The Completion of the Coop.
How a Design Idea Evolves.

I bet you thought the coop was finished last year didn’t you? So did I.

And it was. There was just the small matter of the chickens eating every plant in my backyard and then crapping it back onto every surface imaginable.  And just for good measure, if there was a small area in the backyard that didn’t get pooped on, one of the chicken would make sure to walk through it and track it all around. Chickens are very considerate that way.

Apparently so am I, because I too made sure to track the crap everywhere too.

So this spring I decided I was going to have to section off a portion of the yard for chicken pooping purposes. The side yard where their coop is located was the logical place. If I could somehow keep them in that area they could poop to their heart’s content and at least it would all be in one area. They could walk around in the sun, take their dust baths, hold their weekly poker games and what not, without turning my backyard into a poo pavilion.

As a reminder, here’s where the coop is and what it looks like.




My first thought was to station a scary monster robot in the side yard.  Right at this close end of the coop.  Scary monster robot would make sure the chickens didn’t get past a certain area, therefore containing the poop.

My second thought was to stack wood in an aesthetically pleasing manner, with some sort of doorway in the middle of it. That was bad idea #1. Chickens can jump REALLY high, so the stacked wood would need to be around 6 or 7 feet high. Besides, I burned up all my wood by April 15th.  Scary monster robot idea was in the lead.

My second thought was to stack up bales of straw. I was into the whole stacking thing apparently. Stacking is easy you see. Much easier than hammering and drilling and sawing and screaming. Bales of straw would be easy to stack high but you wouldn’t be able to see through them. Half the fun of having chickens is watching them. No to the straw.

My final thought was to use swinging wrought iron fence gates. Like this …


Wrought Iron Gate


But for some reason, the idea was a bit “off” to me. It wasn’t quite right. You know when you look at something in your house and you think That’s not right (I find this is often the case whenever I try to dress up my coffee table with a vignette, or put my cats in period piece costumes.)

Sick of making generally all decisions in my life, I sent a quick email off to my Internet friend, interior designer Carol Reed.



Yeah.  That’s right.  I called in an internationally renowned interior designer.  For my chicken coop.  What of it?

I sent her this remarkably fantastic sketch.  YES!  It is a sketch.  I know.  Totally looks like a photograph.  I’m a talent.  I told Carol I had thought of using wrought iron fence gates, but wasn’t sure about it for some reason.  Could she please help me?  Please, please, interior designer, help this wretched amateur in her time of need.


Coop Run Doors Mockup


Within 2 days Carol had sent me back these “quick sketches” of 4 options including materials needed and colour options that were the best.  (She knew right away what was wrong with the wrought iron fence I thought of by the way.  All of the lines in my backyard are horizontal.  The fence, the coop, even the square cut flagstone on the ground.)


THIS is what separates a professional from … me.  I knew something was wrong and there had to be a better idea out there, I just didn’t know what it was.  I looked over her sketches for about 5 minutes and decided on one design.  The next day I went out to get my materials, and the weekend after that I built the gates.

I will reveal which design I chose, how I did it and the gates themselves in Thursday’s post.

But for now … which one would you have chosen?  And which one do you think I chose?  I will give you one hint.  Against my better judgement I decided not to go with the chicken robot.


  1. ev says:

    Option #3, but with barn door track. Have some history with the door-it is so farmy and works well! can’t wait to see what you do with this!

  2. Judy says:

    Definitely #4!
    Entertainment Value: They’re such great fun to watch you just have to have the whole view.
    Safety Value: They should be safer than #3 if anyone “forgets” to close them up.
    Mental Health Value: #3, is more permanent looking, but it does point out on first viewing that they actually are in prison and you need a clear conscience to do all your other wonderful bloggy things.

    Can’t wait to find out!

  3. Jamie says:

    #4. Doi. Wanna watch the chickens!

  4. Lesley says:

    #4. Best visibility, least expensive and the sliding “barn” door takes up less space. Open and airy design is a plus and it visually echos the double mesh doors on the coop itself.

  5. Bobbi says:

    I would flip a coin…..2-heads or 4-tails…..

  6. Sam says:

    Numero 3 all the way. It’s a “reference” thing, but not too matchy-matchy… And I wish Carol Reed was my friend! Now I have chicken envy and friend envy :).

    I’m just bitter because I’m still not able to do my stupidly-huge-summer-project-bread-oven…and I have to stare at concrete blocks neatly stacked by my wood shed (mocking me!). Could be worse though–I could have chicken poop and feathers on them :).

  7. Evalyn says:

    Wow, she has some good ideas. And most of them will keep chickens in/out. The thing that struck me about the swinging wrought iron gate was: But that wont’ stop a chicken. They will walk right through or under that. They mostly see barriers as something to perch on. And no amount of explaining it to them will make a bit of difference.
    My vote goes to the rolling barn door designs with mesh.

  8. nancy says:

    I think #4. That version has the rolling door and most visibility. I don’t think you will be able to pass up the chance to build a rolling door. So industrial. So spacesaving too. The other doors are so normal and common.

  9. Gayla T says:

    I’m picking #3 but I have an idea you went with #4 although I hope you didn’t. I’ve dealt with screen doors many times and I know how easy it is to push it just enough that it comes loose around the sides. The metal bars will give you visibility but be strong enough to be long lasting. My problem with screen doors has mostly been with cats and dogs jumping on them and that might not be a problem for you if you keep your cats in all the time. I don’t think you have a dog. Or little kids. I’ve always ended up with the metal protecters you can buy to put across the screen door although I hate how they look. Then there was the time I caught my foot and fell through the screen myself. Since stairs seem to be a challange for you, you could probably fall through screen too. Just saying……..

  10. I really like 2 but given you want to see the chickens I think it is going to be 3 or 4 and I am leaning more on 3 for as one you would pick.

  11. Caroline says:

    I’m going with option 3 as it has horizontal lines like much of the rest of the environment, plus you already kind of liked the look of the metal bars in your original plan that were going vertical. Plus, although the sliding barn door hardware is cool, I think purchasing and installing the strap hinges is easier. Just my two cents…..

  12. anna says:

    option 2. i love the mixed material idea with the wood/screen that mirrors what you already have going on in the coop. i think it also gives the coop an element of symmetry without being completely symmetrical, which is nice. plus the sliding door is awesome and would be a challenge that would be duly accepted by you. yeah, i’m going with option 2.

  13. Emily says:

    My family used to have chickens before we moved. Just a standard wire and wood coop my husband built out in the very back of the large yard. Those chickens ate everything and turned the backyard to dust, which then blew into the pool and made a huge mess. We have moved and legally can still have chickens and the fan would love to do it again, but I do not have as large of a yard and do not want dust blanketing everything in my yard and blowing on my clothes line and into the house. Containing poop seems easier than containing dust. Any ideas for that?

  14. lori says:

    yep! # 4

  15. Shauna says:

    I would have gone with one of the rolling gates. Probably the barn door gate. I love that look of modern and rustic combined. Can’t wait to see your final product. We are in dire need of doing something similar. Our chickens have decided to start flying over the poultry netting into our garden. So, now they’re staying locked up in their coop/run. And, they are revolting by not laying eggs. So right now, I have very expensive pooping machines that give nothing back (ours aren’t at all cuddly).

  16. Gale says:

    I like #1. It matches the coop, let’s you see through the mesh, allows air flow, and the hinges will probably work better for a longer ttime than the rollers will after being in the weather a few years.

    • Leslie Joyce says:

      I agree! Number 1 seems the most awesome choice to me. That horizontal siding, swing door, lantern, plus the panel of hardware cloth are the Cliff Notes version of the coop. Not sure if it would need to be flipped for your site, or have the gate door in the center, or what …

  17. Erin F. says:

    New reader, and Karen, you’re making my life so awesome and difficult! So many cool things to try/make/do, and so little time! :)

    I’m partial to the barn door gates, and I really like option 2… but love the visibility of option 4! I have no idea what you’d choose, they’re all too pretty to pick from!

    • Karen says:

      Welcome to my site Erin! Truth is, I loved allll the doors she suggested. Which of course, was problematic. :) ~ karen

  18. Jamiek says:

    I like option 4. I’m going to guess you went with option 4. Can’t wait to see which one you chose!

  19. lemur_lass says:

    I love the rolling gate options!

    Out of curiosity, where did you get the coop lanterns? Are they solar?

    • Karen says:

      They’re not solar, they have battery operated candles inside that come on at dusk and go off 5 hrs. later. The actual lanterns are just cheap, from a local grocery store. (President’s Choice brand in Canada) ~ karen!

  20. Deb says:

    Definitely #4…then you can watch the girls go #2!

  21. Dawna Jones says:

    #1 can’t believe a professional actually helped you so no doubt she had to be a good friend,I would of told you to #$$ck off!
    #2 This is a seriously talented lady,and I choose #4 because of it’s ease of making and visibility.
    Good luck!

    • Airwreck says:

      Normally I would NEVER reply to this kind of stuff but you answer just stuck in my craw..

      Have you not heard of what goes around comes around???


  22. J9 says:

    #3 caught my eye…it feels more airy and like your original choice. Only, y’know, pointing the right way.

  23. Carol says:

    Karen – it was a fun creative break to work on something other than a house interior!!

    And oh I should clarify – the elevation views are from the perspective of the chickens, from inside the coop area facing towards Karen’s backyard. The house would be on the left, the coop and existing fence/gate on the right. Drawn from the opposite view of Karen’s sketch which is looking from the backyard area into the coop yard.

    I happen to know which option you went with,,,can’t wait to see more after pics. : )


  24. Cynthia says:

    #3. Chickens aren’t very bright, at least our 30 weren’t. Personalities aplenty, but no rocket scientists in the bunch. They thought our wire mesh panels were for poking their heads through, thereby getting caught and causing a stir. But they recognized bars as containment areas and never tried to pass. Ours were free ranging in the trees and yards and were good enforcers of the insect population. Thankfully much of their poop ended up in the planter areas, but far too much ended up on my exterior laundry area washer/dryer surfaces, which is why they’re all living elsewhere now.

  25. Kristen S says:

    I have many a times thought to myself when working on a project “what would Carol Reed do?”. It’s kinda like “what would Jesus do”, but for the design inclined.

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    For the best view of the girls at play..Number 4 definitely!!!

  27. Jamieson says:

    I’d like #4 best, but with the horizontal rails instead of mesh.
    So I’m guessing you actually chose #3 since all of your coop doors are swinging, but you wanted to introduce rails. Also because it would take the longest and be the most frustrating to make, which you seem to gravitate to. (go ahead, prove me wrong!)

  28. AmieM says:

    I love four because of the barn door track, and the visibility of the chickens. Someone needs to make sure they aren’t pocketing cards in their poker games!

  29. Amber says:

    Definitely option 4! I think? Oh Thursday please come quickly.

  30. Deb says:

    I am going with option 1. The light looks like your kind of thing. Option 4 would be my second choice.

  31. Langela says:

    There is nothing cuter than hens looking through a screen door. I love when ours look out through their screen windows! I choose option 4 also.

  32. Tigersmom says:

    I have to say option 4 as well, for the same reasons JebberA stated. I picture you having real difficulty resisting the very cool barn door and it provides the best viewing. I also think part of your struggle with the metal gate is you don’t like the idea of looking at your girls through bars as if they (or you) were in prison. I can’t wait to see how great it looks.

  33. elise thomas says:

    I love the metal mesh – so chicken coop-y! :-)

  34. cred says:

    I am guessing option 4, too. I think that the more mesh the better- more visibility & air circulation for the girls while they’re outside.

    Also, safer from predators. Do you keep them inside the coop (the walled part, I mean? Your hardware cloth has small holes but our friend lost many chicks and chickens 3 weeks ago, through that hex mesh-type poultry wire. The coyotes (they suspect) approach from one end and scare the chucks against the mesh and another grabs them and pulls them through the mesh.
    I assume coyotes aren’t too rampant in your area but fishers can climb and go over fencing.

    • cred says:

      oops, I meant to ask if you keep them inside the coop ‘at night’?

      and to clarify, I also meant the metal mesh (hardware cloth) is safer than the gate or metal rails of option 3.

    • Karen says:

      Cred – The chickens roam in the side yard all day and put themselves to bed at night. Once they tuck themselves in I go out and lock them up. ~ k!

  35. Debbie Neal says:

    Number 4! It is perfect! I have always wanted to put one on our fence to stop the slamming of the gate! Now I might have to!!!

  36. Mary Kay says:

    Karen for the best visability I like option 4 too. Plus the barn door sliding thing totally cool. I did like the latern on the first one to tie the gate with the coop but I think visability is the key in the design. I am totally jealous of your coop it is FANTASTIC!

  37. Sarah J says:

    I’d go for number 3 to keep it light and airy but retain the coach light look… Funny I just looked up your coop today to show my husband my inspiration for our new coop!! He grunted somewhat but likes the lights and started ebaying for his own version… We live in Australua, we didn’t ever have many coaches. The chicks are also in a box, so he better hurry up on the COOP! He doesn’t get that aesthetics come later!!

  38. julie says:

    oh, if only option #4 could add the light fixture ….. it would be very extremely perfect.

  39. Denise says:

    Ditto for choice 4 … rolling door yes, visibility yes.

  40. Janie says:

    I like option 3 with the metal bars. We’re very fancy here, we use designer wire fencing. You may have heard of it….”Chicken Wire”. It not only goes around the coop but over it. Keeps their mess in and the coyotes, raccoons, etc out. =0)

  41. Lyn says:

    Also vote for option 4, for the visibility. I’d absolutely want to watch the chickens! I mentioned to neighbors at our new house that I wanted chickens down the line, but was warned that hawks will get them, literally as you watch. Have you heard of rolling coops?

    • Karen says:

      Lyn – Like a chicken tractor? I think they’re great, but only for a few chickens. Great idea though. Just roll your chickens around. :) ~ karen

  42. T says:

    I also see you going for option 4 but 3 really caught my eye. You could hang cute stuff from the rails with S hooks or something along that line. If you don’t like “cute stuff” then suck it! But really, think garden tools, small pots of herbs…things like that. It doesn’t have to be cluttery. Just a few well placed items on your clean lines design to add cosiness and interest. Heck, maybe you could even hang the cat’s period dress costumes on there for the chickens to use. *smirk*

  43. sara says:

    I hope you went with the third one. It’s genius and pretty and you don’t have to worry about keeping screens clean. I also hope you put it on a barn door track because you’re karen, and you don’t follow rules.

  44. Brenda says:

    I am going with #4 because of the visibility as well, tho I do love #2…

  45. Option 4! You want to see your chickens. Better air flow too. Perhaps less work? If it were me, I’d have it as a swinging door though so that the mesh “wall” could have some fancy decoration or even practical uses. You could hang a wall pocket or flat backed bucket for holding chicken toys?

  46. karenagain says:

    Well yes I also like number four or number two if it was all flipped opposite. But I’m not sure if I’m looking at this properly.
    I hope you enjoyed your vacay. A couple hours ago I arrived home from a twelve hour drive from Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Brent Butt is from there, but that’s not why I went. We attended hubby’s youngest brother’s wedding. We pulled our trailer that took me a couple weeks to ready. We set up camp, I sprayed on Off, two hundred mosquitos bit me anyway and two horse flies made me bleed. I drove across the street, rented an air conditioned hotel room and stayed there all week…and showered to my heart’s content in a normal sized shower.

  47. Judy D. says:

    I’m going for option #2. I love the sliding barn door and like how both sides are different. I’m looking forward to Thursday’s post to find out which option you went with.

  48. Katie says:

    Also going with 4.

  49. Therese says:

    I’m going for option 4 too. I know how you love to watch your chickens, and I’m sure they find you entertaining too. This has the best visibility. Love the rolling door idea. Better than swing door getting in the way.
    Can you send Dill pickle chips to Australia?

  50. JebberA says:

    Option 4. Best visibility and a barn door. Who doesnt want a rolling barn door? It is practical and will make you feel like a farmer, which I think you would like. Also, the mesh ties in with the mesh on the coop. Do I win dill pickle chips?

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