You’ve decided that you want to have some new feathered family members, but before you bring them home, make sure that they have the perfect coop to come home to. Just like our homes, chicken coops come in a bunch of different styles and sizes so it can be tough to know exactly what your chickens will need. Today, we’re going to fill you in on some tips and tricks to creating the perfect haven for your new flock.
Look for the Coop Necessities
When you go looking for an apartment or house, there are always things you look for that are important. The same can be said for a chicken coop. Some accessories are necessary to make sure your chickens remain happy and healthy and some just make your life easier, so before you build or buy your chicken coop, make sure it has the following parts and dimensions.
Chickens don’t need a ton of space, but it is always best to plan more space than you think you need, because you have no idea how many chickens you’ll want to add once you realize how fun they are to raise.
Purina Mills states a good rule-of-thumb for what kind of space you will need is called the 4/10 rule. This means that for the inside of your coop, you need to have at least 4 sq. ft. of floor area per bird. Outside your coop, whether it is just your yard or the run, you need to have at least 10 sq. ft. per chicken. Not having enough space can cause your chickens to fight and spread diseases quicker, so having the right amount of space is very important.
Most folks have chickens for the delicious, farm-fresh eggs, so nesting boxes are incredibly important, otherwise, your hens will just start laying eggs wherever they feel like. Then, you’ll have to find the eggs before the predators do.
Nesting boxes should be fairly small and lined with hay or straw. Ideal dimensions for nesting boxes are 1′ H x 1′ W x 1′ D, and you want to have 1 nesting box for every 4-5 hens. Hens will get very irritated if they don’t have room to lay their eggs because another bird is taking up their space.
Also, make sure the nesting boxes are dark, warm, and quiet. Hens hate being disturbed when laying their eggs, and if your hens aren’t comfortable, they won’t lay eggs. You know the saying, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, the same goes for hens; happy hens = strong, tasty eggs. A good way to make sure you aren’t the one disturbing the hens is having a door somewhere so you can grab eggs from outside the coop.
Lastly, avoid having your nesting boxes on North facing walls to make sure your hens aren’t cold during winter winds, and make sure there is a landing board on the front of the boxes to make it easier for hens to get in and out. This will also make sure that the bedding stays in the nesting box so each hen that goes to lay eggs will be cozy and warm.
Chickens like to be off of the ground to relax their feet throughout the day, especially at night, so you will want to have a place for them to roost. You nail up 2x4s or sturdy branches. If you decide to use sawed lumber, be sure to round the edges with a router or a plane to make it easier on your chickens’ feet and avoid health issues.
Avoid using plastic and metal for roosts. Those materials get cold and slippery in the winter, which can cause injury and frostbite.
Each bird needs to have 9″ of roost space and those spaces should be about 1′ apart.
Don’t you love opening your home up after a long winter and letting the fresh air roll through? Well, your chickens love the fresh air in their home as well. Roots ‘n’ Shoots says, having one air vent on each end of the coop (at least 2 air vents) will ensure a good amount of air flow, which will keep your chickens nice and cool during those summer months.
There are a few different styles of chicken coops to choose from. This decision should be based on the amount of yard space you’re willing to dedicate to your coop, if your chickens will be free-range, and the laws/regulations in your area.
A stationary coop is the most common style of chicken coop, especially in medium/small yards. This coop and run (if you have one) will remain in place until you tear it down. These coops need to start on level ground, but once they are set up, it is pretty easy to keep them together.
Pros of Stationary Coops
- The most beautiful coops are usually stationary coops because people are able to design their garden and landscaping around it. People are also more likely to spend time decorating the coop when they know it will not be messed with and moved around.
- Stationary coops are easier to predator proof because you can spend more time on them, and you don’t have to worry about moving everything around the yard.
- With a stationary coop, you can design a rotational gardening/urban-farming area, which is 2-3 separate runs that the chickens go into at different points of the year. One run could be a garden that the chickens till for you when needed, and the other could be a patch of ground that gets overgrown from time to time. Chickens love to explore new areas and eat all those bugs!
Cons of Stationary Coops
- Since the coop will remain in the same spot, if you don’t have another run or separate area for the chickens to roam and graze, Art of Manliness mentions the run will be destined to become a dirt floor. This can be dangerous when it gets muddy, and all of that manure is going to STINK!
- When placing a stationary coop, you have to consider the sun and weather throughout the year to decide where the coop will fit best. Heat is more dangerous than cold, so making sure there is consistent shade throughout the day is crucial. In the winter, make sure your chickens have protection from the northerly winds, and the sun should be on the south side for warmth.
Chicken tractors and chicken wagons are smaller coops with wheels so they can be moved to different locations in your yard. These coops are usually best if you have a lot of space so the chickens always have a new place to roam. Mobile coops are also great if you have free-range chickens that only really use the coop to lay eggs and sleep.
Pros of Mobile Coops
- Of course, the biggest pro to having a mobile coop is…it’s mobile! Your chickens will be able to forage new areas for bugs and grains, ideally every one or two days. If your weather forecast shows a heavy storm, you can move your coop somewhere safe. If you’re having a big party on your property, move your coop off the side.
- Mobile coops can usually be moved by two people, so they are great for small spaces.
- Because these coops are so small, they are perfect for temporary confinement, so if you are planning to have a free-range flock, this coop style is perfect.
Cons of Mobile Coops
- Consistently moving your coop will put undue stress on the frame of the structure. This is mostly because the ground is never absolutely level so you will need to maintain the coop more often.
- It is very difficult to predator proof a mobile coop, which makes them inappropriate for wide-open spaces with many predators around.
- Because mobile coops are smaller, they don’t make the best full-time confinement for your flock. For this type of coop, only temporary restriction of tolerant breeds is suitable.
Coop Building Materials
Chicken coops have been made out of all kinds of materials over the years. The two most popular right now are wood and plastic. TheGaurdian discusses several pros and cons of both materials.
People have been building chicken coops out of wood for thousands of years, and people continue this tradition today for multiple reasons. A high-quality wooden chicken coop is very sturdy and unlikely to blow away in high winds. They are also very easy to custom order or customize color, accessories, and design yourself. All you need is the know-how to get the job done.
One complaint that plastic coops get is that they don’t breathe, which causes condensation and if left unattended can also cause mold.
Plastic coops have become more popular in recent years, especially with chicken keepers living in urban areas. These coops come in bright colors and tend to come with removable lids to quickly and easily retrieve your eggs. Cleaning and drying a plastic coop is also much easier. You can use a pressure washer or hose to blast out the nasty dirt, grime, and feathers in minutes. Plus, plastic only takes about 30 minutes to dry.
Be a Coop Expert
Now that you have some coop knowledge, go out and do some more research and find the coop that’s right for you. If you have any chicken coop tips or tricks, leave a comment below for your fellow bird brains out there!
Also, if your chicken coop is more like a chicken mansion (unique, well built, colorful, etc.), send us a picture on social media. Your chicken coop might be featured on our next Chick Days blog post.