Keeping bees with chickens

Keeping bees and chickens in the same coop

Bryan in Atlanta sent in photos of his finished Garden Coop walk-in chicken 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. . . . 

Can you keep 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 chicken 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.

How we set up our hive

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.

What is 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.

Building our Garden Coop walk-in chicken coop

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 chicken coop 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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