In loosely chronological order:
* If you put the brooder box on your living room rug, in the name of all that is good and true in the world, set it on a tarp. Otherwise a slurry of spilled chick starter and water will seep unnoticed into your rug. Two months later, the smell will be very bad. Your rug will probably never be the same.
* Buy as many bags of chick feed at once as you can afford. They will eat more than you’d think. I made several trips to the feed store (30 miles each way) buying one bag at a time before I finally caught on.
* Keep extra clamp lamps and light bulbs on hand. At least 2 extra of each. If your bulb blows, and it’s the last one you have on hand, and it’s 1130PM, and you live in a rural area, you will not have an easy time finding a replacement.
* If you live in a rural area which is subject to frequent power outages, have hot water bottles on hand in case the power goes out. Because it will.
* If you use staples to fix the welded wire to the run, and a giant dog pounces in the middle of the wire wall, the staples will pop out of the frame at both ends. (Fortunately no chickens were harmed or freed during this event.)
* You should really really use hardware cloth, instead of chicken wire, or a random roll of welded wire you found lying around on the property. Even though it costs a fortune. It’s worth every penny.
* Structurally speaking, it’s better to use one long length of wire wrapped around the entire run, rather than several smaller pieces one per side. Each end side of the wire is a potential point of failure.
* If you use wood which has been protected from direct contact with moisture, but still stored outside in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years, it will be rotten and fall apart after you have spent all that time cutting and fastening it into a frame.
* Always buy screws the same diameter, or you’ll spend half your project time swapping the bits on your electric drill.
* The cull bin at Home Depot is your friend.
* The jigsaw is scary. Even people with carpentry experience think so.
* Surprisingly, the circular saw is not scary.
* YOU think a gap where the walls meet the floor is a great way to add a bit of ventilation. Your chickens think it’s awesome to kick all their bedding out into the yard. And into your hair, when you’re trying to unlock the door first thing in the morning.
* You may wonder why you’ve never seen a chicken tractor design where the coop sits atop the run, and the chickens use a hole in the floor as a door. It seems perfectly reasonable to you!
After you build the whole thing, you will discover that this is because chickens do not like to use a hole in the floor as a door. A fact which is perfectly obvious to anyone who’s had more than “petting zoo” experience with chickens.
* The same goes for any other coop feature. If you’ve never seen anyone do it before, and you’ve browsed thousands of coop and chicken tractor designs over the last few months, there is probably a good reason for that.
* When in doubt, ask! e.g. if I had posted a month ago that “I’m thinking about making my chickens go in and out of the coop through a hole in the floor, but I notice that no other design incorporates this feature – do you think it will be okay?” it would have saved me a lot of trouble.
* If you foolishly go ahead with your hole-in-the-floor plan, make it so that the door swings upward (into the coop), and make the door slightly larger than the hole.
If the door is the same size as the hole, and it’s hung so that it swings downward, when the chickens go into the coop to roost and you shut the door, they will all gather atop it and jump up and down and break it and fall into the coop, and you will have to race the rapidly-setting sun to execute a last-minute repair.
* If you’re going to paint the inside of the coop, or add a layer of linoleum flooring, do this before you move the chickens into the coop. I’m planning to clean out the coop and then paint/add linoleum. But let’s be honest – that’s never going to happen.
* Don’t use a flimsy black plastic seedling tray as a poop board. The chickens will try to hop onto the edge, and flip it up, and fling poop everywhere, and scare the dickens out of themselves in the process.
ETA * Chickens don’t actually say “bok bok bok” like you always thought. (Probably because your only previous experience was with petting zoo chickens, and cartoons.) Chickens actually say “Brgawk.”