Chicken Coop / June 2, 2018 / Maryellen.
How big? You need to plan ahead for the size of your coop. Each hen needs a minimum of 4 square feet inside and outside the coop. If you get Bantams figure about 3 square feet per hen since they are smaller. Overcrowded chickens tend to peck at each other which can start a host of problems. For cold weather you want the spacing to be adequate so the chickens can stay warm. Have a quarantine area. A separate area to keep new birds for a week or two allows you to keep your flock healthy. Its also a good area to separate a hen if she becomes ill until she recovers. You can also separate the occasional over-aggressive hen that is pestering the other birds. Make sure the coop is wind and water tight. Your chickens need protection from the elements to stay healthy. They like shade during the heat of the day but also need protection from cold drafts. Use closeable windows for ventilation or a line of screened vents built into the top of north and south facing walls.
Once you have decided on the size coop that you are going to build you should then decide whether you want a portable chicken coop or if you would prefer a static ark. Portable chicken coops gives you the flexibility of being able to move it around to wherever you want to locate it. This can be good for people keeping chickens behind a fence to protect from predators. The fenced in perimeter area around the chicken coop will get worn to bare earth quite quickly as hens will eat much of the vegetation in the fenced area. Therefore being able to move your chicken coops around would be an advantage here. Also a portable coop can be easier to clean depending on the flexibility of the water source you will be using for its cleaning.
Selecting the wrong place to build your chicken coop is a big error that people make. Chickens need space and it is essential that you put the coop in an area that is spacious and where there is enough space around the coop for you chickens to run and roam freely. Remember that the chickens need a lot of space to run but you also need to be able to have enough room to move around the coop to clean it and care for the chickens. It is not a good idea to build a coop where you do not have easy access around its perimeter. Also it is important that your chickens have enough sun light and enough shade. Most importantly build your chicken coop away from bushes and brush where rodents or snakes may live or seek shelter. You do not want any unexpected guests in your coop.
Then listen up. As you may know a well built chicken coop will protect your chickens from hazardous elements such as bad weather (heavy rain wind hale snow cold climates etc) but they will also protect them from hungry predators theft and injury. Easy. You want to build a draft free chicken house with windows and doors that can be opened and closed as needed. Make sure the windows and doors both have proper screening systems installed in them such as a heavy gage mesh wire. Building the chicken coop on a high yet well drained area with ensure the least amount of dampness of the coop. Be sure to build your chicken coop in an area that faces the sun which will help warm and dry the soil and coop itself after it rains.
Predators. Raccoons dogs skunks owls and hawks-all love a good chicken dinner or a pre-dawn egg breakfast. Dig a trench 1 foot around the perimeter of the coop lay in chicken wire and cover with dirt to keep predators from digging under your coop. Make latches secure from nimble raccoon fingers. And protect chickens overhead with chicken wire away from the hawks and owls. Keep it clean. Plan your coop for easy to clean maintenance. Use the manure in your compost pile for valuable nutrients for your garden. Clean your chicken coop frequently to keep smells bugs and neighbor complaints to a minimum. Pre-plan how you are going to get inside the coop. If its hard to get into youll avoid cleaning it which will result in a buildup of manure. Use leaf litter pine shavings or chopped corn cobs for bedding. Your chicken coop design can elaborate and grand simple and plain or anything in between to complement your home and neighborhood. The main point to remember is that the coop needs to protect your flock keeping them dry secure and comfortable. Following the tips on choosing the right chicken coop will ensure that backyard chickens continue to be accepted in more cities bringing self-reliance back to the individual.