Raising Chickens with Neighbors And Winning with Karen Thompson of Lil’ Suburban Homestead [Podcast]

If you’re raising chickens with neighbors near you, or if you haven’t gotten a flock yet because you’re worried about ticking off your neighbors, then this podcast is for you.


I talk with Karen Thompson of Lil’ Suburban Homestead who is passionate about teaching people to grow food and raise chickens on a suburban homestead.


In particular, Karen and I talk about how she raises chickens with neighbors on either side of her North Carolina homestead.


You’ll learn:


  • Karen’s top tip for raising chickens with neighbors without becoming the plague of your community
  • Why giving your neighbors eggs isn’t always the best way to smooth the path to chicken ownership
  • How she keeps in touch with her community to promote chickens – that you can replicate
  • About her “old, old” hen that she tells her husband is still laying



Links we discuss:


Lil’ Suburban Homestead website

Lil’ Suburban Homestead Facebook page



Coming soon.

How To Care For Your Baby Chicks Weeks 7-16 [Podcast]

Last week we tackled your backyard chicken’s first 6 weeks, and in this episode we take on weeks 7-16!


(Want to listen to last week’s episode first? Click here!)


Weeks 7-16 are a little bit different then weeks 1-6 (especially weeks 11-16!) so we break down how you should care for your chicks each week so they grow into healthy layers.


You’ll learn:

  • What to feed,
  • How to introduce your chicks to your existing flock
  • How to keep them safe outside (in and out of the coop)
  • And more!



Links we discuss:

Manna Pro

Chickens: Naturally Raising The Sustainable Flock

Have a hen that loves herbs?(Who doesn’t?!)

nesting box herbs

Yes, my hens love herbs!


I’d like to hear from you!

Are you getting baby chicks this spring? What breeds? Leave a comment below!

What Your Chicken Coop Should Include (Plus…Mistakes To Avoid) [Podcast]

On our homestead, we have more than one chicken coop.

We have something like 200 chickens on the farm, and so we have a 100 year old chicken coop and a second, more modern home for our flock.

Both chicken coop designs are great, and serve their purpose (keeping our chicken flock warm and dry) well.

In this episode of What The Cluck?! we talk about chicken coops.

You’ll learn:

  • What your chicken coop should include
  • Big mistakes to avoid (that can cost your hens their health!)
  • Why roosting bars are critical 
  • How to deter mice and predators


Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Links we discuss:

Scent Of Spring Nesting Box Herbs

My free chicken coop plans


Spring is coming up and if you don’t have chickens yet, when you get them, you’ll need a coop, or, if you’re like me and have chickens but always want more, then you might need a second chicken coop. We’ll cover what your coop should include, what it shouldn’t; and also what’s essential and what you can include that might be a little bit fun and also functional.

The chicken coop you will keep your chickens in is perhaps one of the most important decisions you’ll make for them. And when it comes to coops, you might see all sorts of really cute ones on Pinterest, and while they’re great, and if you want one, by all means go grab one, they aren’t necessary.

When it comes to chicken coops, above everything else, it should keep your flock out of the elements and provide shelter and keep them warm and dry during inclement weather and provide shade in the summer. It should also provide them with protection from predators. (Here are more practical tips on keeping your chickens safe from predators).

So, whether your chicken coop design is picture perfect or an old shed on your property, as long as it keeps them safe, your coop is perfectly fine. Of course, it’s also perfectly fine to add some fun elements and make it a pretty part of your home and landscaping.

In some areas, depending on neighbors or homeowners associations, or if you’re a crafty person with a good sense of aesthetics, dressing up your chicken coop might also be a good idea. Read more about raising chickens with neighbors.

There are, however, other things to take into consideration, such as space requirements, ventilation, cleanliness, and chicken nesting boxes, and chicken roost ideas.          


Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Chicken Coop Designs: Space requirements

So, let’s first talk about space requirements. Whether you build your own chicken coop or purchase one already made, the space requirements are the same. Proving adequate space in the coop is extremely important so your chickens stay healthy and to reduce the chance of stress and negative behaviors.

Once they start bad behaviors or develop something like an upper respiratory infection, it can be difficult and time consuming to stop and you’ll do yourself a service by preventing these things from the outset.

What are the minimum requirements for space in a chicken coop? A solid rule of thumb is if you plan to free range your birds either for part or all of the day, then you should provide 4 square feet per chicken in their coop.

For birds that will remain cooped most of the day or all the time, then 10 square feet of space is necessary. Of course, providing an additional run is ideal as well. We have two different chicken runs on our farm, and they’re slightly different.

Our first run, which is attached to our main chicken coop, is very large, and we enclosed the space using hog paneling, which they can’t get through because they are large chickens.

The second chicken run is made of smaller chain link, and I should mention that when it comes to our adult chickens, we don’t have many issues with predators. With our young chickens, we have issues with possums and hawks, but with our adults, our predators have been mostly dogs.

So, the second run is made of chain link because we got a really good deal on what used to be a pre-built dog run so it is definitely big enough for the chickens.

The run does have chicken wire on the lower 2 feet because we’ve had pigs get loose and root it up, and in one memorable night we had some animal, I can’t say what it was, rip open a hole in the bottom, so possibly a dog or a raccoon, so we added 2-inch wire to the bottom to keep them safer.

That chicken run has 2-inch chicken wire on the top, and that is largely to protect from predators but it’s also to keep the chickens in, because even though the run is 8 feet high, I have some champion fliers that also like to lay eggs in random parts of the property.

So, your run, if you don’t let your chickens free range, should complement your coop and give them extra room to spread their wings, and should be safe for your particular area. Chickens that are confined and don’t have enough space might start to develop habits like egg eating or pecking at each other. They can also develop nutritional problems.

So next, let’s take a look at what your coop should contain and what it shouldn’t.


Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Anatomy Of A Chicken Coop

Like I said, when it comes to coops, even the simplest structures will make a perfectly fine home for your chickens. As far as housing goes, chickens are simple creatures, and prefer to spend their days foraging and dust bathing, even in inclement weather, rather than staying indoors.

That being said, there are some features that your chicken coop must have in order to be adequate housing for your flock. Besides the right space requirements which we already discussed, your chicken coop should include:

  • It should be a solid structure that’s not easy to blow over
  • Your coop needs to have a solid roof to keep your chickens dry
  • Make sure there is good ventilation
  • Include chicken nesting boxes and an easy way to collect eggs
  • There needs to be a place to roost
  • It should have space for a chicken feeder and waterer.

So, let’s talk about each of these in more detail.


Chicken Coop Designs: Good Ventilation

First on our list is good ventilation, and this is really important for a few reasons. When it comes to ventilation, windows are a good thing to include, or your coop can have an open doorway that allows air circulation.

Chickens poop everywhere, and after a time, this manure builds up, and it’s much worse when the ventilation isn’t good.

Chickens have a delicate upper respiratory system, and they’re susceptible to things like upper respiratory infections, so too much ammonia in their coop can harm your chickens.

Good ventilation and cleaning the chicken coop regularly will help prevent upper respiratory infections. Our coops have windows, and one of our coops has a 4-inch gap between the roof and the walls to allow for a cross breeze. There’s an overhang so the inside of the coop doesn’t get wet inside when it rains.

Of course, if it’s raining out, or very cold, you might want to close these windows and doors, so some sort of door is necessary, but overall, making sure there are windows in your coop will help promote good ventilation.

Another thing to consider is windows and doors allow the sun in, which means your chickens will get their daily dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for all sorts of things, but in particular it helps with calcium absorption, which in turn promotes healthy egg shells and healthy bones.

So, windows and good ventilation are both good things for your chicken coop design.

Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Chicken Coop Design: Easy To Clean

Next, your chicken coop should be built so that it’s easy to clean, and this is part of good ventilation. It should have an opening large enough for an adult human to fit through in order to thoroughly clean it (read more about cleaning your chicken coop like a pro).

I see coops for sale all the time that look adorable but I can’t really see a good way for a person to get inside and pull out soiled bedding, manure, etc and replace it with new, clean material.

Similarly, your run should be large enough so you can fit inside it. In addition to the cleanliness issue, what happens if there’s a sick or injured bird in the coop or run? How will you get it out if you can’t fit in there?

Chicken Coop Design: Predator proof

Your coop should also be predator-proof, and we’ve touched a bit on this, but let’s look into it further. Your chicken coop should protect your chickens not just from predators that might wander into the coop, but also those above and those that might dig under your chicken wire and into your coop.

In Podcast session number 13, we talked about predators and how to protect your flock against them, so we won’t get into that too much now. Click here to listen to that podcast session and learn more about making your flock predator proof.

But suffice to say, your coop should keep predators out, and a good way to do that is to use hardware cloth on your run and over gaps such as the 4-inch gap in one of our coops that I previously discussed. Half inch is best and I recommend hardware cloth because it’s harder for predators to get through.

Some predators will try to dig under your coop, so using hardware cloth on the ground outside your coop, you can either bury it 4 to 12 inches deep into the ground or bury it flat 12 inches out from your coop to prevent predators digging under.

In addition to predators, your chicken coop should be as secure as possible from mice and rats that are attracted by the feed and droppings. Here are more tips on keeping mice out of the chicken coop.

A floor is one way to keep them out, but if you don’t have one, then burying a hardware cloth fence down into the ground and about 12-inches all around the coop will help deter them.

Remember that if mice and rats really want into your coop, they can chew through the wood, so if that’s happening, consider placing hardware cloth about 12-inches high around the bottom of your coop.

Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Chicken Coop Design: Feeders and Waterers

Your coop should include a place for feeders and waterers, and what that will look like depends on what your feeders will be like. Some people use PVC feeders while others use ground feeders, and still other people like to hang their feeders and waterers.

So, it’s really up to you and what works best in your coop. You should also be able to easily access the feeders and waterers.


Chicken Coop Design: Nesting Boxes

Chicken nesting boxes are another consideration for your chicken coop design, and the rule of thumb is 1 nesting box per 5 hens, but I like to provide more than that, and it never hurts to have too many. Chickens typically like to lay in the same nest, so don’t worry about having a box for every chicken.

If you have 5 chickens, then 3 nesting boxes will suffice. You can add herbs and hay to the nesting boxes so your chickens have a pleasant place to lay their eggs. Mint is one option, and rodents hate mint, so it has a dual purpose. Oregano, which has strong antibacterial properties, is another good option.

I prefer hay over straw in nesting boxes, and my chickens seem to prefer as well. Hay is generally softer and smells sweeter, as long as it isn’t moldy.

When it comes to chicken nesting boxes, you have a lot of options, and pretty much anything that offers a quiet, dark place to lay eggs will work. I’ve seen nesting boxes made from 5-gallon tubs, I’ve seen them from baskets; there’s a lot of options. Just pick something that you and your flock like, and that can be easily cleaned if necessary.

Nesting boxes should be in a dark corner of the coop or you can shield them with a curtain. Chickens like to lay eggs in dark places. This is an evolutionary thing, and when a hen lays, she’s at her most vulnerable.

Often times, if you place your nesting boxes in the “wrong area” according to your hens, they’ll choose to lay elsewhere. Hens can be very particular!

Our hens like their nesting boxes to be quiet and secluded, because otherwise they can get easily bothered by other hens or by the roosters. if you’re concerned about mites and lice in the nesting boxes, or just want to prevent them, you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth in the boxes.

Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Chicken Coop Design: A Way To Collect Eggs

Your chicken coop should also have a way for you to easily collect the eggs. One of our coops is large enough for us to just walk into, while another coop is smaller. We use a window box to collect the eggs in that coop.

If your coop has a way for you to collect eggs from the outside, so much the better. But the last thing you want is to have to crawl through dirt and manure to get your eggs.

Chicken Coop Design: A Place To Roost

So the last thing you should think about for your coop is a chicken roost idea. Chickens like to roost; it’s how they sleep, get away from predators, and it lets them stay warm in cool weather because they can group together.

If your chicken coop doesn’t have a place for them to roost, you can make one for them out of pretty much anything as long as its wide enough for them. We’ve used branches, old broom handles, 2×4 studs, wooden dowels, or pretty much anything else you find around your property as long as it’s safe.

If you do use an old broom or mop handle, be sure to screw it down so it can’t move, otherwise your chickens will have a hard time balancing. Similarly, branches make great, natural roosts, but make sure they’re solid so your chickens won’t fall off.

Roosts should be between two and four inches wide but the bottom line here is to not make them so wide that your chicken can’t drop their poop below them since chickens and all birds poop whenever their bodies need to since they don’t have bladders.

Another good idea is to place a removable tray under your chicken roosts to make removing manure easier and cleaner. This might not logistically work for you, but making sure you can easily remove manure from the coop of course means a cleaner, more sanitary coop. It’s also an easy way to gather manure for your compost bin.

Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

Final Thoughts On Chicken Coop Designs

Whether you buy a premade coop or build your own doesn’t matter, simply make sure that the structure meets the basic requirements of your chickens. On our farm, we use a 100 year old shed for one flock, which has adequate roofing and ventilation, as well as places to roost.

For another flock, we built a traditional chicken coop that looks quite different. It still keeps them warm, and has great ventilation, and our chickens seem quite happy in it.

When it comes to coops, you can invest as much or as little as you like, as long as it meets the basic requirements we outlined above. If you’re looking for a specific coop to buy, you can find one I love at TheFrugalChicken.com/coop and that is an affiliate link.

It has everything you need for up to 4 or 5 chickens.

If you’re interested in building your own chicken coop, I have free instructions on my blog, click here for some DIY Chicken Tractor Plans that you can make even if you are broke. The plans are detailed, and you’ll learn how to make a chicken coop in my step-by-step system with photos. I’ve also got this list of 55 DIY Chicken Coop Plans for you to check out.

So, what would your perfect chicken coop look like? I’d love to hear about it, so there’s something I want you to do. I would love it if you dropped me a line at [email protected] to let me know.

Now, if you would like to score a free book that tells you the one thing you should feed your hens for nourishing eggs, I have one for you! You can grab a copy of this book, it’s called The Better Egg, at TheFrugalChicken.com/TheBetterEgg.

Thanks for listening to this episode of What The Cluck?! about chicken coops, and I’ll see you next time!

Healthy Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want nesting herbs for my hens!

How To Care For Baby Chicks Weeks 1-6 [Podcast]

Baby chicks require special care – that’s pretty much a fact.


And they’re fragile! Luckily, in this episode, we delve into the care they need week by week, as we explore the first 6 weeks of your new flock members’ lives.


(Want to learn about weeks 7-16? Click here for the next episode!)

You’ll learn:


  • What equipment & food you will need
  • How to make sure your chicks are healthy & the perfect temperature
  • When your chicks are ready to go outside



Links we discuss:

Manna Pro Poultry

Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock


Transcript (Main Ideas):


What do you need for chicks?

For baby chicks, there are certain things that you need to have before they arrive. You’ll need food, water, probiotics, a brooder, a digital thermometer, and a heat source.


I feed baby chicks medicated chick starter because in my experience, they do best with it. However, you can give them non-medicated starter if you like.


The difference between medicated and non-medicated is simple. Medicated chick starter has something called amprolium in it, which helps chicks develop a resistance to parasites that are naturally found in the soil. It’s not an antibiotic, since antibiotics don’t work against parasites.


When baby chicks are born and when they’re younger, they have very specific nutritional requirements, so it’s best to feed an 18 percent protein chick starter.



I always give chicks homemade organic apple cider vinegar, from the time that they’re born. We’ve been able to reduce our death rate by just providing homemade organic apple cider vinegar.


The reason is the beneficial bacteria will help them develop good gut flora in their digestive systems.  


Put one tablespoon of vinegar in one gallon of water and feed once every two or three days just to make sure that they still have it in their system as they grow up.


You can put it in their feed, but the waterer is best because chicks get dirty very easily with wet feed, and then they have a hard time staying warm.


Heat source

The next thing that you’re going to have to worry about is heat. Baby chicks have down, not feathers, on them, and they can’t control their body temperature as easily as an adult chicken.


You should follow basic temperature requirements and use a digital thermometer so it’s simple to tell whether the brooder is too hot or too cold.


Ideally when the chicks are born, for the first week, you want the brooder temperature to be 90 to 95 degrees. I have gone less than that and been OK, but for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to stick with the rule of thumb, which is 90 to 95 degrees the first week.


Then you can decrease by five degrees every week after that. So week 2, the temp should be 85 to 90 degrees, week three is 80 to 85 degrees and so on.


You’ll want to do this until the brooder is 75 degrees or until they’re fully feathered. I personally put a digital thermometer in the brooder to make sure the temperature is correct.


If you see them huddling together, then they’re cold. If they’re cold, they’re not going to eat or drink. . If they’re happily walking around, looking for food and interacting, then they’re warm enough.


If they are scattered all over the place, or if they’re laying down and a panting, then they’re too hot.


Regarding heat lamps, I’m not a fan, and we have not had good luck with them, and almost burdened our house down a couple of times.


Personally, I wait until it’s May or June, and I can be reasonably assured the temperatures will remain high enough for the chicks for their first few weeks of life.


We’ve also used heating pads and those worked out very well. You just put the heating pad on the bottom of the brooder, and the chicks can get off and on as they please.



You will also need a brooder. You can buy a brooder, or you can make one. We use big plastic bins because they’re easy to transport and clean


Make sure your brooder has a top on it because by about week five or six, your chicks are going to start trying to fly out of the brooder.


The other advantage to that is if you use a heat lamp, you can just rest the heat lamp on the top of the brooder, assuming the top is something like hardware cloth.


When it comes to the amount of chicks in the brooder, I don’t put more than 10 chicks at a time. The reason is the higher numbers of chicks, the more likely some will get squashed or suffocate.


One common question whether you can house chicks and ducklings together in a brooder. Yes, but I don’t recommend it.


Ducklings are very, very messy, and chicks – which have down, not feathers –  have a hard time regulating their bodies, and as ducks splash water, they also splash shavings and particles of food on the chicks, and the chicks can’t stay warm.


When can chicks go outside?

If it’s above 80 degrees, the chicks can go out at any time in their life. If it’s under eighty degrees, we only put them outside when they’re fully feathered just to make sure that they’ll be OK.


We always make sure that they’re in a very, very safe tractor. We don’t want older chickens picking on them or a hawk to pick them off.


They can still eat grass and bugs and lay in the sun, but they’re safe. Make sure you provide them with food and water at all times.  Make sure they have shade.


When do you introduce everybody?

We introduce chicks to the hen coop when they’re about 12 to 16 weeks so the chicks are big enough to fend for themselves and so they’re not too intimidated by a hen.


There likely will squawking and fighting as they sort out the pecking order disputes.If it goes on for days or if somebody is getting hurt, then it’s  an issue. But if they’re just pecking at each other, and you hear squawking and some feathers flying, don’t worry about it.


If you do have roosters, my recommendation is to wait until the chicks are 16 weeks old. We’ve had issues with roosters killing chicks when they’re not old enough to defend themselves. So at this point, we never introduce a chick to a coop with a rooster until the chicks are 16 weeks old.

Chicken Feeding Myths BUSTED! [Podcast]

Time to bust some Chicken Feed Myths!

No, your backyard chickens won’t turn into cannibals if you feed them eggs.


But there’s plenty of bad advice and chicken feeding myths out there that would advise you otherwise – that’s why it’s so important to know what’s okay to feed your flock and what’s toxic.


In this episode of What The Cluck?! We look at chicken feeding myths and review the chicken feeding advice I see on the internet, and what’s fact and what’s DEFINITELY fiction.


We also delve into WHY some foods are poisonous, and why they should be avoided. Sponsored by Manna Pro, the official chicken feed of the What The Cluck?! podcast.


Brought to you by:

Learn More about Raising Chickens with the Backyard Chicken Bundle!

The Backyard Chicken Bundle is a unique ebook bundle with every resource you need to start raising a flock of healthy hens! (Total value $250)

Included in the bundle are:

  • 5 individual ebooks with over 40 gorgeous full color photographs, charts, and recipes for all-natural coop cleaners, layer feeds, herbal first aid salves, and more.
  • 34 page Herbal Encyclopedia to growing 30 different herbs for your hens right in your own backyard
    E-books naturally complement each other so you have information at your fingertips.
  • 3 downloadable checklists to save your flock from bad weather & predators, and to keep them healthy while molting.
  • 1 Apple Cider Vinegar for Backyard Chickens video that shows you step-by-step how to make organic apple cider vinegar in your own kitchen.
  • Information you can TRUST by a recognized backyard chicken expert featured in Reader’s Digest, Glamour, and on major news networks like ABC, CBS, & NBC. And START spending every possible minute playing with & enjoying your pets (without the worry)!

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More Chicken Feeding Resources:



Why Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs: What The Cluck?! Episode 81

I frequently have readers ask me why their hens have stopped laying eggs, so I addressed common reasons in this episode of What The Cluck?!
Bottom line: I don’t know why your particular hen has stopped laying, but using this episode as a guide, you can trouble shoot common reasons!
(Spoiler alert: It’s usually their diet….or that they’re just being sneaky and hiding their eggs! But those aren’t the only reasons, so be sure to watch the episode!
Brought to you by Manna Pro.