ABOVE: "Cheap" art for the Chic Chateau, oyster shells, and grit.
Here is the thing about chicken coops.... they are DIRTY.
All of those pictures you see online of pretty white coops, with chairs and other pleasantries? Those probably stayed that way for all of a day and a half, before being dusted up and possibly (probably) pooed on.... That being said, if you were home more often, and had time to spray clean your coop on a regular, if not daily basis, then maybe, maybe it could stay spotless, but I don't know many people who have that much time...
That being said, it still hasn't stopped me from wanting one of those unrealistically adorable coops. So, while mine may only look good in a picture now and then, I will still go ahead with attempting to make it pretty for the hens (because you know, happy hens, happy life...? ...yikes)
Our coop is made out of an old tractor shed. There's a doorway cut out in the side for the chickens to go out into their run (made from an old a-frame swing set, covered in chicken wire), and hanging waterers, feeders, roosting bars, and a nesting box inside.
*TIP: If you are able to, I highly recommend hanging your feeders and waterers! Not only does it keep your containers cleaner, but it also avoids waste. When we had kept them at ground level, the birds would walk in them, knock them over, and spill everything. It wastes your money and their available meals. Hanging them with ropes and carabineer clips (for easy unhooking and secure hanging) has been a huge help!
I painted the interior with yellow paint, left over from refinishing our garage. The Homestead Husband then built a frame inside, and a door, and all of it was then lined with chicken wire. Reusing my homemade curtains from our original apartment, I stapled up some fake valances and curtain panels in the two windows inside the coop.
Eventually, I would like to have the coop wired for lights, especially for those darker winter days. At that time, the hens would naturally receive their own chandelier for their Chateau... all in good time.
While pretty-ness is important to me, it goes beyond looking good. While coops are dusty and kind of dirty a lot of the time, cleanliness is crucial for health reasons. Here are the bare basics that the flock should have:
Fresh bedding (treat it like kitty litter - needs to be mucked out and changed on a regular basis)
Clean food and water
Nesting Boxes with a soft landing (to avoid cracked eggs)
Fresh Air (nothing like the smell of a hot coop in the summer - who doesn't like a summer breeze anyway?)
Other helpful items we have found are the bag-style fly traps. The fly strips might work with smaller flocks, but when the chicken math starts kicking in and suddenly you have 15+ birds.... come mid summer you will want to take any means necessary to rid the flies from the flock.
Occasionally the chickens will nab a fly from mid-air, but if it gets to be overwhelming, we recommend fly bags.
(Note: like the rest of this post suggests, chicken keeping is not always pretty - fly bags are GROSS but incredibly effective - they work great for all livestock, and the dog pen, too).
All of this being said, it's good to go above and beyond the bare minimum when you can. Dust your coop, keep it neat. Happy hens are healthy hens. They will lay better and thrive longer with genuine care.