The ducks and chickens live in the same house but have their own self-assigned sides. The ducks go into the chickens’ side to eat but the chickens rare go to the duck side. There are few days in winter that the birds are watered inside. Ducks are ridiculously messy and after all, these are birds. They belong outside at least long enough to get some exercise and sunshine when they get a drink. If it’s horribly cold and/or windy they stay in. They wouldn’t go out to get a drink if the door were left open all day. They go to the edge of the door and drink there.

The chickens need better perches than they have now. The wide side of the 2″ x 4″ they’re using collects a lot of manure. It doesn’t allow them to wrap their toes around to hang on. It’s ugly. This time around I’ll go into the woods and cut down saplings. They’ll be nailed in place. I’m thinking of cutting down a sturdy tree with good branches for perches to give them a bit of variety. I know they’re “just chickens” but birds with variety and something to do are happy birds, and happy birds lay more eggs.

The new coop should have two or three opaque panels on the roof to let natural light in. I don’t like to keep the light on all day when it’s overcast. The panels will let in enough light to keep them happy without running up the light bill.

The back of the coop faces east, the front west. The human door is on the south side. The roof peaks such that the snow comes off in front of the bird door. This new coop will face south and the bird doors will be on the east and west sides. Facing south, the snow will slide off the roof without blocking bird doors. I’ll have to shovel in front of the human door but I do that now anyway. Steve will plow the majority of snow away from the door after each storm.

The pen is on the east side. The new coop will have pens on the east and west side. The birds will go out on the east side in winter so they can make the most of sunshine. In summer, they’ll go out on the west side to enjoy the shade. I’ll reseed clover and perennial grass when the birds are on the opposite side.

Nest boxes need to be replaced and I’m not sure yet what I want to do. I’d like to be able to open a panel from outside and get the eggs. That’s a convenient method but I don’t think it’s best for me. I want to lay eyes on each bird at least twice a day. Going inside to get the eggs makes me trade easy for practical. Years ago a Barred Rock hen flew up to a perch, caught her toe on something, and hung upside down until she died. I hadn’t gone in that morning to get the eggs. Years later, I think of it often.

I’m still thinking it through. I’d love to hear your suggestions if you’ve got something that works particularly well for you!