Build nest boxes on the outside with hinged roof. To be able to gather eggs from the outside without going into the chicken house.
Doors at either end of coop allow chickens to go either into a secure run or out to free range. A ‘guillotine’ type door with a string & counterweight opens/closes.
Our new chicken house, built April 2012.
A simple pole building with metal roof (with a couple of skylights) and chicken wire mesh ‘walls’. One wall also has plastic sheet to shelter the birds from wind and wind-driven rain. The house is partitioned into three sections, each about 3×3 M, sized to hold ~40 hens. The bottom 4′ of the partitions is made of fibrolit, providing a visual barrier between the sections. A 1M wide corridor runs along one wall. Hinged lids on the nesting boxes are accessible (for gathering eggs) from the corridor. (It gets interesting when you lift the lid and find a large boa constrictor inside, engorged with eggs…)
There are two fenced yards around the house, planted in manicillo and caña de cuido. A cuneta draining overflow from the adjacent tilapia pond runs through one of them, so they always have access to running water in the yard. A gate from the corridor provides controlled access the yards.
The separate partitions allow rotating the crop. Every few months, we buy 40 more hens and butcher 40 for the stew pots, so we have continuous egg production. Hens are fed mostly food grown on site (corn, chopped caña de cuido, bugs and worms, mulberry — we are still experimenting with various forage crops) supplemented with MM (“Mountain Microorganisms” produced in our Soil Amendment Center), and a small amount of commercial feed. As we ramp up production of MM and forage, the goal is to completely eliminate the commercial feed.