Mother Earth News strikes again! And the problem is, that once they publish something, people still keep getting caught in their "oh that is such a neat idea" trap! It is only a neat idea until you try it, and then you discover the reason why nobody keeps doing it, and why you never see a photo of it in use, but only a sketch!
Yeah, that one. The chicken coop that is built with two doors, with a tiny garden on one side, and a tiny chicken run on the other.
There are numerous problems with this. It may be a neat idea. But it is NOT a practical workable method!
My mother did this. Inspired, no doubt, by the same article which has been running around misleading people for many decades.
She build her coop on the front fenceline of the garden and run. The dividing line ran right to the middle of the wall on the coop. She had two doors for the chickens, one for people. The chicken doors opened into the two fenced areas.
The garden had been in use for a good 5-10 years, and was finally getting to where we had the nails from the old chicken barn that burned, out of the garden, the weeds were getting more under control, the soil was getting richer and easier to till and pull weeds.
In went that coop and the old garden was fenced on the left side, and the chicken run fenced on the right side. The chickens ran for a year in the run, then she flipped them into the side where the garden was. That spring, the chicken run was tilled up, and that is where the garden went.
Horrors. Weedy corners and sod with crab grass all tilled under. All the seeds from the hay fields and the weedy margin between the hay field and the new garden, blowing in and finding a nice happy place. It was a nightmare. Three times the work on that garden that year.
So over the gardening season the chickens are happily scratching in the old garden, and it too is gathering weed seeds, which sprout to feed the chickens. That IS what you want, you want a run that is large enough to help you feed your chickens, and give them a more natural life, right? So if you do it RIGHT, the chicken run will be good sized, and it WILL GROW WEEDS!
And then you switch sides again. And that lovely garden that was so much easier to work because of all the years put into it has reverted. You are starting over AGAIN! You don't just have to break in each side and have some kind of progress each year from the on like you normally do with a garden. You have to START FRESH EACH YEAR!
No, it is not the way my mother did it that is the problem.
The CONCEPT is flawed. If you do it RIGHT, the negatives are the natural outcome! It doesn't work with a no-till garden either, your chickens will dig up the mulch and mess up the layers of soil that are being created, and you'll just end up with a tilled garden instead of the cumulative benefits of a no-till garden.
The garden moved back to the original location (where the chicken run helped to buffer it from windblown seed from the fields), and we gardened there from then on. Never again did my mother switch sides. There was simply NO BENEFIT to doing so AT ALL, only an increase in work, which could not be justified in any way!
So STOP IT Mother Earth News! Stop inventing things that you never try, and telling people they work! They don't!
And STOP IT the rest of you! Quit thinking that just because it is Mother Earth News that it is actually credible! And quit sharing it when you have not tried it! It is a BAD IDEA, and it is not by any means lonely in company with other bad ideas dreamed up by city writers who have no clue what it is like to actually raise more than one chicken and who have NO CLUE how much of a garden it actually takes to feed a family!
If you want to build your coop so the chickens have access to the garden, there is only ONE reason to do so.
After abandoning the original principle, my mother would turn out the chickens in the winter to scavenge in the garden, and then move them back in the spring. She did not use no-till, or it would not have been smart. She also did not do any winter gardening - if you do, obviously you can't run chickens in it for clean up either!
We DO love to have the chicken and duck yards right beside the garden, because it makes it so easy to throw weeds and surplus over to them. We also like to locate them on the windward side so their yard provides a buffer zone to catch surface blown seed.
But NEVER NEVER NEVER would I rotate the use of them. I am just not into making extra work for myself where my only reward is a WORSE situation than I had before!