Keeping bees with chickens

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Keeping bees and chickens in the same coop

Bryan in Atlanta sent in photos of his finished Garden Coop, which he expanded so that he could keep bees and chickens together. I found the idea fascinating, so I asked him to explain how his plan to incorporate a bee hive informed his chicken coop build. The rest of this post comes directly from him. . . . 

Keeping bees with chickens

Bees and chickens have a symbiotic relationship. One of the main pests for bees is something called a small hive beetle. The beetles pupate in the soil outside the hive. Chickens love to eat small hive beetle larvae and pupae. They scratch around in the dirt outside the hive and diminish the future hive beetle population. Other than that, the bees and chickens rarely mess with each other.

Automatic chicken coop door separates chickens from run with bee hive

We built a double-long Garden Coop: one coop frame next to another. One frame has no roof, and that’s where we keep our bees. There is hardware cloth between the two sections and an automatic door that allows the hens to go back and forth during the day. At night, the door closes to keep the chickens securely in the enclosed portion of the coop.

Our hive setup

We planned to have two hives, and we wanted to make sure that they would fit neatly inside the open portion of our coop while still giving us room to access the hives for periodic inspection and maintenance. Hives come in pretty standard sizes. Most hives for backyard beekeepers are the same width and depth, with the only variable being the height.

Bee hive in an enclosed chicken coop run

We also knew that we wanted to put the hives on individual stands for easier access without bending and to keep the hens at a safe distance from the entrance to the hive. Because of the weight of bee hives when they’re full of honey, the stands have to be pretty sturdy. Ours have slightly flared legs.

Luckily, the chicken runs are just wide enough for our hive stands. We only have one hive in there at the moment, but two will fit just fine. We think that three would be too tight, but that’s mostly a personal preference about how much space we want around them. I could see up to four hives in there on a single platform-like stand.

The bees’ flightpath

The bees mostly fly up and out, which is their natural flightpath anyway. I can get right up next to the entrance to the hive on the other side of the hardware cloth and not be bothered by them at all. But we have noticed that they can and do fly through the hardware cloth on occasion.

About our Garden Coop build

My wife and I did about half of the work ourselves with help from a handyman friend for some of the detail work near the end. The chicken coop is painted to match our garage, and the round window in the henhouse mimics an architectural feature on that building. We used black hardware cloth, which is almost invisible from a distance.

Expanded Garden Coop Chicken Coop with Run and Bee Hive

We added the external nesting boxes and covered the henhouse floor with some scrap linoleum. We also painted the inside of the henhouse with some leftover blue paint from another project.

Exterior chicken laying boxes

I rigged up a nipple waterer connected to a rain barrel. The rain barrel sits outside the coop, so the hose for the waterer has to go through the hardware cloth. I made a flange of sorts with some scrap wood to keep things secure.

Rain barrel connected to chicken waterer nipples

Poultry nipples attached to rain barrel

By the way, we love The Garden Coop design. Having the design plans really empowered us to do a lot of the work ourselves so we could build the coop we wanted at a price we could afford.

Many thanks to Bryan for sharing how he incorporated a bee hive into his chicken coop and run. Like what he’s done? Have your own experience keeping bees and chickens together? Please let us know with a comment below. 

 

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13 Responses to “Keeping bees with chickens”

  1. Lawrence says:

    this combination is great, we can get rid of mites by chickens, and chickens are protected from predators :) thanks for helpful info

  2. This is truly inspiring!! I have fallen in love with chickens and becoming more self sufficient. I just started researching about beekeeping and have wanted to know if chickens and bees could coexist and this article has really helped reassure me that it could happen. Now just to convince the hubby that bees would be a good idea lol

  3. John Thoennes says:

    So very cool! I live in the city and space is at a premium. Your design is epic! I’m researching how to begin. My city allows for both. I’m wondering how much time/ dollars spent maintaining such an op. Seems an expensive and time consuming venture. Full time job with kids and dogs. Hoping it won’t be something we can’t handle.

  4. Jenn says:

    How do you fill the rain barrel? I do not see any gutters. Do you manually fill it with a hose periodically?

  5. Josh says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Could you provide a list of items used for the nipple watering system you rigged up? Pretty nifty. Mostly interested in what kind of nipples you bought and where you got them. Thanks.

  6. Mary says:

    I had a bee hive this summer and the bees would fly into the chicken run and land on the water bowl. the chickens never bothered the bees

  7. Fancine West says:

    We have a coop built several years ago, big enough for us to walk in and get the eggs, and fill the feeders. 6′ by 9′ is completely enclosed, with a chicken door to a roofed in area 9′ by 12′. Each section has a man sized door, for our access. For the last few days bees have been coming in through the wire cloth side, and eating the cracked corn we keep in a huge plate, and getting in their feeder pellets. We live in CA, not sure if they are meat bees, or what, but there are 100′s of them coming in the coop. This is only the second day this has happened, and I went out last night to close up the outside chicken door and the bees were not in sight, but back today. What to do?

  8. Kathy Wysocki says:

    I like this idea. I have one hive by my son’s farm. It would be good to have pollinators next to my flowers and vegetable garden.

  9. Kathy Wysocki says:

    This would be a real neat idea to put in a already fenced in the garden.
    The chickens will scratch and eat the bugs while the bees will polenate the vegetables.

  10. Lisa Mabry says:

    Bryan – I’m a beekeeper in Florida – love your design – I just ordered the Garden Coop plans and will get started this spring – I want to know, you mention bees fly through the hardware cloth – wonder how often they fly over to the chicken side – do they fill the house? Also, “double long” is how you describe your coop, will you share exactly how long your entire coop/runs total the picture looks awesome – Does the whole end (bee side) open up? or was that picture taken before you finished – wondering about pulling out supers and hive boxes through a doorway. I may just use it for NUC’s and queen rearing, great thought on how to keep small hive beetle population down – thanks so much for posting – Lisa

    • Bryan Sells says:

      Lisa-

      Thanks for your comment and questions.

      I have never seen a bee on the chicken side. I have also never seen a bee in the henhouse. They could certainly fly through the hardware cloth into the enclosed chicken area, but there’s really no reason for them to do so. This may have something to do with the fact that we don’t have an open waterer on the chicken side. We use nipple waterers, which the bees cannot readily use, and we have water for bees in an area that’s much easier for them to get to.

      As for length, it is really two times the length of the original Garden Coop. If I remember correctly, the original is about 9 feet long, so ours would be about 18 feet long, not counting the roof which overhangs by about a foot.

      Yes, the whole end of the bee side opens up. We improvised a double door. That gives us about 5 or 5.5 feet of opening at the end with both doors open. Getting hive boxes in and out hasn’t been any problem, but of course that’s not something we have to do very often.

      Hope this helps.

      Byran

  11. Deneta Sells says:

    Hi Linda! Great comments, thanks! So far we haven’t had the “problem” of so much honey that the hives get too tall. I am pretty tall myself, and we can work a small step-stool into the run so that I think it would be a good problem to have and not insurmountable. We modeled the hive stands on the ones used at the White House. There are pictures of their beekeepers using ladders to collect honey, so I look forward to that challenge.

    A few seasons in, and now with two hives in the run, I can definitely say it can be a bit snug, but not too tight. Because I keep the outer door open while I am in the run, I usually keep the hens in the covered portion while I am working the hives. The smoke doesn’t bother them at all.

    We try to keep a variety of water sources out in the garden for the bees; they can’t get to the chickens’ waterer at all. It is a completely closed system.

  12. Linda says:

    As you add boxes to the hive over the summer, it is going to be harder to access them at that height, unless you are really tall, and there won’t be much room to take off the outer and inner covers, etc. I would lower the boxes and also face the entrance out and south so the bees have a clear flight path. The hive stand appears to be facing toward the closed side of the coop? The space looks tight to me to work on the hives too. Will the smoker frighten the chickens? The bees will also go to the waterer on occasion.

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