Lisa Steele is a fifth-generation chicken keeper, aspiring herbalist, freelance writer, and author of Gardening with Chickens. She is the host of the new television show Fresh Eggs Daily with Lisa Steele airing in local Maine markets. Here Lisa shares how novice chicken keepers can decorate their coops with a few practical pieces.
More than a trend or passing phase, backyard chicken keeping is here to stay. As more and more people discover the joys of raising a backyard flock with delicious, fresh eggs at their service, chickens have become cherished backyard pets. The primary function of a chicken coop is to provide the flock a sheltered spot in which to lay their eggs and keep them safe from predators at night. A coop doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be functional. It should have spacious nesting boxes filled with soft nesting material; wide, sturdy roosting bars; plenty of ventilation; strong welded wire on the windows; and predator-proof latches on the doors that even the wiliest raccoon can’t unlatch.
But who’s to say you can’t add a bit of fun décor to your coop? From homemade treats to coops decorated with a variety of chic accoutrements, chickens enjoy living the high life while providing families with a steady supply of eggs. Chickens don’t ask for much in return, but today’s chicken keeper loves to spoil their flock. After all, spoiled chickens lay the freshest eggs! Keep reading to learn how to deck your coop.
Studies have shown that chickens will instinctively seek out the most secluded spot they can find to lay their eggs. Farmers hang empty feed sacks or burlap bags over the front of their chickens’ nesting area to encourage laying, but why stop there? Use some pretty material to fashion curtains on a rod installed in the coop. Tie the curtains back with lace or ribbon. If you don’t sew, use velcro, staples, or nail fabric in place. When the curtains get dusty, take them down for laundering or make anew!
Tossing some fresh or dried herbs into nesting boxes is another way to pretty things up. Herbs can help calm sitting hens, discourage mice and flies from lingering in the coop, and provide a little aromatherapy for the flock. Fragrant herbs and edible flowers such as lavender, rose petals, calendula, chamomile, lemon balm, and mint are all favorites of my flock.
Filling Mason jars with bouquets of fresh herbs does more than just look great. Place them on windowsills or hang them in bunches from a pegboard or hooks. This can help shoo away flies and pests from the coop, provide your chickens with a treat to munch on, and make your coop look and smell great. Basil, thyme, rosemary, and mint are good choices.
A well-dressed coop needs wallpaper, of course! Instead of traditional wallpaper, use vinyl contact paper or shelf liner on the walls. Not only does contact paper prevent mites or other insects from burrowing into the wood to hide, but it also makes cleanup incredibly easy. A wet sponge will quickly wipe the walls clean. Light-colored contact paper also has the benefit of brightening up the coop during winter.
Like getting the right wallpaper, purchasing a scrap of vinyl linoleum for the floor of your coop will make cleaning much easier. Mopping linoleum clean is far easier than trying to clean bare wood. It also will prevent floorboards from rotting in the case of spilled water.
Painting the exposed wood on the inside of the coop acts in much the same way as contact paper. Cleaning is easier and it makes the wood less attractive to burrowing insects. Just be sure to use non-toxic, low-VOC paint. Chalk or milk paint are both good choices. Choosing a light color will help brighten up the inside of the coop, especially during winter.
Chickens are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion, so keeping an eye on the coop’s temperature is important. Why not hang a large decorative thermometer to help you track the temperature? It can be as big and elaborate as you would like—the chickens won’t mind.
Hang a mirror on the wall of the coop during winter to keep hens from getting bored when they can’t be outside as much. They will enjoy watching themselves in the reflection. A word of warning if you have a rooster: If he catches sight of another handsome fellow in the coop, he might be tempted to fight him, so be aware of that potential for a broken mirror. You might want to save mirrors for hen-only coops.
Check eBay, antique shops, flea markets, or yard sales for metal egg baskets. If you’re the type who always forgets to bring a bowl or basket from the house to collect eggs, consider hanging a small assortment of egg baskets in the coop. Feed scoops are often inexpensive and can be hung individually or in groups on the walls.
Other fun coop décor might include a chandelier or luxe light fixture hanging from the ceiling. Stringing strands of Christmas lights turn a coop festive for the holidays, as do homemade pine garlands. As an added bonus, rodents are reputed to not enjoy the scent of pine, so the garlands can act as a mouse deterrent.
Adding a bit of coop décor is not only fanciful, but functional. Go ahead—grab your paintbrush and get decorating!