When you have decided to take on the task of raising and growing chickens, the first thing you will need to consider is where exactly your chickens are going to spend most of their lives. If you’re stuck with an urban backyard and are not lucky enough to have a huge plot of land for your feathered friends, you’ll need to consider a relatively small chicken house that is space-efficient versus a large and complex chicken coop.
Why Is A Chicken House Necessary?
Everyone in the chicken community knows that chickens are notoriously defenseless. They don’t come with the inherent disposition that tells them to always be wary of their environment and be on the lookout for danger. They can be easily picked off by predators, such as foxes and even other predatory birds like hawks and bald eagles. A chicken coop helps to serve as a protective barrier against not only the elements, but also other dangers that may be lurking about in the area.
It is also common knowledge that a bothered chicken will not produce eggs as much as she should, so giving your hens a secluded area where they can nest comfortably, will also serve to ramp up egg production (which is probably why you decided to raise chickens to begin with).
Luckily, chicken houses and coops come in all shapes and sizes. This is also where it comes in handy to be a DIY-er as you will have the ability to design and build your chicken house as you see fit. If you’re not very handy or would prefer to leave the task to the professionals, you can find coop kits that will come with easy to follow instructions and be simple to build.
What To Consider When Preparing To Build Chicken Houses/Coops
When deciding on what chicken Coop or chicken house to build or get for your chickens, there are a few specific things you must take into consideration.
You will need to ensure that whatever materials you use for your coop will be secure and sturdy. It will need to be able to withstand rain, strong wind, snow, and other weather elements (depending on where you live) and also provide reliable protection from predators.
You’ll have to make sure that there is plenty of ventilation inside as well, like a window or open roof, to prevent the ammonia from the chicken’s feces and urine from building up.
Enough Nesting Boxes
If your main goal with raising chickens is to stay supplied with fresh eggs daily, you’ll need to decide exactly how many chickens you will be raising at any given time, and make sure there are enough nesting boxes to allow your hens to lay and incubate accordingly.
Expanding your flock, meaning hatching baby chicks on a regular basis, will require a larger coop, so make sure to plan accordingly as you will also need to expand your chicken house when your flock grows. A good rule of thumb as to how many nesting boxes you will need should be one box for every 3 to 4 hens.
Don’t Forget The Perch Bar
Besides providing your chickens with a safe place to lay their eggs, you also need to provide a place for them to “lay their heads” at the end of the day. A perch, sometimes more commonly referred to as a roost bar, comes in handy.
Usually a simple 2X4 board, or something like it, will do the trick. You should avoid using chicken wire on your perches as wires on a roosting bar can potentially cause injuries to your chicken’s feet and legs.
Overall Size Of Chicken House
Typically you should be able to provide your birds with an average of 3-4 ft.² per chicken. There’s a well-known “chicken math” theorem that states (in so many words) that “if you can house more chickens you eventually will” or something like that.
Basically, by starting out with a relatively small coop you’re ensuring that you will maintain a small flock, but if you decide to overcompensate in the beginning and build a bigger chicken house than you need you’ll eventually fill out that coop. 3-4 square feet per chicken is the minimum, however if you do not have a yard that you’re able to allow your chickens to roam about, then you will want to aim for somewhere between 6-8 ft.² of space inside the coop per bird.
Fixed Or Movable
This may not be a hard decision to make, especially if you live in a spot that doesn’t have too much space to deal with that flat out requires a fixed or stationary one. If, however, you’re lucky enough to live on a farm or have a large backyard, you may want to consider a movable chicken coop.
Sometimes issues may arise around your coop, like a broken pipe that causes major flooding or an ant infestation, where it would be beneficial to have the ability to simply relocate your chicken’s house. A fixed chicken coop would not allow you the opportunity or ease of moving it. Should something happen to your fixed chicken coop, you may be faced with the hassle of having to tear it down and completely rebuild a new one in a different area.
If you do decide to go with a movable coop, make sure to do your research on the various styles. They have different ones available, like a coop tractor or mobile chicken coop. You will need to weigh the pros and cons between them so you can ensure that you are able to choose the best one for your flock and situation.
Benefits Of Starting Off Small
If you’re still not 100% sure where to start usually the best way to go is to start off small. This will give you a chance to gain a little experience at building your chicken coop and go through some trial and error. Most small chicken coops can house 3 to 5 chickens at a time, which might be what you’re beginning with anyway.
If you do decide later to increase the amount of chickens in your flock, you will need to upgrade your chicken house, but you can still benefit from having a small coop on site. It will come in handy should you need to quarantine a sick chicken, introduce a new chicken to the flock at any point, or if you have a batch of chicks that need to be in their own area when they’re first starting out. Heck, you could even use it as a chicken jail for any broody hens or bully birds!
Efficiency At Its Best
If you are looking for efficiency when it comes to your chicken house, and you have the space available to do so, you may want to invest in a chicken house/run combo. A chicken run is the area in which you allow your chickens to roam freely to get their daily exercise and foraging in, so having a coop and run together will allow you to keep your chickens all in one general area. That will help to keep a better eye on your flock and it will keep them safer from predators.
No matter what route you decide to go, it’s evident that a good chicken house is necessary to ensure that your flock remains healthy. All of us here in the chicken community want what’s best for our feathered friends. Whether you decide to go the designer route and make a picturesque and Instagram-worthy palace coop or just choose to convert an old shed into a standard chicken house, just make sure that the above tips are considered and take proper care of it.
An Important Side Note Concerning Coops
Speaking of proper coop care, you will also need to maintain a strict cleaning regimen when it comes to your chicken’s house. A chicken coop’s shape, design, or size doesn’t matter if it’s not clean. A dirty chicken coop can quickly lead to sick chickens and lower egg production, so make sure that it’s always clean and take extra precautions to ensure the optimal health of your birds.
This includes checking the nesting boxes for mites and ticks, keeping a dusting of diatomaceous earth on the floor, replacing the nesting material frequently, and cleaning the droppings from the roosting and box areas, to name a few chores. A spacious and clean coop equals a happy and healthy flock.
Building your own chicken house or coop, whether it’s from scratch or from a kit, can be one of the most fulfilling backyard projects you’ll ever take part in. You’ll also have a lot of control over the complete design of the house itself, so it also allows you to use your creativity and imagination. A quick search online can lead you to many pages of various DIY chicken houses ranging in design, color, and other aspects.
By reviewing these various designs, you’re sure to come across one that meets your fancy and most come with a set of instructions and a list of the materials required. If you do decide to build your own most, if not all, materials and tools that will be needed for the task can be found at your local hardware store.