Choosing A Chicken Coop
Raising chickens is a fantastic thing to do, with some excellent benefits, beyond a steady supply of fresh eggs, but there is more to it than just putting a few chickens in your backyard and feeding them kitchen scraps.
Chickens are pretty low maintenance, but they are still living creatures that need food, water and shelter. Unfortunately, chickens, and their eggs, are often prime targets for a range of predators from weasels and foxes through to badgers and stoats.
How Do You Protect Chickens From Predators?
This is where the type of chicken coop you have becomes incredibly important, and you may need a different variety depending on what predators are most common in your particular area.
A good chicken coop will be solid enough to keep out predators but allow the chickens plenty of room to scratch and move around freely, like the options available on thatchickencoop.com. If you are in an area where daytime predators aren’t really a major concern you may even look at free ranging your chickens during the day and simply moving them into a secure coop as the sun comes down.
However, you need to ensure that you do let them out each morning and remember put them in again each evening, so this idea may or may not work for you depending on what your lifestyle is like.Your main point of protection will be the actual chicken house where your chickens will nest and roost, this needs to be solid enough to not allow rodents through gaps in the floor or walls. You should also look to ensure that there is a way to seal the chicken house completely at night so that your chooks are secure and safe.
Many coops will also have an attached run. Generally, these will be large empty spaces that are framed with chicken wire mesh around the sides and the top. Occasionally you will find these with a floor of some time, but often it is preferable to have the floor just left so that your chooks are free to scratch in the dirt and dig up worms. You will want to make sure that the sides seal well against the ground and don’t allow access points for rats or weasels.
Are Raised Coops A Good Idea?
Absolutely! Generally your chook house is made of wood, so having it raised of the ground helps prevent the wood from rotting, but more than that it also helps keep your chook hut free from rodents and helps air circulated, which is a very important aspect of housing chickens. https://articles.extension.org/pages/71204/predator-management-for-small-and-backyard-poultry-flocks
If your hut is going to be portable, you may find that simply having large wheels provide enough elevation, or you could just settle the structure on breeze blocks or sturdy wooden panels.
A professionally manufactured coop should have adequate ventilation, but not be drafty, however you should check on the quality of the wood used. Something that has been aged well will not tend to swell in winter or crack in the summer heat.
Benefits Of Portable Coops
If you have a medium to large sized section, being able to move your chicken coop and run around your garden means that you are getting the benefit of having your chooks turn over and fertilize your garden – chook poo is fantastic to help your veggies grow!
By moving your coop, you will also be able to ensure that your chooks are always in prime position. So, in summer you can have them in spots that are out of the intense heat, whereas in winter you can make sure that they are kept out of damp spots or areas that are prone to flood.
As mentioned, having good ventilation is essential. Not only to keep the ammonia levels down, but good airflow helps to keep the temperature regulated and minimize condensation or mildew.
You will often see recommendations for ensuring that your coop is insulated, however this will depend largely on your location. In temperate climates this isn’t such a concern, however if you live in an area which suffers from extreme weather you might like to look for coops that are already insulated or that will be able to have insulation added aftermarket.
Most people put straw or sawdust on the floor of their chook house, not only to make it easier to keep the floor clean (just sweep out and replace with new), but also because it adds an extra layer of insulation to the floor. In many cases this will be all you need to keep your chooks comfortable all year round.
You shouldn’t need to crawl through chook poo to get to the eggs. Most well designed coops will have exterior access to the nesting boxes, allowing you to reach in and gather any eggs without disturbing the chickens.
It also shouldn’t be a difficult task to ensure that the chickens always have fresh water and plenty of food available. Sometimes water will come from a drip bottle that is attached to the side of the chook building, which does make fresh water easy to provide, but you will still need to top it up.
Having a run and coop that is large enough for you to stand up in while you clean out is wonderful, however it is not always practical to have a structure of this size on your property – particularly if you have a small section. Instead, look for commercial coops that have roofs you can lift off or sides that can be easily detached in order to gain access during a spring clean.
Chickens are social creatures, which you will soon discover, which means that you shouldn’t have just one chicken as the poor thing will get lonely and bored. However, when you have two or more you need to make sure that you have enough space to house them all comfortably.
The general rule of thumb is to have a coop that allows for around 3ft² per chook. Your outside space or run should allow around 10ft² per chook. If you have too many chickens in the space, you will get stressed chickens which can cause a range of issues.