Okay, so when we first got "the girls," I complained. A lot. But there were a lot of bugs. And the stench, Oh My!
But things have vastly improved. Here are some notes on what works for us.
My original plan was for the coop to have a wire roof over half of it. I guess I thought I would reach in from one side to clean it out? Bad idea.
It now has two hinged plywood "doors" on top. I leave one closed and open the other when I don't want the girls to fly the coop on me. During the day, when they are in their play pen, I rake out the coop and leave it open so that the sunshine will disinfect it.
This is the nesting and roosting area. I can lift this one door to scoop out the poop or gather eggs.
In order to battle the flies, we practice the deep litter method that I gathered from The Urban Homestead (a terrific book and enjoyable read. I borrowed it from the library first, then decided to buy it). The trick is to pile the bedding up a few inches deep in the nesting/roosting area. It gets pooped on, then I rake it down into the "run" side of the coop. The girls scratch it up until it turns into lovely compost. My corn loves it! Then I fill the nesting/roosting area with fresh bedding. By keeping it scratched up, raked out, and sometimes scooping the poop into a bucket with a lid (that I got for free from Chick-fil-A), we've managed the bug problem.
Also, I got this tip from backyardchickens.com -- hang a vanilla tree car air freshener in the coop. For some reason, flies do not like the vanilla smell and will stay away.
We made this portable coop from PVC pipes and wrapped it in chicken wire. I draped a shower curtain over one end for shade, and we tied it all together with neon colored zip ties. The whole family helped and we had a ball! The girls love to move around the yard. They eat grass, but prefer weeds. Heehee. They're my little weed-eaters. ;)
Oh, how I love my chickens. They are so much fun to watch. I peek at them out the back window, and my blood pressure goes down. They are such natural, stress-free animals. I love to see them enjoying a carefree afternoon of weed-munching and dust-bathing. Their simple joy puts a smile on my face. Lyliana loves to hold them and pet them. And even their cooing noises make me smile. Except for Rhoda (the Rhode Island Red). Her noises sound a bit bossy. But the Americaunas coo at us. Such sweet birds. The only one who isn't happy with the situation is Coal, our Pekingese-- I won't let him chase the chickens. When he's outside with us, he spends most of the time pouting.