The practice of keeping chickens on hobby farms, in suburban backyards and even in urban gardens is growing exponentially.
You might have even thought to yourself, “Wow, it would be nice to have farm fresh eggs right from my backyard! But, how would I care for chickens?” Many pondering the possibility of keeping chickens get stuck on how to properly house chickens. Here we provide you the basics you will need to keep your chickens happy and thriving.
Basic Needs for Chicken Coops
These days chicken coops come in a wide variety of designs, but all coops should have the following basic elements: four walls, a roof, ventilation, nesting boxes and roosts/perches. Many coops are also attached to a run, so the hens can have an opportunity to stretch their legs and enjoy the fresh air. Some coops also require insulation and electricity, depending on your climate.
The Roof and Walls
The walls of a chicken coop are usually made of wood. The size of the coop should be at least four square feet per hen. The roof of a chicken coop must be air and water-tight. For this reason, many chicken keepers opt for strong roofs made of sheet metal, shingles or PVC.
Proper ventilation is a must for all chicken coops. This can be done with ventilation holes or windows. It’s important to make sure your ventilation method does not produce too much of a draft on your hens and is properly screened to keep out unwanted guest such as rodents.
All coops need nesting boxes in which your hens can lay their eggs. There should be one box per every 2 to 3 hens and each box should be at least 12”x 12”. Chickens coops need to also include roosts on which your hens can perch. You will need 12” of perch per hen. These roosts replicate trees for you hens, who will use their roosts to sleep on at night.
Runs with Fencing
Runs are also an important addition to a coop to ensure the happiness and good health of your hens. Your chicken coop’s run should be about 4 – 5 square feet per chicken. Be sure your run has the proper strength fencing to keep out predators. The fencing should also be buried 12” underground to deter predators and rodents who dig. It is also wise to have a mesh roof over your run to keep out wild birds, who often carry disease.
Heating and Light
For cold climates, chicken keepers use electricity for heating the coop and the hens’ water bowls. Many chicken keepers use either heat lamps and/or flat panel heaters which have the extra benefit of being cool to the touch. It should also be noted, hens need 16 hours of daylight to lay eggs. So, during the shorter days of winter, chicken keepers use artificial lighting to replicate the 16 hours of light a day. In addition to lamps and heaters, cold climate coops are outfitted with extra insulation in the floor, walls and ceiling of the coop. Chickens love light. South-facing windows offer lots of natural light and even extra warmth in the cold winter months.
Chicken coops can be store bought or handmade, whichever you choose be sure your coop incorporates the basics we discussed. With some care and research you too can be a successful chicken keeper who has happy and healthy hens. For all your backyard chicken needs, from poultry equipment to ordering baby chicks, you can trust your Blain’s Farm & Fleet animal experts.