6 Chicken Coop Mistakes I Made (And How To Avoid Them)

Raising chickens for egg production (or meat) is easy. Even so, take a little advice and avoid some of the chicken coop mistakes I made when I first started!

Originally published in November 2014; this post has been updated.

1 white rooster with five hens standing outside a coop.

Raising Chickens 

Urban chickens seem to be taking cities by storm — at least in the cities with reasonable codes that allow raising small livestock.

Even folks who have never raised farm animals are coming to realize that a handful of hens can easily be accommodated on a city lot and they provide both eggs and manure (for those urban gardens!). Why wouldn’t you want to jump on this bandwagon?

If you’re building a DIY chicken coop for your birds, there are some things to consider. 

Common Chicken Coop Mistakes

Of course, there is a learning curve to chicken keeping. In nearly 25 years of raising chickens for eggs, I’ve learned a thing or two — mostly by doing it wrong at first!

6 Mistakes I Made in the Hen House (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Know Your Predators

My hens live in a very simple enclosure that protects them from wandering dogs. We’re lucky that wandering dogs are really the biggest threat to my hens in my current location.

When a mongoose takes up residence nearby, he or she is primarily after eggs or small chicks. We try to keep the foliage cut back near the coop to discourage them from moving in, but when they do, we use a trap.

When we were raising poultry for eggs in another location, we battled skunks, raccoons, bobcats, and hawks, and we lost a fair number of chickens. Even though the girls were caged, some predators were wily enough to burrow under the fence.

Concrete blocks and wire are one way to really secure a coop. Or you might try installing one of these solar predator control lights. If you’ve got flying predators, you’ll want to be sure to add an upper barrier to keep them from flying in.

attainable sustainable book cover
Attainable Sustainablethe lost art of self-reliant living

Embrace handcrafting and homesteading with DIY projects, recipes, and gardening tips!

👉 Click here to get started 👈

Keep Their Food Dry

Don’t be like me and make do by simply tucking chicken feed bags inside the coop. I’ve lost so much chicken food over the years this way, both from moisture that causes the feed to mold and rodents.

I finally got smart and added a garbage can with a lid to my chicken coop. When I open a new bag of feed it goes directly into the can where it’s protected from the weather. Keeping it contained like this also helps as preventative pest control to keep mice and rats from hanging around.

Raising chickens for eggs can get expensive if you’re wasting a lot of food. And that makes for expensive homegrown eggs!

brown chickens at feeding trough

Discourage Mosquitos

Open water troughs—especially in my tropical climate—breed mosquitos. I kick myself every time I have to dump the chicken’s water to eliminate mosquito larvae. It’s a waste of water, plus it’s one more thing that I really don’t need to be doing.

I just need to make one of these. It’s on my list of things to do.

barred rock, buff orpington hens on a green pasture

Make it Easy

If you’re building a backyard chicken coop and nesting boxes, take the time to add an access door that will allow you to gather eggs without actually entering the hen house.

Trust me. When you’re in the midst of making a cake and realize you need a couple of eggs, you don’t want to have to fight through a flock of hens who think you might have a tasty tidbit or risk stepping in poop.

You will thank me later.

brown hen with black chicks

Don’t Overdo It

My first hen house had space for a half dozen hens and had, accordingly, a half dozen laying boxes. Overkill, big time.

Even though we eventually added more hens, we could easily have gotten away with just a couple of boxes. Sometimes the girls even like to share a nesting box. 

Make it a Slippery Slope

Any level or flat surface in the hen house will be seen as a potential roosting place. Flat topped nesting box? They’ll roost on it and poop all over. Chicken feeder in the coop? Ditto.

After we built our six laying boxes (see above — overkill) we discovered very quickly that they needed a sloped top to prevent one big chicken-poopy mess. Raising chickens shouldn’t require you to constantly clean up after them.

6 Mistakes I Made in the Chicken Coop (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Provide a Dust Bath

Chickens like to have a dry patch of dirt in which they can bathe. They roll around in the dirt, flapping their wings to get the dust into their feathers and against their skin. It’s one way for them to help prevent mites. 

Just making sure there is a dry outdoor space for the chickens to scratch is sufficient; they will scratch themselves an area to roll around in. 

You can also create a designated dust bath in a covered area that will stay dry. You can dig a hole or create a frame to contain the dry dirt. Some chicken keepers like to add sand and wood ash.

I’ve found that given the choice, my chickens prefer to make their own dust bathing area. 

Give them Fresh Air

While chicken coops are a great place for your girls to stay warm and dry overnight or during the cold winter months, if you can provide them an outdoor area in which they can scratch and peck, they will be happier.

rooster peeking through a crack in grey barnwood

Trying to decide between chickens and ducks? Read about how chicken eggs and duck eggs compare.

Click to save or share!

About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

107 comments… add one
  • Rich Mar 24, 2016 @ 11:06

    Kris, I love my new bucket watering system but I did make one small change. Go for the horizontal nipples instead of the vertical ones. They don’t leak like the vertical ones, but more importantly you can now set the bucket down on the ground without damaging the nipples.
    Thanks for the great article!

  • Susanne Dec 16, 2015 @ 12:54

    Put up some bat houses to deal with mosquitoes.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 27, 2015 @ 8:27

      I’m still trying to find out if our native bats *use bat houses. More research I need to do!

      • Robin Beard Apr 17, 2021 @ 6:15

        Face the bat houses south

        • Attainable Sustainable Apr 24, 2021 @ 9:07

          I’ll add this tip to my Bat House research. Thank you, Robin.

  • jennifer Dec 15, 2015 @ 14:57

    nice info. would have liked some pictures of your coop…

    • Michelle May 29, 2022 @ 17:48


  • Joanne Tipler Sep 25, 2015 @ 3:13

    the hens are so very entertaining, my husband and I often say “Who needs TV, we’ve got chickens”.

  • Kathy Jul 13, 2015 @ 0:37

    Everyone has had a horrible run at their chicken coop! Ive had chooks my whole life, and that has resulted in some weird and wonderful solutions – the key to any chicken coop is maintenance https://bit.ly/1FXifNk

  • beth Dec 31, 2014 @ 6:20

    Love the tips! The chicken signs are great too

  • Ashley Nov 12, 2014 @ 3:12

    Love the sign you picked Kris! It fits you nicely 🙂 I’d pick the “Please Close The Gate”. Why? To remind myself as my animals are always loose! Miss you lady <3

  • Hilary Nov 10, 2014 @ 17:36

    I like the Fresh Vegetables Signs.

  • nancy Nov 9, 2014 @ 11:26

    Honey bees at work 9′ rounf milk paint. ..perfect!

  • Sarah Willits Nov 9, 2014 @ 8:02

    Love all the signs! I would be super happy with any one of them because they are all too cute to decide from.

  • Nina Nelson Nov 9, 2014 @ 4:22

    I want one of the Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens sign, though it will take me a while to decide which color. Also, I must have the black sheep sign!

  • Darryl Coleman Nov 9, 2014 @ 3:57

    Wow those signs R great… Love the dogs R playing and the Organic Eggs… We live in Cow & Horse country and my 3 dogs LOVE to run… Eggs – I just Bcame a Chicken Mama and my attention has had to change, again to pay more attention 2 others…>>>!

  • Wendy Nov 8, 2014 @ 21:02

    Hmmmmm….”goats at play” or “be a black sheep”, how to decide???

  • Jane Cornwell Nov 8, 2014 @ 19:45

    Love like a golden

  • Melanie @Frugal Kiwi Nov 8, 2014 @ 16:32

    So many cute signs and not just the chicken ones. I think Casa de pollos is my fave though.

  • Sara Bell Nov 8, 2014 @ 12:56

    I would love the Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens Sign 9” x 12” Purple one. They are all so cute. I would love any of them.

  • Lynne Nov 8, 2014 @ 11:20

    “A Rescue Dog is My Best Friend”…because she is!

  • Carol Nov 8, 2014 @ 9:34

    Honeybees at Work!
    They are all amazing 🙂

  • Traci Nov 8, 2014 @ 9:31

    I would choose exact;y the same sign as your photo above,
    Fresh Eggs From Happy Chickens sign 9” x 12” – Mineral Blue

  • Sally Eastman Nov 8, 2014 @ 9:10

    I would want to win the fresh eggs from happy chickens 9×12 milk paint sign!

  • cynthia lowe Nov 8, 2014 @ 8:56

    Organic Chickens……mineral blue! All are great looking! Thank You!

  • Erin Nov 8, 2014 @ 8:47

    this is one of my go to sites 🙂 if I win I’d like the fresh eggs sign

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 8, 2014 @ 9:07

      Aw, thanks!

  • Jessica Nov 8, 2014 @ 8:10

    I would choose the SLOW free range children and chickens at play.

  • Kimberly Nov 8, 2014 @ 7:13

    I’d love to win the purple 9×12 Fresh eggs from happy chickens for my daughter-in-law. She has chickens. I love to read your articles.

  • Ailee f. Nov 8, 2014 @ 1:53

    I would love one of the Honey Bees at Work signs for our hive arrival next spring!

  • Lindy@kozynook Nov 7, 2014 @ 20:01

    The Organic Vegetables sign would be great. Good luck to everyone.

  • Kim Nov 7, 2014 @ 16:15

    I would love the red 9 x 12 fresh eggs from happy chickens sign.

  • Anne Marie Nov 7, 2014 @ 15:55

    I adore ‘Be the black sheep’ one suits me and the family!

  • layne Nov 7, 2014 @ 14:51

    I love the happy chickens sign and the chicken farmer shirt. These are so cute. What a great idea.

  • Julie Nov 7, 2014 @ 14:30

    Fresh Eggs would be my first choice. I enjoyed hearing about your mistakes. I’ve made them all + a few more, we learn without making mistakes.

  • Pat Nov 7, 2014 @ 14:09

    I like the Farm Fresh Eggs sign so hard to choose

  • Joe Tucker Nov 7, 2014 @ 12:41

    Thanks for the tips! I like the 9″ round black Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens. I am rebuilding the coop for the spring. ..recycled front door and other bits all painted purple.

  • shawnna Nov 7, 2014 @ 11:41

    It’s so hard to choose just one!!!
    Either the “Barred Rock Cafe” or “Life is better with Border collies”

  • Donna Allgaier-Lamberti Nov 7, 2014 @ 10:19

    I would be thrilled to win any of these great signs… My favorite is the “Dog at Play” the one with the black Lab OR the chicken sign. Feel free to checkout my blog at https://smallhouseunderabigskyhomestead.wordpress.com
    Donna at the Small House Homestead.

  • JoAnne Proger Nov 7, 2014 @ 10:10

    I would love to win an orange – goats at play – sign:) But they are all really cute!!!

  • Susan Roragen Nov 7, 2014 @ 9:53

    I like the polka dot chicken shown; but also the
    Sun Flower – Here Comes the Sun

  • Missy C. Nov 7, 2014 @ 9:18

    I would love any of the farm fresh vegetable signs, the fresh organic vegetable signs, the fresh juicy blackberries sign or any of the rescue/shelter dog signs — so hard to choose!!!

  • leslie Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:57
  • Sadie B. Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:36

    I would choose the Farm Fresh Eggs Sign 12” x 18” Eggplant.

  • Carolyn Matheny Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:31

    I would like the circle sign with organic eggs on it. Thanks and I love your newsletters.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:46


  • Kristina Nov 7, 2014 @ 6:49

    They are all fabulous. I’d probably choose the happy chickens. I’ll probably end up with a whole collection of these!

  • Becky Nov 7, 2014 @ 5:34

    The last one on chicken and eggs-children and chickens at play. Though they are all very cute!

  • Barbara Brown Nov 7, 2014 @ 2:16

    I would love all of them but my favorite is…Fresh Eggs From Happy Chickens sign 9” x 12” – Milk Paint. Thank you.

  • Katie Nov 7, 2014 @ 0:45

    I love so many of the signs! My favorites are the organic garden sign and fresh eggs from happy chicken signs.

  • Deb Nov 6, 2014 @ 22:47

    You pick I love them all !!!!!!

  • Wendi Nov 6, 2014 @ 22:11

    I love the farm fresh eggs sign in milk paint and the be the black sheep sign in mineral blue. Thanks for the information and giveaway.

  • Wendi J. Nov 6, 2014 @ 21:46

    I love the farm fresh eggs sign in milk paint. Thanks for the information and the giveaway.

  • Jennifer Margulis Nov 6, 2014 @ 20:05

    I haven’t been here in awhile. Love the new look! That sign is adorable. We love our neighborhood chickens! And thanks for all this good information. Very useful!

  • Nicole Nov 6, 2014 @ 18:02

    I would love one of the farm fresh eggs from happy chickens signs

  • Anni Nov 6, 2014 @ 17:29

    I honestly hadn’t thought about the ‘steep surfaces’, to prevent chickens from roosting on them. We’re getting chickens again, hopefully soon, after many years of not having our own chickens! And one of our projects this winter is building the coop, so this is timely.
    BTW, that coop you linked to on Pinterest. Holy mackerel! Who comes up with that stuff?! 🙂

  • lauri Nov 6, 2014 @ 17:27

    I would choose the SLOW – Free Range Chickens and Kids Sign 12″ x 18″ – Mustard

  • Nancy wright Nov 6, 2014 @ 17:15

    Farm fresh veggies

  • Ami Kush Nov 6, 2014 @ 17:13

    I’d love to have the round “Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens” sign. Love your blogs. Thanks!

  • Chuck Routh Nov 6, 2014 @ 15:38

    Great tips!! Can’t wait to get some chicks

    Slow Goats at play sign

  • Margaret Nov 6, 2014 @ 15:29

    I would love a Chickens at Play sign or a goat sign….I do not have goats yet but so badly want some to go with my chickens!!!

  • Mike Nov 6, 2014 @ 14:50

    Anything Horsey

    Many Thanx,

    Mike Burke

  • Kim Nov 6, 2014 @ 14:32

    So you know…that part where you make it easy to collect eggs? Yeah, we did the same thing..kinda. Our chickens hate the nesting boxes so they lay on the floor of the coop. We’ve changed things around and we still can’t figure out why they prefer the floor. So, we have to open the door and walk in there every day to collect eggs. Oh well. 😉

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 7, 2014 @ 6:38

      Well yes, there are no guarantees that they’ll follow directions… 😉

  • Michael Brady Nov 6, 2014 @ 14:13

    Fresh eggs from happy chickens in red looks like a winner!

  • Tracy Nov 6, 2014 @ 12:59

    These are great tips. I have the issue with water sometimes in the summer too. For now I’ve just been trying to change it more often when it’s hot out, but the waterer you linked to looks interesting.

    This may be a silly comment, but I didn’t realise mongooses lived anywhere in the US. I used to love Rikki Tikki Tavi as a kid. 😉

  • Amy Nov 6, 2014 @ 12:43

    I’ve been asking her to make me an herb sign for almost a year. 😉
    And I definitely have my eyes on the pumpkin sign. Would love it!

  • linda spiker Nov 6, 2014 @ 12:42

    I wish we were allowed to have chickens in our neighborhood. But luckily I have friends that live in neighborhoods zoned for chickens so i get the fresh eggs with none of the work!

  • linda spiker Nov 6, 2014 @ 12:42

    I wish we were allowed to have chickens in our neighborhood. But luckily I have friends that live in neighborhoods zoned for chickens so i get the fresh eggs with none of the work!

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish Nov 6, 2014 @ 11:31

    Great post! Pinning it – such helpful info. I don’t have chickens at this time, but I hope to be able to have a few someday. LOVE the signs, so many to choose from and I love so many of them. I would probably chose the Honey Bees At Work sign.

  • Connie @ Urban Overalls Nov 6, 2014 @ 10:19

    Such a great list of things to keep in mind…especially for the first-time chicken keeper. Our coop sports 6 nest boxes (and we have 8 chickens)… and they all want to be in the same nest box.

  • Ariana {And Here We Are...} Nov 6, 2014 @ 9:56

    These are such great tips. We learned the hard way on a few of these!

  • Loriel @ Naturally Loriel Nov 6, 2014 @ 9:50

    OMG I love the signs! They are super cute and I think my coop needs one. I second on the slopes… My husband didn’t build the top of the nesting boxes steep enough so the girls get on there… and yes, there is poop on there too!

    Thanks for such a great post! Pinning!

  • Rachel @ day2dayjoys Nov 6, 2014 @ 9:45

    I am trying to convince my hubby that we need a chicken co-op!! When would be the best time to get started in your opinion? AND those signs are adorable! Maybe if I win one, I’ll show him and it’ll convince him 🙂

  • Lilia Zaharris Nov 6, 2014 @ 7:50

    You have the cutest signs! I would love to have one on my coop. My mistake was not making the run easily accessible and they keep kicking things into the far corners and I can’t reach them. Silly mistake 😉

  • Deb Nov 6, 2014 @ 7:47

    I would love the Organic Eggs in chocolate !!!!!!!

  • Maria Reaser Nov 6, 2014 @ 6:25

    I like the be the black sheep sign mineral blue, more than red

  • Shelly Nov 6, 2014 @ 6:16

    I love the rescue dog sign with the white dog with black spots and the chicken house signs in French and Spanish!

  • Heather Ismaili Nov 6, 2014 @ 5:40

    Love the signs, love both sites.

  • Melissa Nov 6, 2014 @ 4:17

    I’d totally go with the apple green Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens sign 🙂 Thanks for the chance!

  • Diana Smith Nov 6, 2014 @ 4:05

    Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens…my girls are happy , happy, happy and very productive

  • Sandy Nov 6, 2014 @ 3:15

    How adorable. I love them all! I like the fresh eggs from happy chickens. Although the casa de pollo would be just as cute. No wait, I think I like the farm fresh eggs one, too. Oh dear!

  • James Nov 6, 2014 @ 2:26

    SLOW – Free Range Chickens and Kids Sign 12″ x 18″ – Mustard

  • Chris Nov 5, 2014 @ 19:55

    I would be torn between three signs I’m afraid. I just love the Llama Drama sign. I can just imagine the llama in the picture about to put it’s nose in the air to let out a huge spray. The Handmade Natural soap sign is very practical and pretty. And I laughed at the “Be the Black Sheep” sign because that is so “me”.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 6, 2014 @ 8:47

      The black sheep is the one I want!

  • Catherine Nov 5, 2014 @ 15:19

    i would have to choose the eggs from happy chickens! I’m known for saying that all the time…thank you!

  • Tracy Jones Nov 5, 2014 @ 15:17

    I ran across Bainbridge Farm Goods before, I just love their signs!
    If I was to choose, I would get the “Fresh Eggs From Happy Ducks” sign.
    I raise waterfowl <3

  • Heidi Roberts Nov 5, 2014 @ 14:33

    Would love any but the goats… thank you! 🙂

  • Tuesday German Nov 5, 2014 @ 14:05

    Love the fresh eggs from happy chickens. Glad I ran on to this site. Can’t wait to explore further.

  • Rosalyn Nov 5, 2014 @ 13:27

    I’d choose the “Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens” sign in mineral blue. The hen on it reminds me of my first three laying ladies who were barred rocks. What a fun giveaway!

  • Kellie Deshotel Nov 5, 2014 @ 11:41

    I would like the fresh eggs from happy chickens in mineral blue. just like the photo! Thank you.

  • Sarah Barrera Nov 5, 2014 @ 11:13

    Love all the signs, but would have to choose the Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens! Thanks!

  • Kim Hunt Nov 5, 2014 @ 10:52

    So many cool ones to choose one but I would probably have to go with the rectangle blue check home is where your horse is sign 🙂

  • lloyd Nov 5, 2014 @ 9:54

    i like the square orange goats at play

  • Leah Nov 5, 2014 @ 9:32

    Love the 5 mph Chickens!

  • Christy Curtis Nov 5, 2014 @ 9:17

    I love the fresh eggs from happy chickens sign (milk paint)

  • Leona Nov 5, 2014 @ 9:10

    I would love the farm fresh eggs sign! So cute.

  • AJ Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:52

    Quality produced in the US can’t beat that – we love our happy chickens! so any Chickie sign would be great

  • Samantha Graf Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:34

    I love the goat one! I have dairy goats so having one of those would be lovely! 🙂

  • MJ Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:26

    I would choose Huevos Frescos in milk paint to take to Nicaragua on an upcoming mission trip to give to a person we will be giving a coop and chickens.

    • Rosalyn Nov 5, 2014 @ 13:28

      What a lovely idea! 🙂

    • Heidi Roberts Nov 5, 2014 @ 14:34

      Praise God! Extremely cool idea!

  • Jennifer Wood Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:22

    I would love the chicken sign. Thanks!

  • Anna Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:20

    The round soft blue “Fresh Eggs from Happy Chickens” would match my pink coop! 🙂

  • Diana Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:15

    I would likely choose either one of the “Fresh eggs from happy chickens” signs, or perhaps the Casa de Pollo sign — although my coop is known as “Cirque du Poulet”

  • Rich Nov 5, 2014 @ 8:14

    this is so cool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *