Eggs! Raise Your Own Hens In A Chicken Coop Built From Scrap

karin kloosterman girl holding egg image

From a long line of egg farmers in Holland, Karin’s dad finally builds her a chicken coop

Where bylaws allow, or can be bypassed, I highly recommend building your own chicken coop. Imagine getting fresh, free-range organic eggs every day? When my parents came to visit me in Jaffa a few months ago, Dad found himself bored. Back in Holland, my family the Van Der Meers were one of the biggest egg producers in the country before the Depression. So you could say, eggs are in our genes. With Dad nothing to do for a few weeks, I brought up the idea of having him build me a chicken coop. That got him kind of excited. He foraged for wood in my backyard and came up with a coop that resembles a bus stop. The Chicken Express? Step right up and I’ll tell you how to build a coop in a few easy steps. And no you don’t have to invest much, unless you want to make your coop designer.

In warm climates very little is needed to keep your hens happy – basically a roof over their heads, a lengthwise pole for curling their toes around when they sleep at night (you might want to raise it high where feral cats might stalk your chickens), and some fencing to keep them from, well, flying the coop.

chicken bedouin marketHere are our chickens before we bought them.

As it turns out, Bedouin chickens which we bought in the Negev Desert, are very agile creatures and even sleep in our blackberry tree some nights. The fencing doesn’t help them that much, but it does keep them contained somewhat, and out of the mouth of our crazy dog.

Here’s what you’ll need to build the coop:

  • A corner on your roof, garden, or backyard for the chicken coop, a couple meters by a couple meters at least
  • An old door or piece of plywood for a roof
  • Some plywood for the sides
  • Chicken wire, if you want to contain the chickens outside the coop (they eat weeds so consider letting them run loose)
  • A wooden pole
  • Some boxes, or crates for roosting. Throw in something soft.
  • Feed

Find a corner to build against, saving yourself the need to build 2 extra walls. Be lazy. Make sure there’s a roof for the chickens to protect them against the sun, and rain, and in the winter if it gets cold, you can throw a carpet over the sides to keep the cold wind out. Make sure they have three walls.

We built a 2 meter or so pole, installed horizontally, down low about 50 cm off the ground but noticed some street cats were preying on our hens and raised the pole to about 1.5 meters off the ground. Most chickens can fly to this height but see what works for yours. It really doesn’t take much to make your chickens happy. But they do need a pole to sleep on at night.

What you feed your chickens:

  • A basic seed/corn meal
  • Compost – can include eggshells (ours really love labane cheese – could be because they are Bedouin hens)
  • Garden weeds and greens (let them go wild!)
  • Worms and bugs (they feed themselves while aerating the ground)
  • Endless supply of water

Chickens do need basic feed, that which can be bought at a feedlot. Some inquiring around on where to find chickens and feed might be in order. Animal markets for livestock might be your best bet. Ask around in places like that. We bought a huge drum of feed consisting of corn meal and other seeds, and feed our chickens a regular diet of all the vegetable-based compost that would otherwise be composted. But don’t worry. Chicken doo makes an excellent compost too. One of my friends can’t eat eggs unless they are free-range and fed with organic oats. So it’s really up to you to decide how to feed your chickens, depending on your health needs and sensitivities.

We have five chickens and one rooster. The rooster is just for the fun of it. You don’t need one if you have neighbors nearby who will complain about the noise. And roosters DO make noise, waking us up as early as 1:30 am.

bedouin market birdBedouin women (crouching like crows) selling “bede” hens at the market

Unlike commercially-raised chickens, our hens don’t get “sunshine” 24 hours a day. Some parts of the year the chickens won’t lay. They will molt and take a break. And not every chicken will lay every day once she starts. We bought young chickens and it took them a couple of months to start laying. Now three of the five are laying, but like I said, not every day.

See a video interview with my dad about chickens

We bought our chickens at a Bedouin market (for about $10 each) because it was important for my husband that we have a “wild” variety – chickens that haven’t been genetically manipulated. Our eggs are on the small to medium size, the yolks absolutely huge compared to the white. One hen is laying eggs with the most delightful little beige specks on them.

harold kloostermanDad (left), the closest link to my family of egg people is determined that next time he comes to visit me in the Middle East he’ll be smuggling in white hen eggs – “the real good layers” – from Canada. He keeps asking me about building an incubator for these eggs to become hatchlings. Hopefully it will happen and when it does, I’ll report it here on Green Prophet.

Meanwhile, I am dreaming about how many eggs I will collect tomorrow. And how exciting it will be for my little baby daughter, when she gets bigger, to go out and collect them like I did when I was a little girl (that’s me in the top photo). My family had a coop in a suburban town outside Toronto until our evil neighbour complained and we had to get rid of it.

Before the complaints, I would go out and collect our eggs and sell them to our neighbors for a dollar a dozen, to cover the price of feed. Seriously, it was so much fun. If this blogger, and lazy environmentalist who is addicted to the computer can start a coop, you can too. Get cracking and join the new movement of urban farming.

Read more on urban farming:
Karin Forages In Her Backyard for Weeds
Foraging for Wild Weeds on Your Windowsill
Go Wild With Edible Weeds (Recipes)

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19 thoughts on “Eggs! Raise Your Own Hens In A Chicken Coop Built From Scrap”

  1. Its very honor that you give us this informative, thank you so much.

  2. Aviva Weisgal says:

    Great article, and also thinking of starting to raise my own clooks. You might want to look at this very informative link:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/09/clever-tunnel-chickens-gardening.php?fb_comment_id=fbc_10150321895804446_18876798_10150326936759446

    All the best for you and your chicks, and Happy New Year

  3. Northern says:

    heh. I just like geese but chickens will be fine, too.
    Thanks for the tip 🙂

  4. I have no idea. Call the municipality and ask. You’ll probably get an answer you won’t like. I think chickens are likely easier to get away with than geese, which are bigger. Trying to get one to lay a golden egg? Or a “green” one?

  5. Northern says:

    Hi.
    Great article.
    I was wondering – are there legal restrictions on having your own coop?
    I live in Ashkelon and I actually wanted to raise geese or ducks and I’m trying to find out if it’s legal for me to do it.

  6. Also – what’s your take on feeding chickens leftover chicken?

    1. Johnny Morales says:

      I have a feeling you already know the answer.

      Chickens seem to be eager cannibals from what I can tell from my hens.

      The way they cluck, you’d think they are at a party. LOL It’s as if they are saying, we know we taste good.

      Chicken, chicken fat, eggshells all seem to be their most favorite food.

      They love chicken gelatin made from the drippings of a cooked chicken that solidifies when cold mixed with leftover anything.

  7. Dear Joe,
    Great tips. I didn’t know about the vet visits.
    Do your chickens like onions?

  8. Joe van Zwarem says:

    It’s a real experience for young children to see chicks grow into egg laying chickens and excitement for them to bring in the newly laid eggs. And the fresh eggs are simply delicious. I have raised chickens and hope to do again this year.

    Some tips:
    1) I select chicks in the spring time – you do not know what you get – roosters or hens, so I pick 4-5 chicks. You need a rooster anyway to get the hens to lay eggs. But once they get started laying eggs, you can take the rooster away (otherwise the neighbors will kill you).
    2) It is important to vaccinate the chickens as they can catch disease which they can transmit to us humans – for a token fee, the City veterinarian in Jerusalem does that.
    3) I fed my chickens all our organic garbage (vegetable peels, remains from meals, old fruit, old bread, ..). They pick what they want to eat and the rest gets composted with their droppings – this makes good fertilizer for the garden. I also turn over the soil and the chickens are good at pulling out insects from freshly turned soil.
    4) I give the chickens the run of the garden (as long as you do not have dogs) – they eat all insects, snakes and scorpions, so I do not have to use pesticides and be afraid for my grand children getting a poisonous bite. At night they go into the chicken coop, which my son built, and was built to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
    5) You need to separate the chicks from the chickens – the chickens can kill the chicks.

  9. How extraordinary! I was literally thinking this morning that I should get some chooks as I am missing my B12 vitamin which good free range eggs produce. I live in Jordan and subscribe to Green Prophet so was astonished to see this article when I came on the internet just now. Thank you.

  10. Jen Garr says:

    Great article – really inspiring! Growing up I used to “bird-sit” the neighbors’ chickens when they were on vacation. I never thought building a coop would be work in a city. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Arwa Abuarwa says:

    cool article Karin and the pic of you as a little girl is just adorable!
    X

  12. Megan says:

    We have been planning a hoop and I have been looking for where to get laying hens here in Israel. Thanks for posting this!

    1. No problem. I think the birds are out on Thursdays on the hill facing the veggie shuk and Bedouin market. There is a cloud of dust emanating from the hill from all the 4×4’s driving around the chicken area.

  13. marcia says:

    Why not let your hens set on the eggs your father brings instead of bothering with an incubator? I guess he’d have to time his visit or maybe you could influence your hens setting time. I don’t know how to do this–my pet bantam chickens always nested naturally and raised chicks. We had to forgo the eggs a for a while. I had a rooster and three hens and loved watching them. Maybe you’d have a lower mortality rate this way.

  14. I suggest you get adolescents. Though chics can be cute, they have a tendency to die – and it’s not always easy to tell their sex.

  15. Talia says:

    So funny that you wrote this. Oren is in the process of planning our own chicken coop and we are getting chics in May!!!

  16. I invite you to an omelet if you come and visit me.

  17. Ronley says:

    How fantastic Karin.
    And definitely will be very delicious omlettes.

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