If you’re thinking of keeping chickens, you can rest assured about one thing. Chickens are easy to take care of. But just like us, they want to live in a house that provides them with protection from predators, nasty weather, and a place to feel comfortable. The hen house must be their “Home Sweet Home”.

If you are thinking about building your own chicken coop, the basics you need to consider are as follows:

Sound Structure

You will want to have 3 to 4 square feet of space per chicken. The coop needs to be placed where it gets enough sunlight and has good drainage. Don’t place their house at the bottom of a slope where rainwater will gather. The coop needs to be dry. Where do you think the saying, “Mad as a wet hen” came from?

The roof must be solid, not only to protect the birds from the elements but also from predators. Raccoons may be cute but not when they are out-smarting you in order to find a way into the coop. Make sure every nook and cranny of the hen house is secure.

Chicken Runs

You want your chickens to be able to feel free enough to roam around and smell the roses. A run is an enclosed area that has 10 square feet of space per chicken. Naturally, the bigger the better. Cover the run with wire mesh for their protection.

Bedding

For sweet dreams, the hen house floor can be made of concrete, wood, vinyl or linoleum. For easier cleaning, choose linoleum or vinyl. Then cover the floor with wood pellets, hay or wood shavings. Pine wood shavings smells real nice. Cedar shavings are a no-no because of toxicity to the birds. Sawdust can create breathing problems. If you choose to use hay, keep vigilant watch for rodents, mites and lice. A good reason not to use hay for the floor.

A popular choice of bedding is known as the Deep Litter Method. For this, layer 4-8 inches of wood shavings over the floor. You will rake everyday in order to keep an even spread. Throwing corn on the floor gets the chickens to scratch around the shavings helping the bedding to be even and aerated.

After mixing with the chicken manure for six months, the shavings will become compost which you can spread on your lawn or garden for fertilizer. You will only need to clean the hen house once or twice a year with this method. Your nose will tell you when to clean.

Nesting Boxes

Your hens need nesting boxes in order to lay eggs. These boxes should be 15 inches long, 15 inches wide and 12 inches deep. For filler use hay or straw. The boxes should be changed once a month to prevent health problems. One box for 4 to 5 hens will be enough. Keep the boxes at a slant. This keeps the birds from roosting on top of each other.

Lighting

Let there be light. Good lighting is very important. Especially during shorter days of natural light. Light promotes maximum egg production. For artificial light, use two 65-watt bulbs for an 8×10 foot coop.

Guidelines for light:

* 24 hours a day of light for chicks up to seven days old.

* 8-12 hours of light a day for chicks one to six weeks old.

* 12 hours of light a day for chicks 6 to 19 weeks old.

* 12 -16 hours of light a day for chicks 20 weeks and older.

Light also provides warmth for the birds. Use timers to regulate how much light they receive each day.

Insulation and Ventilation

We all need it. Fresh air and oxygen. And your coop needs to have great ventilation. If carbon dioxide is allowed to build up, your flock can be harmed. Make sure to drill several holes in the top of the walls and cover them with mesh. These are the air passageways.

You might also want to install windows in the coop. These will keep the birds cool in the summer. In the winter, make sure you have a good vapor barrier and insulation. The insulation has to be covered so the birds don’t peck at it. These two things provide a comfortable environment in which your birds will thrive.

Feeders and Waterers

Waterers can be placed inside and outside the coop. Food should be kept strictly inside. This keeps other critters away. Deep feeders are best because there won’t be as much food waste. Chickens are messy eaters. If you use a trough feeder, only fill it one-third of the way. Automatic feeders are also available.

Some people love to feed the chickens by hand by tossing their food around. It’s the best way to bond with your flock. Who doesn’t love dinner conversation? There are many type of waterers. You can also purchase a a heater to prevent freezing so your birds will have available water even when the temperatures drop into frigid territory.

Roosts

The natural instinct for chickens is to perch up off the ground, especially at night. They’ll sleep shoulder to shoulder on a roosting perch. If they are free-range, they will sleep in a tree. The number of roosts will depend on the size of the flock. Don’t arrange roosts on top of each other. Not pleasant for the birds below when the ones above them are going to the bathroom!

Perches or roosts can be ladder style and sloping toward the back of the wall. If perches are across the coop and away from the nesting boxes, you won’t have to walk through the droppings to gather the eggs. As well, don’t have perches above waterers or feeders for the same reason. You don’t want them contaminated from the droppings.

Perches should be 2 inches in diameter for chickens. One inch for bantams. Wood is more comfortable for the birds than metal and you’ll want the edges rounded smooth so they can grip and get a good hold. Have the space between the bars be about one foot apart to give them enough room.

The poop is under the roosts. A good idea is to have a manure box placed under the perches. They are filled with bedding and covered with moveable screen lids. These can be cleaned once a week or every day if you wish. Again, you have compost!

Keeping these things in mind will afford you ease in keeping chickens. If you listen close enough, you’ll hear them clucking the tune of “Home Sweet Home”!

Click Here when you’re ready for your chicken coop plans to build your own chicken coop.

Tagged with:

Filed under: Chicken HousingFeatured

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!