By Kimberly Willis, Robert T. Ludlow

If you’ve ever surfed the web and visited chicken sites like www.backyardchickens.com, you’ve probably seen some chicken coops that are really, shall we say, tricked out. They have chandeliers, lace curtains, window boxes of exotic flowers, and fine art hanging on the coop walls. These coops may not be very practical, but the chickens probably don’t mind the extras — and the owners have something to brag about.

You don’t need to go that far in making your coop special, but if you have the time and money, you can add certain features to your chicken coop to make your chicken-keeping experience more delightful for both you and the birds. Keep in mind that you seriously want to consider adding anything that makes the coop more accessible to you, such as taller ceilings, a ramp, or wider doors.

These extras may not seem so glamorous, but they can make caring for your flock easier. And if the flock keeper is happy, the flock usually is, too.

Considering water and electricity

Water is the life source for your coop. If you can extend water lines to the coop that won’t freeze in winter, you’ll really appreciate the convenience. Even a hose that comes close to the coop and that you can turn on and off there will be a time saver at least part of the year. If you can add a small sink inside or right outside the coop, you’ll have a place to wash your hands and clean feed and water dishes.

If your coop doesn’t have electricity, there’s no reason to be without light. Some solar-powered lights can be hung outside the door and then carried into the coop at night as needed. Other solar lights can be installed inside a coop, with the light-collecting parts set up somewhere outside in the sun. New LED battery-powered lamps are also efficient and bright and can do the job.

Adding in some functional items

Shelves and cupboards are always handy in a coop for storing equipment and feed. You can place them inside the coop or just outside the door. A work surface such as a table is also handy for getting feed ready, setting down eggs, or taking notes. To maximize space, you may want to mount the table on hinges so you can fold it up.

For a more temporary arrangement, you can create a makeshift table by placing a sturdy board over two metal garbage cans that hold feed. Any table you have can perform double duty, of course: For example, a cart with storage underneath can be cupboard and table combined. All surfaces that are accessible to chicken exploration need to be easily cleanable.

Having a chair or bench near your flock is always great so you can sit and observe your chickens. Placing one inside the coop and another outside near the birds’ outdoor area is a great idea. You may even want to expand your seating area outside so family and friends can watch with you. If space is tight, a folding chair or stool can be ideal. If chickens can reach the chairs, you may want to cover them, or at least always check before you sit down. For a chicken, chair and potty are interchangeable.

An inexpensive clock near the sitting area can keep you from getting “lost in time” as your chickens amuse you. A calendar on the wall can help you keep track of when a hen started sitting, how many eggs you picked up, and other considerations. Select one that has big enough spaces to write in, and keep a pen on a string or holder near it. Thermometers and humidity gauges are also inexpensive features that can help you ensure that your chickens stay comfortable.