After chatting via email with Susan, a friend from high school who raises chickens and a family on her farm, I have decided that the best way for us to have chickens is to use a chicken tractor, a bottomless pen that I can move around the yard and the chicks can scratch in the grass or garden plot. Wherever I decide to park them.
I found a website with lots of good pictures of chicken tractors. After that I set out to design pretty basic tractor for my chickens-to-be. I started out this afternoon with a stack of lumber that I took out of a neighbor's remodeling trash.
I am going to have to decide whether I want to put a hatch on the roof or a gate on the open end of the tractor. The gate will make it easier for the kids to go inside, bu the roof hatch should be make it a little easier to keep the birds contained.
When I get around to building the nesting box there will be a door to the outside of the tractor that will make it easier to clean and to gather eggs.
The last thing I'll decide on is how I want to move the tractor around the yard. Unless it is simply too heavy, I'll probably just drag it around. Otherwise I'll add some wheels to the corners under the nesting box.
Edit: Stopping to watch the Olympics. I'll post some pictures Saturday morning, but ladies and gentlemen, I was unsuccessful in building a chicken tractor. Let's just say I never was very good at geometry.
What I did build is the start of a mighty fine chicken coop. But this thing is going to be too big and heavy to move. Maybe even with a tractor.