When we got our 1st group of chicks we didn't have anything ready, they were basically a surprise to me. My husband took our daughter to the local farm supply store, where she picked out 12 chicks, brought them home to me and we then had to figure out the rest. My husband grew up on a farm in WI and I did have chickens briefly during my high school days, but I didn't do much with them. My dad kept them in a closed off run with the coop at the other end, so in order to collect eggs, we had to walk through the dirty\muddy mess. I had a horse so I spent most of my time with her. This is part of what I hope to do here with my blog, help you by sharing what I went through starting out and hopefully make it easier for you to get started and enjoy your chicken keeping experience!
We just had to figure it out as we went. We used a dog crate and had to make some adjustments in order to keep them from getting out through the holes and keep the bedding from getting kicked out. We also added warming light that clipped onto the kennel or hung over it. Then as they grew over the next few weeks, we kept them in a blocked off area in the garage.
Then, we started building the coop. This ended up being a standard shed @ 5ft square and @ 8 ft tall in the middle, that we built ourselves. I think my husband thought that when we were done with the chickens he could use the shed for other things again. Little did he know that I would grow to love them like pets and want to keep them and get more chicks later:) We just had to retrofit various things that the chickens needed into it. We made multiple changes\additions to the inside of the coop\shed. We cut out a small door and incorporated a pully system that could be operated from outside the main door. We added nesting boxes, roosting bars, a place for the waterer(up off the floor)and feeder(hung), and later I made them a ladder(a board with steps every few inches or so) to help them get up and down from their roost and nesting boxes. We started with wooden nesting boxes from the store, but we changed them out later on, since they kinda fell apart after a couple of years, and they were harder to keep clean. I found these stackable heavy-duty plastic bins that I liked, but only one or two of our girls actually nest in it now. The one they like the most is one of the boxes that we started with, but I removed the separator and they now like to share this one larger nesting box. It is also up higher by their roosting bar. They like being up as high as possible when roosting. They take turns laying and sitting on the eggs. Some are broodier(it means she wants to hatch her eggs and raise chicks) than others and she will sit on her eggs all day and any other ones in the box too! Separate boxes just didn't work for us, but I would at least try that first.
Bedding materials were another decision to be made. I have settled on using wood shavings as bedding and they seem to really like it. I like it because it is easy to clean, keeps the coop dry and the smell down. They love it when I spread out new shavings, they get in there and start scratching through it right away. There are different methods out there, this is what works for us. You should not use cedar shavings(the oils and scent can be toxic for chickens). If you think that the finer wood shavings might be too dusty, you can use the larger ones. Sawdust might be very dusty and not good for their little lungs. I happen to use the finer shavings and haven't had an issue. I clean it out when needed and our coop has good air flow. We even keep the small door open most of the time(except during very cold periods), since their open area is completely secured with fence and chicken wire. Their open run area is in the back corner of our yard, surrounded by large arborvitaes, has a small oak tree growing out of it, and various wooden structures for them to get up on. I recently put a baby pool in there and filled with sand for them to bathe in too.
The coop has a peaked roof with shingles, I painted the large door yellow, and painted a wooden quilt square in the hens and chicks design. I like it!