Raising chickens can be challenging! After several years of owning chickens, we figure chicken coop basics is the best place to start. After all, they need a great place to live. A chicken coop is an absolute necessity for raising chickens. There are many parts to a chicken coop and we are going to explain them all to you!
Chicken coop basics are essential to know before you bring a bird onto your property.
There are many coops available. You can purchase one at TSC or build one from scratch. We found it’s much more cost effective to build your own. Building your own chicken coop requires time and a little bit of money, but it will be sturdier and larger than most store-bought coops. Chicken coop basics require several items needed for your birds to be happy.
Space: Each bird you plan to house needs no less than 4 square feet of space. Some say you can have as little as 2 square feet, but our birds didn’t thrive in the smaller space. Larger is better. If you are purchasing a pre-built coop, determine the complete square footage and divide it by 4. That’s how many birds that particular coop will house. Space is important because birds become sick when space is limited and they peck at each other causing disruption in the flock and even death. So don’t skimp on space! Plus, you may start with just a few birds, but I promise you’ll have more before you know it 😉
Roosting Bars: Birds want to feel safe when they sleep. It’s their natural instinct to find higher ground at night. Roosting bars is essential to chicken coop basics. It can be simple twigs from the yard to tie to some t-posts or you can build an elaborate roosting system using 1 x 1 boards. Whatever you choose, be sure you have enough bars for growth. More birds can fit on one roosting bar than you think. They like to snuggle, so they will squeeze on one bar together. As a side note, the birds who get the top roosting bar are the head of your flock. It helps to pay attention so you know who’s in charge of the pecking order!
Nesting Boxes: Birds lay eggs anywhere, but ideally you want them to lay in a nesting box. This provides privacy and safety and you won’t be searching your land for eggs each morning. Chickens will share nesting boxes. We own 35 hens and only have 5 nesting boxes. Most people choose three nesting boxes. If you aren’t sure how many you need, start with two or three and go from there as your flock grows. Our birds often climb in the boxes together when laying eggs!
Bedding: Bedding is a must when it comes to chicken coop basics. You can use hay, straw, or pine chips. Stay away from cedar as it is terrible for chickens. We place bedding in each nesting box and add more every few months. Unless your birds are sleeping in their nesting boxes (which is not healthy for your birds) you won’t need to do much maintenance with the boxes. Bedding on the ground varies by season. We place hay or straw down in the fall and winter to keep them warm. We have a dirt floor, so it’s easy to maintain. Even if the coop you build or purchase has a wooden floor you can always lay hay or straw down for added warmth.
Dust Bathing Area: A chicken needs to roll around in the dirt two to three times a week. The dirt keeps lice, mites, and other parasites off of them. Having a dust bath area in your coop helps them to have access to fresh dirt all year round. On the days it’s too wet to go outside, our birds take advantage of the dust bathing area in our coop. It doesn’t need to be large, just an area for them to keep clean.
Feed & Water: Feed and water stations are must-haves. The size of your coop and flock will determine how much food and water you need. We have a five gallon galvanized water station, but we also have 37 chickens! You can simply use a quart size mason jar and water lid that screws to the top if you have a small flock. Same with the feed. Use a chick feeder or if you need something larger most farm stores have a one-gallon feeder.
Security & Safety: Predators are a force to be reckoned with and there are no easy answers. Make sure your coop has a lockable latch on the door. If you are building your own coop or fenced area, use a product sturdier than chicken wire. Chicken wire is meant to keep chickens contained, not meant to keep other animals out. We have used, chain link fencing (lined with hardware cloth), hardware cloth, or welded wire. Also, make sure you close off any gaps in the structure. Roof lines are important to check. Along the foundation, predators will dig beneath to get to your flock. We buried 2-foot hardware cloth all along the perimeter of our coop. Predator proofing is so extensive, look for a separate post on this subject.
We know it’s a lot, but if you incorporate these items into your chicken coop basics, your birds will be happy, healthy, and safe. That makes them GREAT layers!
~Until Next Time,
Question: What essentials do you have in your coop that didn’t make our list?