Getting Started with Backyard Chickens + Our Upcycled Chicken Coop

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I am not going to lie, I think chickens are kind of gross. But after touring some outdoor classrooms in elementary schools, I was hooked on the idea of buying backyard chickens to create “unplugged, hands on” education in our own backyard.

As with most of my ideas, the conversation with my husband, Mr. B., went something like this:

I think we should get some chickens -Me

Are you crazy? Absolutely not -Mr. B.

However, Mr. B. is a very rational man who can be easily convinced of a brilliant idea when provided with solid evidence and persuasion. Here were my main talking points:

  • Teach the children that food does not come from the grocery store
  • Have them experience caring for living things that provide nourishment for us
  • Reason to get the family outside together on a daily basis
  • Not to mention, delicious fresh eggs
  • If we hate it, we can always eat them

Mr. B. was convinced. He also toured an outdoor classroom with a working chicken coop and was impressed/excited about the educational aspect of it. So Operation Backyard Chicken Coop commenced.

How to get started with backyard chickens

We checked into our city regulations, and apparently you can keep hens in the city, but not roosters (and FYI, you don’t need roosters to get eggs, you only need roosters if you want baby chicks).

So we pulled the trigger and ordered some chicks.

We knew we wanted a variety of breeds that were good with children. Yes, like dogs, there are chicken breeds. We decided on a Buff Orpington (the Golden Retriever of Chickens), an Australorp (the Orpington’s cousin from Down Under), a Light Brahma (an ancient Chinese breed), and two Cochins–both of which are miniature-sized.

As we were waiting for the chickens to hatch and ship, we got to work on creating a coop. We knew we didn’t want to spend a lot of money, considering there was a chance we would decide chicken-keeping wasn’t for us and turn our flock into soup .

So we decided to use what we already had. We upcycled this cabinet that has been living in our garage since the 1960s.


Mr. B. and my brother somehow managed to get the ridiculously heavy cabinet out to the abandoned concrete pad in our backyard (the pad has also been there since the 60s). This was a win-win for us, because we had previously talked about paying to have both the cabinet and the concrete pad removed, but we were able to put them both to use.

img_8210_2And with a little paint, some pretty hinges, and five baby chicks–we have our upcycled chicken coop.

I have had many requests for photos of the chickens. Apparently the only thing more difficult to photograph than toddlers is chickens. They refuse to cooperate and look at the camera. Therefore, all of my photos are of their backsides. I have a new appreciation for the childish expression “What’s up, Chicken Butt”.


So are we chicken people? I think so. It has been a far easier experience than we anticipated. Our chicks will start laying eggs sometime this fall. The toddler has loved the experience so far. He comes out to the coop to help with the food and water each day and overall just likes to hang out and watch their antics. I still think they are gross, but I admit–they are kind of cute.

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A quick lesson in chicken keeping: The cabinet is the “coop”, and the outdoor area is known as the “run”.


Why your family needs backyard chickens. We built a backyard chicken coop, it was easy to upcycle and great for families with kids.

Do you have chickens? I would love to hear your experience. 

Want to read more about what I look for in education, check out how to choose a preschool. 

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.