Here are some things I have found work well for keeping chickens the past few years. It is an ever evolving process and even this year I changed some things and look forward to seeing how they work out!
Standing Height/Walk-in Coop: This is the one thing I’m glad I did from the beginning. Being able to walk inside the coop without bending over makes such a big difference. It’s easy to clean, has better temp regulation, is more secure from predators, and easier to get eggs everyday.
I’ve gone through a few different designs of self feeders and water systems. Nowadays I still use a PVC pipe auto-feeder system that is larger in diameter than my first one. The chickens can eat from either side of it, about four at a time. I may put in a second one on the other side of the coop to keep them from bullying each other but they are good for the most part.
Chicken Tractor: I love my A-frame chicken tractor. I use it to raise juvenile chickens that have feathered but aren’t big enough to be put with the hens. It is also handy for broody or sick chickens that need to be separated from the flock. It’s like a mini secondary coop I can put anywhere!
Lizard Red Bulb Heat Lamp: I don’t get enough baby chicks for a set-up big enough for a typical brooder lamp-they get very hot! Instead I use a 60-75 watt red pet lizard light bulb and lamp for baby chicks and sick chickens. I monitor the temperature with a stick-on temperature gauge also from the lizard section of the store.
Grazing Frames: I am very pleased with how these are working out! This allows me to grow grass and greens for my chickens but isn’t as labor intensive as fodder. I have three frames that I rotate plants in: Rye, Wheat, Peas, etc. The chickens can eat the tops of the plants without digging up the roots, so they last much longer! The frames are movable too since I made them only 4’X4′.
Stainless Steel Water Bowls: I’ve found my chickens drink the most water and I can see when it is dirty or needs filling best when it is simply put out large stainless steel bowls. I can move them in/out of the shade depending on if it’s summer or winter. They don’t step in or get droppings in them all that much-I’m changing the water very regularly anyways. No mold or algae problems and the chickens can drink with their natural scooping motion.
Sand in Run, Straw in Coop: I like the “Tube Sand” in the ground area in the coop. It’s not dusty and tends to grind up droppings and can be raked once in a while. Plus they like dust bathing in it! Straw in the coop and nest boxes has worked well and is easy to change out.
Linoleum in Coop: We had some scrap pieces of linoleum that fit the dimensions of the coop floor. They are removable so I can take them out and wash them off every so often.
Tools: Rubber gloves, paper dust masks, plastic buckets, an apron with pockets and my favorite tool-A child’s rake! It allows me to rake out the dirty straw that has collected droppings into the plastic buckets very easily! Then I take the buckets to our compost pile and I’m done! Another tool I like is a gutter scooper to use to fill the PVC pipe feeder.
Fencing them off in a Run: I’ve gone from fenced run to free range back to fenced run again. I found it was too difficult to maintain biosecurity with them out in the yard all the time-they would hang out under the back porch and would make a huge mess. I have expanded their run and let them out for a few hours once in awhile to keep the bugs down. I had to make an 8′ tall fence-even chickens with a clipped wing can jump pretty high!