Chickens are attractive to have for many reasons, and there are a growing number of folks who are joining the ranks of chicken owners across the country. However, owning and caring for chickens is not a job for the faint of heart. There are many steps that need to be taken to provide a proper place for your chickens to live.
You could purchase a coop at your local farm and feed store. However, if you have a knack for handy work, consider this DIY project and create the perfect coop for your farm or yard.
To create a chicken coop, here are 10 tips to consider:
1) Materials: You’ll need to start by getting a 4-by-8 foot screened-in run and a 4-by-4 foot critter-proof coop for up to three hens—although the more room, the better.
2) Location: Make sure you find a well-shaded area. Your chickens need to keep cool in the summer and a good leafy, shaded area will provide that.
3) Prop up the coop: Make sure you coop is elevated at least 2-3 feet off the ground. Your chickens need to stay dry in the event of any wet weather, and that will also help you ensure that no additional critters from the earth will rise up and infiltrate the coop, should it flood. Use ramps to allow the chickens to move around from place to place.
4) Let there be light: Chickens need a sufficient amount of light (preferably sunlight) to help lay eggs. In the winter time especially, make sure your coop has warm lighting. Think about soft, warm bulbs that give a nice mood glow. Some people have even gone as far as to install chandeliers or even lamps to make their feathered friends feel cozy and happy. Eggs will also need ample warmth. You will need to build your coop to be able to handle heat lamps in the proper locations.
5) Nesting: Create many places to nest – this is the part where you can let your creative juices flow. Make sure you set up nesting boxes around the coop. You can use baskets filled with straw and hang them around at different levels. Wood closet rods can act as perches for sleeping.
6) Safety: Chickens can be easy prey for nocturnal creatures such as raccoons, opossum and fox. Lock up the coop at night with hardware that is design-proofed against predators. Look for door latches that cannot be flicked open by paws.
7) Ventilation: Chickens, like humans, will get sick if the air they breathe is not circulated. To properly vent a coop, definitely consider using screens for walls or possibly a slanted roof that allows hot air to escape, without causing a draft.
8) Repurpose whenever possible: You don’t have to start your coop totally from scratch. You can very easily use an old shed as the framework or an old outhouse. If you go the salvage route, however, safeguard the health of your chickens by steering clear of lumber that’s coated with lead paint or preserved with harmful chemicals.
9) Preparation: Your coop should be designed for easy access for not only the chickens but you. Chickens need daily food and water, and you’ll need to keep the coop clean on a regular basis. Make sure your coop allows you to easily go in and out to clean and replenish easily. Also, consider a chicken waterer that you can fill from the top. That way you eliminate the chance of feces and pests getting into the chicken’s water.
10) Be Creative! Your coop does not have to be an utilitarian eye sore. Quite the contrary, actually. Use your chicken coop as a prop for beautiful vegetation, potted plants and flowers. Just make sure they don’t contradict the needs of your chickens.
For more information on chicks, give us a call or simply come in to discuss. We offer a variety of baby chicks in the spring, call for dates. Our store offers chicken supplies, including coops (and ideas for DIY), chicken hatches, waterers, heat lamps and bulbs, and much more. Don’t forget your chicken feed, scratch and treats!
Check out these chicken coop plans from Purina:
This Old House: