How to heat your chickens’ nipple waterer in the winter

Heater for poultry nipple waterer

Just a quick post to share what we did last winter to keep our chickens’ nipple waterer from freezing. We bought an immersible birdbath heater (see our Buyer’s Guide for more details). Because the element rests at the bottom of the bucket, near the nipples, the warmth not only kept the nipples from freezing, but also kept any drops that formed on the outside of the nipples from freezing.

This particular heater has a built-in thermostat that kicks in when the water temperature dips below 40 degrees, so it’s not necessarily running all the time, which is good for conserving electricity. You just have to make sure there’s always enough water in the bucket to keep the heater submerged.

Here’s how I installed the heater in our 3.5-gallon hanging bucket waterer:

Set the element in the bottom of the bucket, near the nipples. . .

Chicken waterer heater for winter
Trim a small opening in the lid edge near the lip of the bucket. . .

Keep chickens' water from freezing
Secure the cord there with the provided hardware and run the electrical plug safely out of the way and connect it to an extension cord or directly to a power outlet.

Electric birdbath heater for keeping chickens' water from freezing

It was well worth the cost and minimal effort to install it. Which reminds me — time to do that again right now!


Introducing the Peck-It-Clean Veggie Feeder for Chickens

We feed our chickens lots of loose greens, veggies, and garden scraps. They love them. But since chickens eat by pecking and tearing, loose foods like these can get tossed about in the coop, trampled in the run, and sometimes not eaten at all.

So we looked around for a device — something like a hay feeder for larger animals — that would hold loose veggies in place, providing enough resistance to allow chickens to eat more naturally and efficiently. We didn’t find anything, so we set about to create our own DIY veggie feeder, something that would be easy to make and would work in any coop or run.

The final product was so simple and so perfect for the job. It’s now our favorite thing in the coop (after the chickens, I’m obligated to say):

Chickens eating from Veggie Feeder

How it works

To see how it works, take a look as our flock makes quick work of a large zucchini in the veggie feeder. The video is at 20x speed, actually, so this one piece of fruit kept them active for a full 20 minutes:

Make your own, or get one from us

You can easily make your own veggie feeder if you have the supplies on hand (a grill/grate/grid or a section of heavy-gauge wire mesh with openings of around 1″ or 1.5″; a weather-proof elastic cord and toggle; and outdoor-rated zip/cable ties).

If not, order one of ours — the Peck-It-Clean™ Veggie Feeder for Chickens. It’s priced right, ships free and fast, looks nice in matching black, and goes up in minutes. And while it’s a handy accessory to have in your coop year round, it’s particularly useful for helping your chickens stay active and well nourished in the colder months.

Check it out, leave a comment or question below, and pass the idea along!

Make It Your Own: “Krewe of Coops” Virtual Chicken Coop Tour, No. 4 — A Dozen Larger Garden Coops

Karen's larger Garden Coop with expanded hen house
We’re blowing it up in this fourth ride of the Krewe of Coops, featuring a dozen examples of coops from customers who’ve modified The Garden Coop walk-in chicken coop design to build larger, wider, deeper, taller. Enjoy the parade! Read more and discuss »

Make It Your Own: “Krewe of Coops” Virtual Chicken Coop Tour, No. 3

In this third ride of the Krewe of Coops, we feature The Garden Ark mobile chicken coop design, with several examples from around the U.S. Enjoy the parade!

Read more and discuss »

Po-boy & The Garlic: Or how to protect your vegetables with a secure garden enclosure

Here in the city, we don’t have to worry so much about our vegetable garden getting gobbled up by foragers like deer or rabbits. But we do have our own band of interlopers to contend with: squirrels, crows, and, in our case, a curious tomcat named Po-boy.

Po-boy is our neighbors’ cat. He’s adorable, and he’s perfectly welcome in our yard. He’s welcome to visit the chickens. . .

Cat at peace with backyard chickens

He’s welcome to climb the persimmon tree. . .

Po-boy climbs the persimmon tree by the chicken coop

But he’s no longer welcome to frolic in our garlic.  Read more and discuss »

VIDEO: Clog-free way to keep debris out of your rain barrel

I changed out our rain barrel filter today and shot this quick video to show how we keep leaves and roof debris from entering our barrels.

Simply wrap a nylon stocking over the funnel between your downspout or diverter and your barrel. Insert the closed end of the stocking into the barrel and let it hang down. Debris will collect at the end, but won’t impede the flow of water (at least not for a while), since the stocking stretches and remains permeable above the debris.

Make It Your Own: Michelle’s “Hippie Chicks” Chicken Coop, Durham, North Carolina

Hippie Chicks chicken coop from The Basic Coop plans
Michelle built this adorable North Carolina chicken coop using The Basic Coop plans and hardware kit. Her four chicks moved in in the fall, and she wrote recently to say that they made it through the cold, snowy winter with no issues — and no added light or heat (or lava lamps).  Read more and discuss »

Make It Your Own: “Krewe of Coops” Virtual Chicken Coop Tour, No. 2

It’s time again for the Krewe of Coops, a celebration of what people have been building with our chicken coop plans. This time, we’re featuring The Garden Coop design exclusively, with nine fantastic examples from across the U.S. and one from Australia. So gather your feathered friends, find a comfy perch, and enjoy the parade!

Read more and discuss »

GIVEAWAY: Enter today for a chance to win free chicken coop plans

As part of Backyard Poultry Magazine’s Giveaway Thursday promotion, you could win a free set of our chicken coop or run plans. Visit this post on their Facebook page and let them know which of our designs you’d most like to build. They’ll select and announce a winner very soon. Good luck!

PS: You’re more than welcome to leave a comment here, but you must comment on their post to enter.

VIDEO: Chickens exploring The Garden Run

I shot this just after opening up The Garden Run to our chickens for the first time last spring, expanding their secure daytime space threefold.

We’ve since added perches, grazing frames, an herb/succulent garden (on top of the half-height module), a small roof, and vining jasmine to the run. Yet even without those features in place, you can see that the hens are very much engaged in the run right from the start, moving from one “room” to another to forage together or separately.

You can configure The Garden Run however you like, building one module or many. As you can see in the video, multiple modules work together to create a variety spaces for your chickens to explore.

Instant download. Instant gift. A project to share.

Building A Chicken Coop

Okay, this last-minute gift idea will only work with someone you truly love. Because while it’d be so easy to print out chicken coop plans, put a bow on them, and say “best of luck with that,” it would mean a whole lot more if the plans came with your promise to help in the project. So gift away, but be ready to roll up your sleeves!

Enter discount code ORPINGTON at checkout for $5 OFF plans for The Garden Run – Complete Series, good through December 31, 2014.

The Garden Run is our latest design series, a modular system that connects to any coop to expand your chickens’ yard securely and beautifully. The plans for the complete series of designs are quite beefy, full of illustrations, photos, and detailed instructions — 80 pages in all! And as with all our plans, you can download, print, and gift them right away.

Click here to browse all our chicken coop plans. We wish you happy holidays and a great start to the new year.

Photo courtesy of Karen and family in Maine. You can read about their chicken coop build here


Introducing The Garden Run

The Garden Run chicken run plans

The Garden Run is a series of modular enclosures that attach to your coop and to each other so you can extend or create a beautiful, secure habitat for your backyard chickens, rabbits, ducks, and more.

Take a closer look here. And please help spread the word!

The three core designs include a knee-high hinged-top module, a chest-high garden-top module, and a walk-in pergola. You can build one or link a few (or more) together. They connect neatly to all our chicken coop designs and to any other coop or hutch. And they can be mixed, repeated, stacked, inverted — whatever you want. I’m really excited to see the configurations people come up with.

A big thank you to all of you who’ve shared photos and ideas, read the blog, and generally stayed in touch over the years. It takes a lot to get from an idea to a finished design — and then even more to get to finished plans. It helps me to know that the work will be appreciated. So thank you! I hope you find that these chicken run designs make keeping backyard chickens even more fun.

How to move The Garden Coop chicken coop

Moving The Garden Coop chicken coop Portland Oregon

Why did the chicken coop cross the road? 

I’d love to hear your punchline in the comments, but first let’s address the fact that sometimes a chicken coop does indeed have to cross a road — sometimes even several roads.

Maybe you’re moving and you want to take it with you. Maybe you sold it to someone in town. Either way, it’s gotta roll. And while that’s easy with a smaller coop, if you built a walk-in coop like The Garden Coop, relocating it takes planning and effort.

In this post, I cover a few things that may help:

  • Tips for building The Garden Coop so it’s easier to move later
  • How to move The Garden Coop once it’s built and in place
  • Alternatives to moving your chicken coop

Stay to the end for a special treat: Chevy’s Big Garden Coop Move pictures and video of a real-life, cross-town chicken coop move. Portlandia’s got nothing on this action.  Read more and discuss »

Make It Your Own: Sandra and John’s Basic Coop, Layton, Utah

Basic Chicken Coop from Plans

Sandra and John used The Basic Coop stand-alone chicken coop plans to build this home for their mixed flock of standard and bantam hens in Utah. They made a few modifications to suit their needs:  Read more and discuss »

Make It Your Own: Rebecca’s Basic Coop and Run

Basic plywood chicken coop built from plans.

Rebecca from just outside Philadelphia sent in a couple pictures of her new Basic Coop stand-alone chicken coop and attached run. I’m impressed by the height modification she made, her choice of siding and color, and the way she thought through the whole process to build a coop that would suit her needs. What’s even more impressive is that this is one of her first-ever building projects. The rest of the post comes directly from her. . .  Read more and discuss »