Health and Safety


How to heat your chickens’ nipple waterer in the winter

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

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!


How to predator proof the open floor of The Garden Ark mobile chicken coop

Monday, August 4th, 2014

How to close floor of chicken tractor coop

I’ve been working for some time on a solution to predator-proof the open floor of The Garden Ark mobile chicken tractor. The challenge has been finding a way to secure the floor without closing it off completely or permanently. After all, you need the open floor for mobility, cleaning, and access to grazing. After much trial, I finally came up with an elegant solution (essentially a version of one of these turned upside down) then put it to the test. It works perfectly, and now I’m excited to share it.  (more…)

Make It Your Own: Nate’s Winterized Wisconsin Garden Coop

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Winterized chicken coop built from The Garden Coop plans

With extremely cold weather dipping into the U.S. this winter, I thought I’d share some detailed notes I got from a customer in Galesville, Upper Wisconsin. He’s taken several steps to winterize his Garden Coop and reports that his flock of seven has stayed active, healthy, and laying — even as the mercury dips to 20 below. Read on to see what he’s done. The rest of this post comes directly from Nate. . .  (more…)

Keeping your New Year’s resolution to keep chickens

Monday, December 30th, 2013

nine hens sitting on roost in chicken coop

You’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to finally get chickens. Good for you. Chickens are low-maintenance pets that give so much in return. On top of the amazing compost, free entertainment, and fresh eggs right from your backyard, you’ll also gain the skills and confidence to tackle more projects down the line.

Here are 10 steps to help you stay focused so that your chicken keeping resolution becomes chicken keeping reality:  (more…)

How to make a simple nipple waterer for your chick brooder

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

In this tutorial, I show you how to make a clean, efficient nipple waterer for your chicks using a push-in poultry nipple and a couple of easy-to-find items. If you’d rather not do this yourself, you can purchase one of our ready-to-use Brooder Bottles here.

Simple chicken nipple waterer for a chick brooder.

NEW: Chick Brooder Cages

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Wire cage chick brooder.I’m gonna miss hearing the “cheep, cheep, cheep. . . “ of baby chicks this spring. Our current backyard flock is still healthy and laying strong, so it could be another couple years before we get to raise another batch of chicks.

I’ll be ready for them, anyway.

The first time we raised chicks, we rigged up a large cardboard contraption as their brooder and kept them in the garage. It did the trick, and as new chicken owners we had a lot of excess energy to put into making it work. Daily cleanup was a process, and the final cleanup (dust everywhere) was even more involved. 

This last go-round, we brooded them outside in the hen house of The Garden Ark, then graduated them to The Garden Coop hen house. That worked out really well, since keeping them outside also kept the dust outside.

But next time, the coops may still be occupied, so we’re gonna start them in one of these wire cage brooders that we now offer at [UPDATE: Please see our Buyer's Guide for brooder options, including getting this cage direct from the manufacturer.] Take a look.

How do you brood your backyard chicks? What’s worked and not worked for you? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Growing up with chickens: 5 things city kids learn by keeping a backyard flock

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

If you frequent Coop Thoughts, chances are you caught this recent coop-building story by Morgan Emrich. I love his take on things, so I invited him to author a post about his experience keeping chickens. Here it is. . .

Kids, Meet Chickens

Girl holding a chicken in her backyard chicken coopI would love to raise my kids on a farm. For a lot of reasons, that’s not going to happen. Like the majority of Americans I’m tethered to the city. But that doesn’t mean my children (9, 7, and 5 years old) can’t learn some of the lessons that farm kids take for granted.

Enter chickens.

Turns out a small flock of hens in the backyard can go a long way towards exposing children to things most city dwellers only get to read about in books. The concepts of natural cycles, environmental stewardship, biology, and our place in nature are no longer abstractions for my kids. Thanks to a small coop and a few chickens, these types of things have become concrete realities.

In particular, their feathered teachers have taught them five key lessons: (more…)

Poultry nipples for making your own chicken waterer

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

These push in style nipples let you make a DIY chicken waterer easilyIn addition to fully assembled chicken waterers, we’re now also offering the push-in poultry nipples you need to make your own.

These are the same push-in style nipples we use to make our waterers, sold separately in packs of five. They are made of quality stainless steel parts inside a durable, hard, red plastic casing, and they’re sealed with a long-lasting silicone grommet. Made in China.
Use a 3/8″ drill bit to make a hole in your tubing or container. Insert the grommet first, then the nipple. Moistening it may help it go in easier. If you are going to seal your container, be sure to create a separate hole near the top (above the water line) so that air can enter as the water goes out.
These are the same push-in style nipples we use to make our waterers, sold separately in packs of five. They are made of quality stainless steel parts inside a durable, hard, red plastic casing, and they’re sealed with a long-lasting silicone grommet. Take a look.

How to wrap your chicken coop for the winter

Friday, November 25th, 2011

The Garden Coop chicken coop design wrapped in plastic for the rainy winter seasonFor the past few winters, I’ve wrapped our Garden Coop in plastic sheeting to keep driving rain and snow (mostly rain here in the Pacific Northwest) out of the run area.

I’d love to say I do this for artistic reasons, à la Christo, but it’s really all about practicality. Plastic film is inexpensive, easy to put up, and keeps your hens dry and happy. And in the spring, you can just take it down, roll it up, and store it out of the way.

There are other solutions, of course — sheet siding, acrylic panels, canvas, landscape fabric. Let me know in the comments what has worked for you. (more…)

Discount code for non-toxic wood treatment and stains from Timber Pro UV

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

For visitors to, I’ve arranged a discount from Portland’s own Timber Pro UV on their non-toxic wood treatments and stains.

In particular, their Internal Wood Stabilizer product is ideally suited for chicken coops like The Garden Coop and The Garden Ark, safely protecting exposed exterior softwoods from rot and moisture damage in a way that stain or paint alone cannot.

Learn more and get the Timber Pro UV discount code here.

New nipple waterer for chickens

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Several months ago on the advice of a customer, I decided to make a DIY nipple waterer for our backyard chickens. Our birds were just chicks at the time, and keeping them supplied with fresh, clean water with their jar-and-saucer waterer was a frequent chore.

So I fashioned a simple waterer from a used plastic jug and a poultry nipple I bought online. The chicks took right to it, and the difference was remarkable.

No more spilled water. No more poopy water. No more worrying that their water had run dry.

When the flock graduated to the coop, their makeshift waterer went with them, and I started working on a more permanent solution for their larger space.

Here’s the nipple waterer I came up with — which I now also make to sell — and some videos showing you what you get and how it works. (more…)

Winter Chicken Coop Care, Part 4: Heating your chicken coop.

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

This is the last in a four-part series on getting your chickens and coop ready for the winter.

Should I heat my chicken coop in the winter?Once you’ve done everything else, you may find that you still want to provide extra warmth in your coop. We don’t heat the chicken coops in our yard, but many backyard chicken keepers in steady sub-freezing conditions have need for and success with artificial (electric) heat, through lamps, radiant heaters, and heated waterers.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered from customers and others who have used electric heat effectively (and be sure to read the comments section for more tips, cautions, and advice, particularly if you keep males as well as females): (more…)

Winter Chicken Coop Care, Part 3: Outfit your chicken coop for the winter.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This is the third in a four-part series on getting your chickens and coop ready for the winter.

Now we turn to the coop itself. In mild climates, chickens need only basic protection from the elements year round. If your coop keeps your hens dry and away from drafts, chances are you don’t need to make any special changes to it for the winter. If you expect temperatures to dip below freezing for a sustained time, you may want to take some added precautions to winterize your chicken coop: (more…)

Winter Chicken Coop Care, Pt. 2: How chickens keep themselves warm — and how you can help them.

Monday, November 15th, 2010

This is the second in a four-part series on preparing your backyard chickens and coop for cold weather.

Most standard laying hens are quite cold hardy (check this handy breed chart). Just look at their names: Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red. . . . These girls were bred to withstand cold climates well before the advent of electric heat. So how do they manage to withstand temperatures that send us scampering for the nearest cup of cocoa? (more…)

Winter Chicken Coop Care, Part 1: Clean your coop.

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Cold weather tips for backyard chickens and coopsWhether it’s your first winter keeping chickens or your fiftieth, it’s helpful to have a checklist for preparing your backyard coop for the change of seasons. Of course, what’s on your list will depend on a lot of things including your particular climate, coop design, chicken breeds, routines, and more.

In this four-part series, I’ll share what has worked for us to get our backyard chickens and coops ready for the cold. I’ll also include several ideas offered by The Garden Coop Facebook community and others on how to keep your flock healthy all winter long. So here we go. . . (more…)