What Makes A Good Chicken Coop?

Chickens are creatures of habit. After leaving the coop each morning, they follow the same path around your property, following the same patterns day after day.

When I get home from work each day, I look for them in two areas. They are to the right, under and around a Ragusa rose, or straight ahead on the bank above the chicken coop.

They wander around scratching and pecking until just before dusk. Then, they all head for the coop at about the same time. The chicken coop is arguably the most important tool in your chicken-raising toolkit. So, what makes a good chicken coop?

Size Matters

Chickens need a certain amount of space to be happy and healthy. Full-size birds need more space than bantams, while Jersey Giants need more than most. The rule of thumb for normal-sized chickens is 3-4 square feet per bird in the coop.

If a coop is too big, there will be too much space for your chickens to keep warm with their body heat during colder months. …too small, and there won’t be enough space for the birds to be comfortable, which can lead to injuries, aggression, and even cannibalism.

A chicken coop should be small enough to keep your chickens thermally comfortable, large enough to house necessary internal components, and large enough to enter for cleaning.

An 8-foot-x-8-foot structure would be good for the hobby chicken farmer for a flock of 16-20 standard birds. But you can’t just nail up an eight-by-eight box, throw in some chickens, and tell them to go lay an egg. No, several components go inside the hen house, essential to providing optimum conditions for egg laying.

Inside Equipment

Proper bedding is important. The type of bedding you use will determine the amount of housekeeping needed. While straw, hay, or wood chips can be used, I prefer course pine shavings. They are absorbent, easily obtained, and large enough so chicks don’t mistake them for food.

There is a method of layering shavings that goes something like this: Start with a couple of inches of shavings on the coop floor. Let the birds use it for a week, then sprinkle a couple of cups of diatomaceous earth on top and add another layer of shavings. You can do this for several layers. The diatomaceous earth will kill mites and other tiny critters while adding another absorbency factor.

Feeders and watering feeders are important. Both components should be suspended seven or eight inches or placed atop a block so that the chickens can reach the food and drink, but they won’t be able to fill the feeders with shavings or poop.

A good alternative to the common open-water feeder is a nipple feeder with a spring-loaded pin that allows droplets of water to flow when the chickens peck it. Baby chicks learn quickly where their water comes from and how to get it.

Nesting Boxes – A Safe HavenNesting Box - Chickenmethod.com

If you’ve ever been to a farm with chickens but no area designated for laying, then you know that eggs can be found almost anywhere as long as that place is secure, relatively dark, and quiet. Nesting boxes provide a haven; you don’t have to play hide-and-seek to find your eggs daily. There are basically two types of nesting boxes. The first is an individual box that is roughly one square foot in size and is meant to house one bird at a time, although when a chicken’s gotta lay, sharing can be, and is, done.

The second type is a community box. This structure is four feet wide, two feet deep, and a foot high. Your entire flock of up to 35 hens will share this box. You would probably want to put a hinged top on the community box for easy access to the eggs and spot cleaning. Put a bedding layer in your nesting box(es) to keep the hens comfortable and the eggs from rolling around. Broken eggs are no fun to carry or clean up.

Windows And Ventilation

Windows are optional. Chickens respond to the length of daylight by laying fewer eggs during the darker months. Fourteen hours a day of light will yield consistent production, and the light doesn’t have to be sunlight.

You can set a light on a timer to turn on in the morning and off fourteen hours later. You can also do the same thing manually to keep yields steady. I prefer windows anyway. A stiff screen over the window keeps the chickens from breaking the glass.

Ventilation is not optional for two reasons. Firstly, chickens give off quite a bit of heat. In the summer, ventilation helps keep the hens cool. Coops should also be properly insulated to provide warmth in the winter and cool in the summer. Secondly, the buildup of manure gives off ammonia gas that needs to be removed continuously. Regular cleaning of the hen house helps keep this in check.

Built with Love

If you don’t have a structure on your property already, you can purchase a hen house. Small backyard units come all set up to put some bedding into and house half a dozen hens. There are wooden sheds at the DIY mega stores that can be easily retrofitted to make a perfectly fine chicken coop. If you’re moderately handy, you can build your own.

Chickens know what makes a good chicken coop – it’s built with love.

Okay, maybe love is a little strong. Maybe I’m not in love with my chickens, but I do like them a lot and appreciate what they give me every day. Every evening, when I close the coop door, I thank my hens for the day’s eggs. They haven’t said you’re welcome yet, and when they do, I will probably need to seek professional help.

Thanks a lot for reading. Let me know if you have any questions.

Dave

Chickenmethod.com

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