largely a show bird, the Golden Laced Polish Chicken is one fantastic fowl that will surely add some pizazz to your backyard flock.

A Little bit of History

The Golden Laced Polish Chicken has been raised in Eastern Europe since the early 16th century and may have originated in the Netherlands. They were brought to the United States in the 1830s and 1840s and became quite popular by the 1850s due to their unique looks and decent egg-laying capabilities. Polish Chickens were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874; the Golden Laced Polish Chicken has never officially been registered with the APA.

Mainly Ornamental, But Fun To Have About

While it does lay around 120-200 small white eggs annually (sources vary widely here!), the Golden Laced Polish Chicken is mainly a show bird. It rarely goes broody and is admired for its wild crest of feathers. Bearded and nonbearded, this breed comes in a variety of colors. Because of their feathered crest, the bird can’t see that well and startles easily. However, the breed tends to be friendly if slightly flighty. If handled frequently and gently from a young age, this breed will grow into a friendly and gentle bird. Also keep in mind that this breed has been known to be aggressive toward others of its kind; plenty of living space is an excellent solution to this problem.


Due to their obstructed vision, this breed is an easy target for predators. Make sure that they have a wide enclosure that keeps them safe from prey. Loud noises startle them and they tend to run into things—be careful of your chicken’s living area.

Another consideration is climate. The Golden Laced Polish Chicken is not as cold-hardy as other breeds and if they drink water in winter (which they must do), ice may build on their crest.

This breed is widely available online from a variety of hatcheries. A simple web search will yield multiple hatcheries selling Golden Laced Polish Chicken chicks. In most of these hatcheries, chicks hatch from March through September.

This funny breed will offer some amusement to your backyard flock. The Golden Laced Polish Chicken is an instant conversation starter as well as a wonderful backyard bird.

Golden Campine Chickens

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One of the more interesting birds on the block is the Golden Campine. The Golden Campine’s striking golden head, white ears, perky upright tail, and beautiful barred body create an unusual and strikingly beautiful bird. Originally from Belgium, the Golden Campine is also an excellent layer. This rare breed would make a unique addition to your backyard coop!

Temperament and Characteristics

This beautiful bird lays around 150-200 eggs annually and while they are not generally raised for meat, they can certainly be dual purpose birds. Reports on temperament vary. According to some sources, these birds are friendly and fun to be around. Other sources claim that the Golden Campine is not affectionate, don’t care much for human contact, and are quite flighty. It must depend on the individual bird’s personality as well as the amount of human contact and interaction they have from hatching. Active, curious, and great at foraging, the small Golden Campine generally makes a fun and amusing bird to have around. There is a silver Campine variety too.

An Interesting History

The Golden Campine chicken can trace its roots to Belgium, where they’ve been raised for several hundred years. The first Golden Campines brought to the US arrived in 1893, but by 1898 the breed had been dropped from the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection because the breed was simply unpopular. The second attempt at importing Campines in the early 1900s failed to catch on too. The APA added Golden Campines to their Standard of Perfection in 1914 and they’ve remained a recognized breed ever since.

On the Verge of Extinction

The breed almost disappeared altogether after World War II, where even in Belgium the number of Golden Campines was extremely low. A few dedicated breeders brought this breed back from the verge of extinction.  In the US, the breed is in the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Conservation Status of critical. There are around five breeding flocks of 50 or less Golden Campines in the entire United States. It doesn’t help that the bird rarely goes broody. One way to help perpetuate this breed is to take any fertilized eggs your Golden Campine lays and put them in an incubator or get one of your other broody hens to hatch the eggs. Backyard farmers are this breed’s only real hope of continuing into the future.

Not Best for Beginners

If you are a beginner or want a friendly pet chicken, the Golden Campine is probably not the best bet. Flighty, susceptible to frostbite, and eager to fly, it is not the easiest bird to care for. If you have some experience with chickens, the Golden Campine is a great endangered chicken breed that would make a lovely addition to most backyard flocks.

Raising Ameraucana Chickens

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If you want eggs like no others, the Ameraucana Chicken may be the fowl you’re searching for. This unique breed was developed in the United States in the 1970s and officially recognized by the APA in 1984. It lays distinctive eggs with blue shells, not brown or white like the average chicken. The Ameraucana Chicken is quite rare and available only from breeders. Yet, beware. The majority of Ameraucana Chickens sold by commercial hatcheries are not true Ameraucanas but rather mixed-breed mongrels. If you have your heart set on an Ameraucana, you’ll certainly have to do your homework!

Breed Specifications

The Ameraucana Chicken is a medium sized bird that comes in a variety of recognized colors: white, black, blue, wheaten, blue wheaten, silver, brown red, and silver. Both bantam and large varieties are available. They are generally cold-weather hardy birds and are docile, although not broody. The chicken has a full tail and a muff and beard. Its legs are blue or black. An egg-laying chicken, the Ameraucana Chicken produces around 250 eggs annually and starts laying at 5-6 months of age. While it lays colorful eggs, the Ameraucana Chicken is not an Easter Egg Chicken. An Easter Egg Chicken is not a recognized breed but rather a mixed-breed bird with a gene for blue eggs. The Ameraucana Chicken is a recognized breed. Breeders and hatcheries sometimes falsely advertise Easter Egg
mixed breed chickens as Ameraucana Chickens, so be wary.

A Short History of the Ameraucana Chicken

The Ameraucana Chicken was the result of much careful breeding, developed from the Chilean Araucana. This unique bird laid lovely blue eggs but had a lethal allele combination that resulted in the death of chicks before hatching or during the incubation period. In developing the Ameraucana Chicken, the blue egg laying capabilities were retained while the genetic flaws were removed.

Buying Your Ameraucana Chicks

As this breed is rare, the Ameraucana Chicken is fairly hard to find. There are many hatcheries selling chicks they claim to be Ameraucana Chicks which are in fact selling mongrels. This is so common that, according to the website, 99% of chickens sold as Ameraucanas or Araucanas by commercial hatcheries are in fact mixed breed chickens. Rather than producing pure blue-shelled eggs, these mongrels lay blue, green, pink, and other colored
eggs. The Ameraucana Breeder’s Club provides a list of certified breeders from which purebred Ameraucana Chickens can be purchased. Their website is: While it isn’t vital that your birds be purebred for your backyard flock, if you want to show your birds you’ll certainly want to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Photo by: Lakenvelder
Photo by: Lakenvelder

Caring For Your Chickens

Before purchasing your Ameraucana Chicks, prepare a heated box for your new chicks and take care to keep them warm, fed, watered, and clean. Once they are fully feathered and growing large, you can introduce them to your chicken coop. Your chickens will need a safe coop, a chicken run to protect them from predators, laying boxes for their eggs, and feed and water. Clean out your chicken’s coop regularly to help keep them free from diseases. Allow your chickens plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. The healthier your chickens, the happier they’ll be and the longer lives they’ll live.

Raising Barred Rock Chickens

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Its speckled black and white feathers are just about as synonymous with the American farmyard as a big, red barn. No other breed has been bred and raised as extensively as the Barred Plymouth Rock Chicken, also known as Rocks and Barred Rocks. Popular for its hardiness, its egg laying abilities as well as its suitability for meat, its broodiness, and its docile temperament, the Barred Rock is a favorite among backyard farmers. Their attractive feathers also make them stand out from the crowd. Raising your own Barred Rock Chickens is simple and rewarding. With minimal care and fuss, this breed can easily provide several hundred eggs per year for the foreseeable future.

Breed Characteristics

This large bird comes in many colors: barred, black, white, blue, buff, silver, Columbian, penciled, and partridge too. The barred coloring is the most well-known, hence the name Barred Rock. Intelligent, docile, and hardy even in cold environments, the Barred Rock chicken is an excellent year-round layer, averaging 4 large, brown eggs per week. It has been recognized since 1874 by the American Standard of Perfection and is considered a heritage breed. The Barred Rock is a member of the Plymouth Rock family of breeds and was first raised in the early 1800s in New England. Up through World War II, the Barred Rock Chicken was the number one most popular chicken breed in the United States. Calm, relatively quiet, and adaptable, this breed is perfect for beginners and children alike.

Preparing Your Home for Barred Rock Chickens

Before you order or pick out your new chicks, make sure that raising chickens is legal where you live and prepare your brooder and chicken coop. You can design your own coop, purchase a coop kit, or buy easy-to-follow instructions and materials lists from us 🙂 Once you’ve built your coop and safely enclosed chicken run, gather all feed and watering supplies. Read up on chicken husbandry and thoroughly educate yourself about raising chickens. The better prepared you are, the more successful your endeavors will be.

Barred Rock Chicks

One can purchase barred rock chicks online from a variety of companies, or from their local farm or farmer’s supply store. After you purchase chicks, you’ll need to keep them warm in a clean brooder, which is a box with a heat source. Your chicks need constant heat, food, and water of the first weeks of life. Keep them safe, clean, watered, and fed and before long they’ll be ready to move into their coop. By about 18-20 days, they won’t need the heat lamp on constantly during the day. When they’re big enough and the weather is warm enough, introduce them to their coop. With proper care, your Barred Rock Chickens will light up your life for years to come.

Caring For Your Flock

Throughout the life of your Barren Rock Chickens, keep their chicken coop clean.
Pick up regularly after your birds; this will make them less likely to get sick. Healthy birds are happy birds. Feed them quality chicken feed and table scraps, avoiding things like rotten or processed food, chocolate, avocados, raw meat, and raw potato skins. Keep a persistent look out for predators. Provide a clean and accessible laying box and plenty of room for your chickens to exercise. The better you care for your birds, the better quality eggs and meat you’ll enjoy later.