Be­ing all cooped up is a good thing with th­ese hand­some habi­tats. most first-time chicken own­ers, the an­swer to the ques­tion, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is ir­rel­e­vant. The ques­tion they re­ally brood over is, “What kind of coop is best?”

Country Sampler's Prarie Style - - Contents - WRIT­TEN BY Bar­bara Jack­sier. PHO­TOGRAPHED BY Mark Lohman ex­cept where oth­er­wise noted.

Be­ing all cooped up is a good thing with th­ese hand­some habi­tats.

will have your hu­man neigh­bors cluck­ing. As long as you pro­vide a spa­cious roost that is safe from preda­tors and has a place for the chick­ens to lay eggs and an area where they can get food and wa­ter, what your coop looks like is a mat­ter of taste and style.

Coops, like houses for peo­ple, can be

bought, built or bor­rowed. The de­ci­sion of which to choose is al­most as com­pli­cated. You can find dozens of plans to build coops your­self on­line. Some spec­ify scrap wood such as pal­lets and re­cy­cled re­sources, while other de­signs re­quire a sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment in ma­te­ri­als and la­bor.

Ready-made coops also ex­ist in ev­ery price range. To save on ship­ping fees, find a lo­cal man­u­fac­turer or builder. The least ex­pen­sive op­tion, how­ever, is to re­pur­pose a shed or out­grown play­house. Add a few poles for roost­ing and re­in­force­ment for se­cu­rity, and your chick­ens will flock to their new home.

For four hens, you’ll need at least a 5-foot-by-5-foot crit­ter-proof en­clo­sure and a 5-foot-by-8-foot screened-in at­tached yard for out­door scratch­ing and ex­er­cise. If space per­mits, con­sider a larger shel­ter be­cause once you get used to farm-fresh eggs, you will be tempted to add a few more hens to your backyard barn­yard.

LEFT: A rustic shed gets re­pur­posed for fancy fowl with nest­ing boxes in­side and white trel­lises on the ex­te­rior. ABOVE: Buff

Or­p­ing­ton chick­ens are re­li­able lay­ers of brown eggs and have an easy­go­ing na­ture

that makes them great pets. BE­LOW: Clean straw or pine shav­ings pro­vide a soft sur­face for th­ese Speck­led Sus­sex and

Light Brahma hens and their chicks.

Coops, like houses for peo­ple,

can be bought, built or bor­rowed.

TOP LEFT: Study up be­fore bring­ing home

your first chicks. Daily care and rou­tine at­ten­tion are re­quired for your hens’ well­be­ing. Photo by Lu Tapp. TOP RIGHT: Screen doors pro­vide su­perb ven­ti­la­tion in th­ese sideby-side coops. One side is out­fit­ted for chick tend­ing, while the other is for ma­ture birds.

Photo by Lu Tapp. ABOVE LEFT: No need to spend a for­tune on a coop, sal­vaged tin, shut­ters and screen doors work fine. Vin­tage lanterns add a dec­o­ra­tive touch to the roofline. ABOVE CEN­TER: This con­verted mu­d­room

serves dou­ble duty as a pot­ting shed and a safe haven for a small flock. ABOVE RIGHT: A ramp is handy for large, heavy breeds that can

in­jure their feet when jump­ing up and down.

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