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If you’ve been dreaming of eating freshly gathered eggs in the morning, you may be considering building a chicken coop in your backyard or on your homestead.
Designs and plans can vary widely for chicken coops, depending on what building materials you have on hand and how many chickens you want to raise. However, there are some basics every good coop needs.
First, select the site for your chicken coop. You will want a southern-facing location on higher ground that offers adequate drainage. Chickens can be noisy and smelly, so look for spots that won’t bother your family or your neighbors.
Healthy birds need plenty of room to move around. Local restrictions differ, but each bird requires three to five square feet of space. If they are to be inside the coop all day, plan on doubling that space. If you are including an outside run, allow at least 10 square feet for each bird.
Chickens are sensitive to cold and damp weather, so include plenty of ventilation in your plans, but make sure you offer your chickens adequate protection from cold drafts. Light stimulates egg production, so make use of natural lighting wherever possible, and you may want to consider installing electric lights for the winter.
Keep accessibility – both for your chickens and for you – uppermost in your mind when building your coop. You will need convenient access to various areas of the coop in order to keep them clean. Handy access doors and dropping trays can make clean up easy.
In addition to the lumber, roofing, windows, and hardware needed to build your structure, here is a basic shopping list for a chicken coop. We have included links to Amazon for pricing references when possible.
1. Roosts – Chickens have a natural roosting behavior, and they feel more at ease when they are perched. In fact, this is the position in which they sleep, and chickens sleep a lot! You will want to provide nine to 10 inches of perch space for each bird. You can use wooden rails or bars for their perches.
2. Nesting Boxes – Hens like to nest in boxes to help them feel safe and secure. Look for simple and easy to clean wooden boxes. A nesting box should be least four inches deep and large enough so that a hen can comfortably lay her eggs. Aim to have at least one nesting box for every three hens.
3. Nesting Pads – Nesting pads encourage hens to lay eggs inside the nesting box and also help provide a softer surface that helps protect eggs from breakage.
4. Waterers – There are many products on the market to use as waterers for your chickens. This two-gallon heavy-duty stand-alone waterer maintains a constant water level and can be paired with a heater base in the winter. Another plus is that its edges discourage roosting.
5. Feeders – You can allow chickens to eat on demand with certain feeders. With a 20-pound capacity, this feeder is designed to keep out rodents and other birds.
6. Dust Bath – Chickens like to give themselves dust baths. It is their way of keeping their feathers clean and free of parasites. If dry soil is not accessible to your chickens for this behavior, offer them a box or a hole filled with dust bath. The box or hole should be large enough for a chicken to lie down in and to be able to spread her wings in – usually about two feet by two feet.
7. Heating – To provide your birds with extra warmth in the winter, you might need a small heater. Some styles are safe and easy to use with no bulbs or lamps to replace.
8. Bedding – Line your coop with straw, wood chips, or shavings for bedding. Add more bedding material to keep your birds warm in the winter, and use less in the summer to protect your birds from overheating.
9. Shade – Make sure your chickens have a comfortable spot away from the heat of the sun. Use shade cloth or slanted roofing to offer your chickens a safe haven in the summer months.
10. Predator Protection – Careful attention to screening, windows, and doors will help keep your chickens safe from predators, including raccoons, coyote, foxes, birds of prey, and even neighborhood cats and dogs. Protect your chickens by using a sturdy wire mesh around the entire building and placing a padlock on the door if you have one.
Research the predators in your area and add extra deterrents as necessary. One option is to add a solar powered light to scare away night-time predators.
If you are looking for some ideas for building your chicken coop, here are a few videos to check out.