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

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

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

This post is sponsored by Bainbridge Farm Goods. They sent me several of their fun metal signs to embellish my chicken coop. I’m privileged to partner with this small business whose goal is to manufacture here in the U.S., provide jobs for their local community, and support small independent retailers. 

Raising chickens for eggs (and meat)

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? Of course, there is a learning curve. In nearly 20 years of raising chickens for eggs, I’ve learned a thing or two — mostly by doing it wrong at first!

Learn from my mistakes by implementing the tactics below when you start thinking about raising chickens — and check out these sweet signs from Bainbridge Farm Goods. (Aren’t they great?)

Know your predators

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

Keep their food clean and dry

Don’t be like me and make do by simply tucking feed bags inside the coop. I’ve lost so much chicken food over the years this way! I finally got smart and added a small garbage can 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 prevent 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!

More about feeding chickens here:

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.

Keep them contained

Gathering eggs means I have to enter the pen, fighting back the hens who would like to get out.. Once I’m in? They do their best to push their way out. They are impressively successful at this. Until now. (Sometimes it’s the simple solutions that take so long to implement and make such a big difference.)

A simple hook and eye latch on the inside of the coop allows me to contain them while I’m taking care of business on the inside.

Make raising chickens for eggs as easy as possible

If you’re building a chicken coop and nest 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. I also recommend keeping these items in your hen house.

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. Feed container 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)

Have fun with your hen house

Have you ever met a chicken owner who didn’t just love having hens? While I’m never going to go so far as to create a five-star coop like this for my girls, I’m not above adding a bit of pizazz to their digs. And trust me: You’re going to find that raising chickens is entertaining enough that you’ll be spending more time in your coop than you expect, just watching the show.

These signs from Bainbridge Farm Goods? They make me smile. And not just because I love the quirky designs. They’re designed and made in the USA, and printed with eco-friendly ink on aluminum made from recycled content.

buff orpington hen up close

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

104 comments… add one
  • Rich Nov 5, 2014, 8:14 am

    this is so cool

  • Diana Nov 5, 2014, 8:15 am

    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”

  • Anna Nov 5, 2014, 8:20 am

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

  • Jennifer Wood Nov 5, 2014, 8:22 am

    I would love the chicken sign. Thanks!

  • MJ Nov 5, 2014, 8:26 am

    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, 1:28 pm

      What a lovely idea! 🙂

    • Heidi Roberts Nov 5, 2014, 2:34 pm

      Praise God! Extremely cool idea!

  • Samantha Graf Nov 5, 2014, 8:34 am

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

  • AJ Nov 5, 2014, 8:52 am

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

  • Leona Nov 5, 2014, 9:10 am

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

  • Christy Curtis Nov 5, 2014, 9:17 am

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

  • Leah Nov 5, 2014, 9:32 am

    Love the 5 mph Chickens!

  • lloyd Nov 5, 2014, 9:54 am

    i like the square orange goats at play

  • Kim Hunt Nov 5, 2014, 10:52 am

    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 🙂

  • Sarah Barrera Nov 5, 2014, 11:13 am

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

  • Kellie Deshotel Nov 5, 2014, 11:41 am

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

  • Rosalyn Nov 5, 2014, 1:27 pm

    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!

  • Tuesday German Nov 5, 2014, 2:05 pm

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

  • Heidi Roberts Nov 5, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Would love any but the goats… thank you! 🙂

  • Tracy Jones Nov 5, 2014, 3:17 pm

    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

  • Catherine Nov 5, 2014, 3:19 pm

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

  • Chris Nov 5, 2014, 7:55 pm

    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 am

      The black sheep is the one I want!

  • James Nov 6, 2014, 2:26 am

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

  • Sandy Nov 6, 2014, 3:15 am

    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!

  • Diana Smith Nov 6, 2014, 4:05 am

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

  • Melissa Nov 6, 2014, 4:17 am

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

  • Heather Ismaili Nov 6, 2014, 5:40 am

    Love the signs, love both sites.

  • Shelly Nov 6, 2014, 6:16 am

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

  • Maria Reaser Nov 6, 2014, 6:25 am

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

  • Deb Nov 6, 2014, 7:47 am

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

  • Lilia Zaharris Nov 6, 2014, 7:50 am

    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 😉

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

    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 🙂

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

    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!

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

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

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • linda spiker Nov 6, 2014, 12:42 pm

    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 pm

    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!

  • Amy Nov 6, 2014, 12:43 pm

    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!

  • Tracy Nov 6, 2014, 12:59 pm

    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. 😉

  • Michael Brady Nov 6, 2014, 2:13 pm

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

  • Kim Nov 6, 2014, 2:32 pm

    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 am

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

  • Mike Nov 6, 2014, 2:50 pm

    Anything Horsey

    Many Thanx,

    Mike Burke

  • Margaret Nov 6, 2014, 3:29 pm

    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!!!

  • Chuck Routh Nov 6, 2014, 3:38 pm

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

    Slow Goats at play sign

  • Ami Kush Nov 6, 2014, 5:13 pm

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

  • Nancy wright Nov 6, 2014, 5:15 pm

    Farm fresh veggies

  • lauri Nov 6, 2014, 5:27 pm

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

  • Anni Nov 6, 2014, 5:29 pm

    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?! 🙂

  • Nicole Nov 6, 2014, 6:02 pm

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

  • Jennifer Margulis Nov 6, 2014, 8:05 pm

    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!

  • Wendi J. Nov 6, 2014, 9:46 pm

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

  • Wendi Nov 6, 2014, 10:11 pm

    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.

  • Deb Nov 6, 2014, 10:47 pm

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

  • Katie Nov 7, 2014, 12:45 am

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

  • Barbara Brown Nov 7, 2014, 2:16 am

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

  • Becky Nov 7, 2014, 5:34 am

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

  • Kristina Nov 7, 2014, 6:49 am

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

  • Carolyn Matheny Nov 7, 2014, 8:31 am

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

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 7, 2014, 8:46 am


  • Sadie B. Nov 7, 2014, 8:36 am

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

  • leslie Nov 7, 2014, 8:57 am
  • Missy C. Nov 7, 2014, 9:18 am

    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!!!

  • Susan Roragen Nov 7, 2014, 9:53 am

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

  • JoAnne Proger Nov 7, 2014, 10:10 am

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

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

    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
    Donna at the Small House Homestead.

  • shawnna Nov 7, 2014, 11:41 am

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

  • Joe Tucker Nov 7, 2014, 12:41 pm

    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.

  • Pat Nov 7, 2014, 2:09 pm

    I like the Farm Fresh Eggs sign so hard to choose

  • Julie Nov 7, 2014, 2:30 pm

    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.

  • layne Nov 7, 2014, 2:51 pm

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

  • Anne Marie Nov 7, 2014, 3:55 pm

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

  • Kim Nov 7, 2014, 4:15 pm

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

  • [email protected] Nov 7, 2014, 8:01 pm

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

  • Ailee f. Nov 8, 2014, 1:53 am

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

  • Kimberly Nov 8, 2014, 7:13 am

    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.

  • Jessica Nov 8, 2014, 8:10 am

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

  • Erin Nov 8, 2014, 8:47 am

    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 am

      Aw, thanks!

  • cynthia lowe Nov 8, 2014, 8:56 am

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

  • Sally Eastman Nov 8, 2014, 9:10 am

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

  • Traci Nov 8, 2014, 9:31 am

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

  • Carol Nov 8, 2014, 9:34 am

    Honeybees at Work!
    They are all amazing 🙂

  • Lynne Nov 8, 2014, 11:20 am

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

  • Sara Bell Nov 8, 2014, 12:56 pm

    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.

  • Melanie @Frugal Kiwi Nov 8, 2014, 4:32 pm

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

  • Jane Cornwell Nov 8, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Love like a golden

  • Wendy Nov 8, 2014, 9:02 pm

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

  • Darryl Coleman Nov 9, 2014, 3:57 am

    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…>>>!

  • Nina Nelson Nov 9, 2014, 4:22 am

    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!

  • Sarah Willits Nov 9, 2014, 8:02 am

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

  • nancy Nov 9, 2014, 11:26 am

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

  • Hilary Nov 10, 2014, 5:36 pm

    I like the Fresh Vegetables Signs.

  • Ashley Nov 12, 2014, 3:12 am

    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

  • beth Dec 31, 2014, 6:20 am

    Love the tips! The chicken signs are great too

  • Kathy Jul 13, 2015, 12:37 am

    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

  • Joanne Tipler Sep 25, 2015, 3:13 am

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

  • jennifer Dec 15, 2015, 2:57 pm

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

  • Susanne Dec 16, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Put up some bat houses to deal with mosquitoes.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 27, 2015, 8:27 am

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

  • Rich Mar 24, 2016, 11:06 am

    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!

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