If you’re considering raising backyard chickens so that you can enjoy the scrumptious eggs that they’re going to lay for you, you’ll want to invest in a decent chicken coop. This will keep your hens safe and give them a beautiful home where they feel comfortable and happy. So, what are the secrets to a perfect chicken coop?
Essentially, to build the perfect chicken coop, you want to consider the location and the size of the enclosure. You also want to ensure that there’s plenty of ventilation and enough protection to keep your hens safe from predators. Your coop also needs to incorporate perches and nesting boxes, as well as feeders and waterers. Finally, the coop needs to be easy to clean.
Choosing the Right Location
You want to choose a relatively sunny spot for your chicken coop that is also protected from the wind.
Make Sure the Coop is Large Enough
When selecting how big you want the coop to be, consider that you want to give your chickens enough room to move around freely and to be able to stretch their wings. As a general rule, you should allow around 4 square feet for each hen.
This is because although you plan to allow your chickens to roam around your yard during the day, this won’t be possible all the time. For example, chickens don’t like to walk around on snow, so if your area gets snow in winter, the chickens will want to remain in the coop.
If this is going to be the case, you want to ensure that you allow at least 5 to 10 square feet inside the coop for each hen.
If there’s not enough room for them to move around freely, you might end up with aggressive hens that constantly peck each other. Plus, if the coop is too cramped, there’s more likelihood of diseases spreading through your chickens.
Make a Detailed Plan Before you Start Building
It’s a good idea to plan out the design of your chicken coop before you start building it. This means you’ll know exactly whether it’s going to be the right size and how you’re going to lay out the interior of the coop.
You also want to ensure that the doors into your coop open inwards and not the opposite. This keeps your hens safe because they can’t accidentally escape.
Before you draw up your own plans, have a look at the multitude of plans available online. You’ll be surprised at how many there are, and you might be able to get some excellent ideas for your own design.
Incorporate Adequate Ventilation
You want to ensure that there’s enough ventilation so that fresh air is always circulating within the coop. This also helps to control dampness and mold. Consider adding some sliding windows to your design. You can open these on hot days to improve airflow and close them when the weather is cold to keep your hens warm.
Although you want plenty of ventilation, you also need to ensure that the coop is free from draughts and has some insulation to protect your hens from extremes in temperature.
Protect Your Hens From Predators
If you’re raising backyard chickens, you will likely be in a rural area. This means that there will be plenty of predators around that would either grab your chickens or steal the eggs. Depending on where you live, this could include foxes, snakes, and birds of prey such as eagles and hawks.
For this reason, you need to provide plenty of protection to keep your hens nice and safe, especially at night when they’ll be roosting.
Ideally, you want to raise the chicken coop off the ground using a raised platform. This not only makes it more difficult for predators to access, but it also keeps the floor of the coop nice and dry. If it’s not practical to raise the coop off the ground, make sure that you have a solid floor surface.
You also want to ensure that the entire coop is enclosed with chicken wire. This should include the top or roof as well. If the entire coop is enclosed with chicken wire, predators won’t be able to steal your chickens at night when they’re roosting.
If you want to know more about how to fox proof your chicken coop, check out this article.
Include a Variety of Perches
At night time, chickens like a nice safe perch that they can settle down on to sleep. Therefore, you want to make sure that you install enough perches to accommodate all of your hens. Place these up high so that your birds feel nice and secure when they’re roosting.
In fact, you’ll find that chickens don’t like to roost on the ground and definitely don’t want to sit in their droppings. Roosting off the ground also reduces the risks of parasites.
For these reasons, your perches should be around 2 to 3 feet off the ground. On the other hand, if your chicken coop is quite tall and you can place your perches more than 4 feet off the ground, you’ll also need to build some ramps so that the hens can access the perches easily.
To make a simple ramp or two, all you need is a long plank that you’ve attached some wooden strips at regular intervals to resemble steps.
Don’t Forget to Add Some Nesting Boxes
Make sure to incorporate a few nesting boxes to make it easier for the hens to find a place to lay their eggs. These should be filled with straw, so the base is nice and soft, and this needs to be cleaned out and replaced regularly.
At a minimum, you want one nesting box for every 4 or 5 hens. These also need to be situated off the ground by a couple of feet. You’ll find that hens simply won’t use nesting boxes that are sitting on the ground.
Plus, raised nesting boxes will make it much easier for you to collect the eggs.
Install Enough Feeders and Waterers for all your Hens
You want to ensure that you have numerous feeders and waterers so that all of your hens will have easy access to both feed and water at all times.
Ensure the Coop is Easy to Clean
Cleaning your chicken coop on a weekly basis is vitally important in order to keep them happy and healthy. Therefore, you want to ensure that you have easy access to the inside of the coop and that it is easy for you to clean it out on a weekly basis and replace the straw and other bedding material.
For this, you’re going to need a full-size door that you need to incorporate into the design of your chicken coop. But the good news is that you can use the straw and bedding that you remove as compost in your vegetable garden.
Here are some tips for keeping your chicken coop clean with minimal effort:
- Use only straw on the floor of your coop and in the nesting boxes. It’s much cleaner and produces far less dust when compared to wood shavings or sawdust. Make sure that you purchase your straw in bales rather than in bags, as this will contain much less dust.
- Consider lining the floor with some cheap vinyl flooring. Keep an eye out for second-hand vinyl flooring that is still in good condition, or look for remnants at your local hardware store.
- Have a covered area just outside the coop where you feed and water your chickens. This clever idea will keep the interior of your chicken coop much cleaner and is ideal if you have limited time to clean it. You can store the feed in a large plastic garbage tin or storage container inside the coop and then just scoop out enough each morning to place it in the outdoor feeders.
- Allow your chickens out of the coop on a daily basis and encourage them to stay outside for most of the day. This means that they won’t make quite as much mess inside the coop for you to clean up.
- Use a scraper to scrape poop off the perches every morning, and keep a feather duster handy to remove cobwebs and dust off surfaces on a regular basis.
Consider a Portable Coop if You Have the Space
If you live on a large property or farm, you might even want to think about a portable coop. This will essentially be similar to a caravan and will be built on a trailer that you can tow around with a tractor or four-wheeler.
This is a great idea when you want to allow the chickens to graze and forage on fresh grass at different locations around your property. It also ensures that your chickens will always have new areas to explore, which keeps them out of the coop during the day and makes it easier to keep them clean on a regular basis.
If you follow all of these tips for building the perfect chicken coop, you’ll have happy, healthy chickens and lots of wonderful eggs to enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.