Remember that saying, “If you want something done, get a busy person to do it”? Well, I have a new saying: “If you want something done efficiently, get a lazy person to do it.”
It’s hilarious to me that people think I am this super-energetic, do-it-all type. Oh sure, I like to start a lot of projects, but when it comes time to actually maintain those projects … well, blecchh.
So, when I built the Chicken Palace, I designed it to fit my needs as well as the needs of The Girls. A basic henhouse has a roost, a floor and a couple of nest boxes. After studying a whole bunch of designs, I created my own, based around the following rule:
No bending over. Ever.
This means the run is tall enough that I can stand in it to rake it out and change food and water. (OK, there’s a little bending over to pick up the feeder and waterer, but not anything like hunching over a cut-off rake in a 4-foot tall enclosure scraping chicken poop into a cut-off shovel.) It also means that the henhouse is on stilts, with the egg boxes accessible from the outside, at a height that’s easy for me to reach in and collect eggs. Little kids have to reach up, but that’s their problem.
For cleanup, the whole back of the henhouse opens up. Again, no bending. And, I’m following the deep-litter method, which makes cleanup even easier—in fact, almost nonexistent. Deep litter allows droppings to accumulate in the litter material, composting it right inside the coop. All I have to do is pop open the back every few days, stir the fresh poop into the bedding material (I use pine shavings), toss a few more handfuls of shavings on top to freshen things up, and boom, you’re done. Notice, once again: No bending.
And here’s the very best part about the composting/deep-litter method: Cleaning the henhouse only needs to happen two to three times a year. You heard me, people. Amazing, right? And, when I do have to finally bite the bullet and clean it out, the wheelbarrow rolls right under it. I just lift the litter board and rake the composted stuff into the wheelbarrow … all without bending over. And I don’t even have to do a good job; in fact, it’s important to leave some of the composty stuff in there to continue the process.
For a deep-litter henhouse, ventilation is key; I’ve got open eaves (screened with hardware cloth) and a window in the back door to allow cross-ventilation, so the ammonia can escape. The fresh shavings also cut down on odor. That’s another thing: My coop doesn’t stink. It doesn’t smell like roses, either, but it’s free of that knock-you-off-your-feet stench that I’ve encountered in other chicken operations.
I built the henhouse and run myself, with some help from the Girl Kid, and I admit, it’s a bit … er … funky looking. I will definitely get around to trimming the roof shingles one of these days, and it could use a bit of leveling, but pretty is as pretty does, and not having to bend over is a downright beautiful thing.