If you’re building your first chicken coop, you’ll want to know everything that you should put inside the coop to keep your chickens happy and healthy. It’s essential that your coop contains all the necessary items so that your hens will be content and continue laying eggs for you.
Essential items inside the coop include roosts, nesting boxes, feeders, and waterers. How and where you add these items will depend on how many hens you have and how large the coop is. You’ll also want to ensure that you have some good floor covering, such as straw, that is easy to maintain and clean out regularly.
Here are the key items that you must have in your chicken coop to keep your hens happy and healthy.
When chickens retire for the night, they’ll need comfortable and safe roosting perches. These generally need to be off the ground so that the chickens will feel nice and safe.
You generally want to construct your roosting perches from timber and place them higher up than the nesting boxes. They need to be nice and sturdy and large enough to accommodate all your hens comfortably.
You can use lengths of timber that you attach to upright posts or even to the wall using some spacers so that the hens can sit on them comfortably. Alternatively, you can even use long, mid-sized branches from trees around your yard.
Make sure that your roosting perches are well attached so that they don’t move around. If you decide to position your roosts higher up in the coop, make sure that you also add a ramp that the chickens can climb up to get to the roosts. This could be as simple as a flat piece of timber that you’ve attached horizontal treads to.
If you want your hens to lay plenty of eggs, you’ll have to provide them with nesting boxes. You want these to be fairly low in the coop and they need to be quite dark inside. You want to install one nesting box for around 4 hens.
Therefore, if you have 12 chickens, you’re going to need at least 3 nesting boxes. It’s also important to remember that chickens like a soft material to sit on when it comes time to lay an egg.
The absolute best material for the base of your nesting boxes is a thick layer of straw. This has plenty of advantages, including that it generally won’t stick to the eggs, the hens won’t try to eat it, and it’s easy to keep the inside of the nesting boxes nice and clean.
You’ll also find that the straw will make the perfect compost for your veggie garden because you can add it to your compost pile after you clean it out or even spread it over the soil around your veggies as additional mulch.
Some people have used hay to line the inside of their nesting boxes, but this is not ideal because chickens will often eat the hay. This means that non-laying chickens may end up scratching around in the nesting boxes and, in turn, break some of the eggs that you haven’t collected yet.
You’ll also find that if you only have straw inside the nesting boxes, it’s unlikely that there will be many droppings that you have to worry about cleaning off the eggs.
Remember that whether your chickens are laying or not will depend on the number of daylight hours that they’re exposed to. So, even though the nesting boxes should be quite dark, the interior of the chicken coop should be as light as possible.
This is especially important if you don’t let your chickens out of the coop on a daily basis to forage around your garden. The coop needs to be light enough during the day so that you don’t end up with hens that stop laying.
Obviously, the best way to make your chicken coop bright and airy is to install windows. These will let in natural light during the day and still keep the coop dark at night so that your hens can sleep peacefully.
However, during the cold winter months, the days may be quite dark and dreary, and so inside the coop could be quite dark. For this reason, you might want to install a couple of ceiling lights that you’ve fitted with globes that emit a soft, yellow light.
Make sure, though, that you only turn these lights on during the daylight and turn them off at night. This is because too much artificial light can disturb the chicken’s natural reproductive cycle.
While you want to ensure that the chicken coop is well-ventilated and has adequate airflow, you also need to make sure that it’s not too drafty. Remember that you want to create a nice cozy space for your chickens so that they feel comfortable, especially when roosting at night.
Therefore, you should consider installing some insulation in the ceiling of your coop. This will help to keep the coop cooler during the heat of summer, especially if it has a tin roof.
You also want to ensure that you fill any small cracks around the coop, as this not only keeps the drafts out but it will also keep out mice, snakes, and other small rodents.
While you don’t want the chicken coop to be drafty, you do need to consider adequate airflow, and air vents are ideal for this. These should be placed close to the ceiling so that they can help remove air that is contaminated with the ammonia from the chicken droppings.
These vents will help to keep your chicken healthy inside the coop.
To make cleaning the chicken coop easier, consider placing litter trays underneath the roosting perches. These will help to catch the droppings while the hens are roosting. You can easily line the litter trays with newspaper to make cleaning easier.
It’s important to clean the litter trays out at least once a week, but daily is better as this will keep the air quality inside the coop as fresh as possible. If you have removable trays, you can simply pull them out each morning and deposit the contents into your compost.
Some chicken enthusiasts will use dropping boards instead of litter trays. These are simply wooden boards that are placed below the roosts. With these, the droppings can easily be scraped off in the morning into a bucket that can be emptied into your compost.
If you plan on feeding pellets to your chickens and you don’t intend to let them out of the coop on a daily basis, then you want to have some chicken feeders inside the coop. These should be positioned well away from the roosting perches so that they don’t get contaminated with droppings.
It’s also a good idea to have your feeders a few inches off the ground. This ensures that the pellets are not covered with straw from the floor of the coop as the chickens scratch around.
Many people will suspend their chicken feeders securely with a rope from the ceiling so that they hang just a few inches above the ground. Hanging feeders are also a bit of fun for your chickens and will keep them active if they are cooped up during cold winter days.
It’s important to provide your chickens with fresh, clean water on a continuous basis. You want a waterer that is easy to clean and refill and one that allows more than one hen to drink at any one time.
If you visit your local farm supply store, you should be able to find waterers that will provide fresh water for at least 6 hens for a whole week. Having a couple of these in your chicken coop (depending on how many hens you have) is an easy way to ensure that your chickens always have access to clean water.
Once again, you want to try and position these a few inches off the ground by placing them on some bricks or paving stones. This ensures that they will stay relatively clean at all times.
Interactive Feeders And Treat Cages
We all know that chickens love treats and that they enjoy different types of activities. So, in order to stop your chickens from getting bored, if you have to keep them inside the coop for days on end, why not install some treat cages and interactive feeders?
Treat cages are readily available, and these usually come with a hanging chain that you can attach to one of the ceiling rafters. You can then fill the cage with some leafy greens or other treats that will keep your hens happy and healthy.
Because these treat cages are hanging and kept off the ground, the food inside stays nice and clean. Plus, it will keep the hens active and engaged as they peck away at the treats inside.