The Three Nursing Home Hens

The Nursing Home Project began with five hens. I was concerned that five were too many for the space,

nursing home coop

but I also thought that there’d be losses. I was right on both counts. Clementine, the favorite hen, died of internal laying. Beulah, the Black Star, decided that her flock mates were too close to her and she was too bored, so she got into the bad habit of feather picking. I brought her back home, where she is reformed.

The nursing home flock is now down to three.

DSC_2377 (1)

Three hens are just right. They all get along. They’re busy, and chatty, and that makes them entertaining for the nursing home residents and their families. Children, who would otherwise find visiting an elderly relative scary (as these institutions are, what with the smells, and the staff in uniforms, the equipment, and the people with dementia) are happy to spend time with a grandparent when there are chickens to distract everyone.

The staff benefits. Lisa continues to spend her lunch hour with “my girls.” She lets them out on grass when she can. They follow her everywhere so she has no problem getting them back into their coop. Lisa collects the eggs, and will surprise a coworker with a gift of an egg at their work station.



I have learned some lessons. Firstly, I should listen to my own advice and stick to my chicken coop criteria, especially for the amount of outside space that hens need. Also, next time, I’d build a compost bin into the fenced run, just like I have at home. (It turns out that the nursing home provides lots of greens and other goodies to the hens, and a contained space for those healthy treats would be better.) I also proceeded under the assumption that there was ample storage for the feed, tools, etc. nearby. However, there isn’t. A coop at an institution needs it’s own, attached storage area. The nursing home is going to purchase a small tool shed. That will make Lisa’s care-taking chores that much better. (You can see the way it is done now in this photo.)

back of shed

The other thing that I concluded is that coops designed for public viewing should have a roof on part of the outside run. That way, even when the weather is bad, (whether it’s raining, snowing, or very hot, the hens will come outside and people can enjoy them.

They are enjoyable.

three hens


  1. So happy to hear ever thing is going so well at the nursing home.

  2. It’s such a nice thing for the residents and visitors to have out there. Great work you are doing. And I learned all those lessons as well. We finally built a small shed and put it next to the coop and coop yard (covered).. and it is wonderful.

  3. Those 3 Hens have a very good life butI suppose one could still put together a compost pile in the run quite simply, nothing fancy. Maybe one of the family members would be interested in setting one up?

  4. Good to hear everything is working out! I’m surprised though that 5 hens would be too much for that space…the coop and run looks pretty large. Would you generally say a coop/run of this size would house 3 hens MAX???

    • It looks big, but it’s not. You really do need 4 square feet per bird inside and twice that (at least) outside, especially for chickens that don’t freed range. Less than that and you’ll have pecking. I know of one urban coop that had to euthanize birds because the pecking got so severe. This coop is good because it has height and ventilation. Partially covering the run helped to expand the hens’ options when the weather was bad. Sometimes it depends on the breed. Some breeds do better in the tight confinement (like the Delaware, but not RIRs.)

  5. Is that an “off the shelf” coop or did a carpenter make it just for the nursing home? They look very content.

  6. Okay, so glad my spacial judgement wasn’t off. I’d look at the photos and the amount of space around the chickens and go, “ummm”. It was so much less than what you had, but what do I know? All the chickens in my early life roamed loose and free only coming into the coop at night or to lay. And the coops were tall narrow things with roosts and boxes. I like clean and spacious coops much better! And so do the chickens, obviously!

  7. Terry, Have you been “horsing around”? I need a Tonka fix…can we see some photo’s?

  8. I just love EVERYTHING about this! I think every nursing home should have one…it’s win win. Thanks for sharing.