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The Scoop on Backyard Coops

Many Extension Offices offer Cooperative Coops for youth who live in areas that are not zoned for poultry – UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension 4-H Program
Photo Credit: Angel

If you have been entertaining the idea of adding chickens to your personal “flock”, then we have some news for you!  Not only would you be adding a sustainable practice at your home, your youth would have amazing opportunities to learn, develop valuable life skills and explore opportunities in 4-H.  Youth from all walks of life (urban and rural) are involved in 4-H poultry projects.  Here’s the scoop on getting started with backyard coops:

  1. Location– the first thing you need to find out is whether or not your location is zoned for poultry and whether or not there are any building restrictions. If there are no restrictions on your property, you will want to select a location that is relatively flat, has good drainage, access to electricity and water, and some natural shade if possible.  If you do live in a restricted area, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office– many offices have cooperative coops where youth can participate in the poultry project, even if they can’t have their own backyard coop.
  2. Goal– Next, you need to consider what your goal is.  Do you plan to produce just eggs or are you considering producing your own meat?  Are you more interested in showing your chickens?  How big of an operation are you planning?
  3. Coop Size– Are you planning to allow your birds to free-range or stay in an enclosed pen? Birds that are allowed to roam free during the day do not need as large a coop. If you are planning to keep your birds cooped up to keep them safe from neighborhood dogs or wildlife, you will need a larger coop.  Also, the number of birds and breeds you want to have will impact your coop size.  Here are the general rules of thumb when it comes to coop size:
  • Heavy breeds– such as Australorp, Barred Rock, or Buff Orphington need 4 square feet of space if allowed out to forage during the day, but 10 square feet of space per bird if they are kept in the coop.
  • Light breeds– such as Leghorn, Araucana or Silkies need 3 square feet of space per bird if allowed to forage, but 71/2 square feet of space per bird if kept in the coop.

For more information on selecting breeds, check out this article: Which Breeds are             Best for Backyard Poultry.

  1. Coop Style–  Chickens have been around for thousands of years so they are pretty resilient, but you still need to consider giving them proper shelter and protection from the elements and predators.  Make sure that your coop has the capability to repel predators that fly, dig or crawl.  Chickens are susceptible to birds of prey such as hawks and owls as well as predators on the ground including snakes, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats. There are many styles to choose from and you can spend a lot or a little, depending on your budget or your skills as a carpenter!  Links to a few example coop plans are provided in the resources below. Many hardware and feed supply stores have “coop kits” for sale that are easy to put together.  Generally, these coops are for small numbers of birds and are easy to remove should you change your mind about having a backyard flock later.  The coop shown above was constructed with a 10 x 10 chain-link dog kennel and a canvas kennel cover.  The roof and sides were laced with poultry wire which was also buried 8-10 inches in the ground around the perimeter.  An enclosed area with laying boxes was constructed out of scrap lumber, an old screen door and a roll of window screen.  All of the components give the birds protection from the elements and predators.  Make sure that your coop site has access to electricity and water.

Chick Chain Participants
Photo Credit: A. Granger, UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension

If you have decided to incorporate some of the 4-H activities such as embryology or Chick Chain, you will be starting with day-old chicks that will require a little different living environment, at least until they can keep themselves warm and are big enough to be put on the ground.  Regardless of the age of the birds, make sure that you are providing adequate amounts of fresh feed and clean water every day.

Once your birds are mature enough to lay eggs or be used for meat, you will enjoy having a great source of protein and a valuable teaching tool for youth.  Learning skills such as record keeping and responsibility are just two of the skills that come to mind.  Not to mention opportunities in learning to show or exhibit birds, learning about poultry and meats judging, earning scholarships in the 4-H Tailgate Cookery Contest and developing entrepreneurial skills in producing eggs or meat for your family or others.

There are multiple opportunities in 4-H poultry project. If you are interested in participating, either as a youth member or an adult volunteer, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit


Backyard Flocks

Florida 4-H Chick Chain Project

Florida 4-H Poultry Project Page

Florida 4-H Embryology Program

4-H Poultry Judging

Life Skill Development Related to Participation in 4-H Animal Science Projects

Colorful Cloverbud Craft Fosters Creativity, Coordination, and Communication

The month of March is here and therefore Spring is in the air.  Our Cloverbuds are anxious to be outside with the warmer weather so a craft that has them up and about would be a perfect match.  One of my all-time favorite Cloverbud crafts is the perfect activity for this time of the year, especially right before the Easter season.  The project outcome will be perfect for your Cloverbuds to share with their families!


For this very simple Colorful Cloverbud Craft, you will need the following materials:

  • large outdoor space that is okay to get painted and messy
  • medium –large paint canvas per Cloverbud
  • a means to lean or stand up your canvases (a cement block behind each canvas works well)
  • bright neon tempura paint colors
  • 6-12 eggs per Cloverbud
  • 1-2 sheets of tissue paper
  • scotch tape


Prior to conducting this activity with your Cloverbuds, you must do a little preparation with some of the materials.  Cut a dime-size hole in each eggshell and remove the egg.  Wash the eggshell with soap and water and allow the eggshell to dry.  Once dry, fill the eggshell 2/3 full with a bright color of tempura paint.  Cover the hole with tissue paper and lightly tape closed.  Place the egg back into the egg carton.  Repeat until you have 6-12 eggs for each Cloverbud, depending on the size of the canvases.


Instruct the Cloverbuds in advance that they are to wear old clothes and shoes for this activity.  Safety glasses are recommended for this activity.  Set the canvases up in a line.  Have the eggs several feet back from the canvases.  Instruct the Cloverbuds to toss the eggshells one at a time at their canvas, allowing the eggshell to splatter on the canvas and then drip down before picking up and tossing another one.  Allow each youth to toss one egg at a time so there is no confusion and they can all watch each other’s painting being made!


This craft invites Cloverbuds to expand their creativity by choosing colors to mix and blend on their canvases.  By encouraging unstructured painting, youth are allowed to explore, experiment, and create art in a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment, fostering their creativity in a group that they feel safe and comfortable in.


Younger youth are continuously working on physical competencies at this age and stage of development.  This Cloverbud activity assists in the refinement of gross motor skills such as throwing the eggshell at the canvases.  The physical action of aiming at the specific area of the canvas with the eggshell is working towards the development of fine motor skills.


During reflection at the end of this activity, when all Cloverbuds share their final paintings with each other, youth are working towards developing increased social competence and communication skills.  By having youth express how they enjoyed the activity, what they liked best, receiving positive feedback from peers and adults, and speaking before a group, they are increasing their ability to speak in front of others.  By making them comfortable in a group that they feel safe, they will be more confident in themselves and their abilities at an early age.

With this bright and beautiful Cloverbud craft, the finished project makes a wonderful exhibit for each Cloverbud to present to their family for the spring holiday season.  It is a great reminder for youth to show their efforts, explain to others what they learn in 4-H, and practice their communication skills.

To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit

Florida 4-H Cloverbuds: A Guide for Programming for Staff and Volunteers

My 4-H Cloverbud Project Summary

Cloverbud Adventure 4-H for Kids 5-8

Volunteer Training Series: 4-H Cloverbuds Program: 4-H for Younger Members