Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the backyard of Brian and Tara, thirty-something parents who just started keeping chickens. They used the standard sized chicken coop plans from my book Modern Homestead to come up with a variation that would work for their backyard. It was really cool to see what a basic plan and a little imagination can come up with.

The modifications they made were fairly slight. The hen house portion is not quite as tall and they left a gap toward the top, lined with wire, for increased ventilation. As with most new coops, I heard the familiar “it’s not totally done yet…” line that we’ve all muttered before. They still have a coat of paint to add, but I think it looks great already.

As life can be on the modern homestead, they’ve run into a few bumps along the homesteading road. After raising four chicks, one ended up being a rooster who had to be rehomed. It looked to me like one of their other chickens, a Brahma named Roseline, is actually Ross. Not great odds to have 50% turn out to be male chickens when you bought them sexed. Usually your odds are more like 25% that will turn out to be roosters. My advice was to wait until they hear him/her crow for sure. If the chicken is indeed a rooster, he will surely get the hang of crowing and let the world hear it soon.

Brian and Tara are avid homebrewers and use the leftover grain from their brewing to feed the chickens. The flock has access to regular layer feed, but it sounds like they go ga-ga whenever the spent grain comes out. The chicken manure has resulted in an active compost pile and they are working on raised beds to use the finish humus come springtime. Funny how one step always seems to lead to another!

I always enjoy the chance to peek into the backyard of my friends and neighbors, whether they are homesteading pros or newbies. It’s a chance to swap stories and remember just how far I’ve come on this rocky road.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson