Chickens Need Housing, Too
Chickens are becoming a more and more popular addition to people’s gardens and backyards. People are more aware of how chickens are treated in the egg industry and would like to make sure that they do not consume eggs from chickens who have been mistreated, had their beaks cut off, or are crammed into cages in which they are never able to stretch their wings. Even so-called free range farms are often less than ideal – and all commercial egg farms kill off the poor hens after a far too short lifespan.
People who decide to have their own chickens usually do the best they can to make sure their hens – and maybe one lucky rooster who is spared the sad fate of millions of other roosters – are happy, healthy, and have enough room to be a proper chicken.
One very important factor in a chicken’s well-being is the housing. Just like humans, chickens need housing, too. While the original jungle fowl used to sleep in trees to be safe from predators, the modern chicken enjoys a proper coop. Though owners of Bantams will notice that they also sometimes try to roost in trees!
You should have the chicken coop ready before you go out and get your chickens.
Getting Chickens Means Taking on Responsibilities
Buying or adopting chickens (e.g. ex-battery hens whose only chance for a normal life after 18 months of hell is to be adopted) means that you take on a few new responsibilities in your life. You can’t just buy the chickens and then expect them to turn into egg laying machines that never need any attention.
You will have some tasks that need to be done daily, and some that need to be done weekly, and even monthly. These include:
- Feeding the chickens
- Making sure fresh, clean water is accessible
- Check for signs of illness (chickens are masters at pretending they are well, so it often is too late when you notice a chicken being absolutely distressed or depressed. It is important that you develop an eye for what is normal in chicken behaviour and what is not, so that you can notice even small changes in their behaviour)
- Clean the coop
- Disinfect the coop
- Check chickens for lice, fleas, and mites
- Collect eggs
- Open coop in the morning
- Close coop at night
- Make sure predators have no access to the chickens’ area
- Keep chickens’ area mud-free in wet weather
How to Get a Chicken Coop
Once you are sure that you would like to get chickens, you need to think about where you would like to get your chicken coop from. There are basically only two options: Either you buy a coop, or you make it yourself. Of course, both options have their advantages and disadvantages. We’ll have a closer look at both options now.
Buying a Ready-Made Chicken Coop
Chicken coops can be found in a variety of stores – online, as well as offline. If you have a trailer, you can pick them up yourself, or you can have them delivered – which is often a bit on the expensive side.
Some chicken coops come in pieces, and you will have to assemble them yourself – but usually you do not need a lot of skills for that.
Second-hand is also possible, but there is a risk of contamination and giving your hens diseases from the previous inhabitants unless you make sure everything has been properly cleaned and disinfected. Be aware that some bugs, like red mites, are very hard to get rid of. Don’t never buy a second-hand coop that shows signs of previous mite infections. You don’t want to deal with that – and you do not want your hens to deal with it, either.
The advantage of buying a coop is, of course, that there is little work involved. You just have to choose the coop you like, pay for it, collect it, or get it delivered, and then put it in the place you want it to be. All you need to get then is feeders, drinkers, bedding, feed – and the chickens!
The disadvantage of going down this path is that good quality chicken coops can be rather expensive, and cheap ones often fall apart very quickly, especially if you live in an area with lots of wind. You also have no option to modify the coop if you have certain chicken coop ideas, e.g. a certain window style to make the coop look nicer.
Building Your Own Chicken Coop
Building your own chicken coop is, of course, a bit more time consuming than just buying a coop (this is one of the disadvantages), but it has a lot of advantages also.
You have more control over what your coop will look like, and as long as you make sure it is chicken friendly, you can even come up with designs like Hobbit hole chicken coops! Naturally, the more complicated designs are more suitable for people who already have some experience with making them – or are willing to learn everything from scratch (which will take even more time, but is often very satisfying.)
You will spend a lot less money than if you bought a ready-made chicken coop. People who make their own chicken coops usually end up with a better product and save up to 50% of the cost. You also need to consider that you can get a better quality coop for the same money you’d spend on a not so good pre-made coop. After all, part of the price you pay is for the work hours of the people who build the coop.
When your head is full of chicken coop ideas, and you will eventually get to the point when you choose one of those ideas and make it reality, you will also feel immensely proud of your coop. You will simply feel a different kind of connection to it as opposed to if you had bought it from a shop.
You might be worried about not having the skills, but building a coop isn’t as complicated as building a proper house, of course! If you go for simple designs, or use a plan made by someone else, then all you need to do is source the right materials, have some simple tools at hand (usually a hammer, a drill, a stapler for attaching the roof’s protective layer, and a saw), and spend some time building. It is usually helpful to have a second person helping you, but building a coop is also doable on your own (unless you build Cluckingham Palace).
Our top pick for chicken coops!
If you’ve ever dreamt of building your own chicken coop, we have you covered!
What is Important When it Comes to Chicken Coops?
When it comes to your chicken coop ideas, you might have some very fancy plans in your head. Some might be realistic, some not. No matter what kind of chicken coop idea you eventually go for, you need to make sure that some important things are covered and done the right way.
Size of the Coop
Getting the size of your coop and its nest boxes right is very important. Make sure that you are aware of your country’s / state’s regulations regarding how much space a hen needs. This is the minimum, and while chickens love huddling together at night, you should be nice enough to give them some extra space, esp. if you sometimes need to keep your chickens locked in for longer periods.
How big your coop gets depends on how many chickens you have – and please never consider getting just one chicken! Chickens need company and keeping one hen on her own is just cruel. Get at least three hens.
It is also important to make sure you have enough nest boxes. Hens can get quite stressed when they find all nest boxes occupied. This can, in the long run, lead to serious issues. You will notice that hens often share the same nest box – and often even leave other nest boxes unoccupied. This does not mean, however, that you can ignore the fact that they need enough space!
Do not go over the top though and get a 50 chicken coop for 10 hens!
Location of the Coop
Getting a chicken coop and chickens is great, but you will also need to think about the coop’s location. Do you have a flower or veggie garden that needs protection? Are there any plants that are poisonous to chickens in the area you will let the chickens free-range in?
How much sun and shade does the coop’s location get? And how exposed is it to strong winds?
A small chicken coop can easily be moved every few weeks, but it is a different story if you get a bigger coop, so make sure that you get the location right.
Ventilation is very important for the health of the chickens – yes, even in winter (if you think of closing off all ventilation and adding some extra insulation over the winter months, you will need to think again and learn a bit about chickens and their needs in winter).
Ventilation holes should be located at the top of the coop, under the roof, so the old air can escape. Some chicken coops, especially converted sheds, lack good ventilation, and that is bad in summer AND winter.
Materials of the Coop
You might think of chicken coops being made out of wood, but these days you can also get chicken coops made out of other materials. Wood has some disadvantages in addition to having plenty of advantages, so you might want to check out the alternatives, too.
Some chicken coops are made from a certain kind of plastic. This has the advantage that you can use a hosepipe to give the coop a good clean, and mites will not have any hiding places. Hence, mites will find your chicken coop not attractive to live in at all.
The disadvantage of materials other than wood is that they are not easy to work with, and often not suitable for the inexperienced coop builder.
Access to the Coop
Some chicken coops might look really cute, but then you notice that it is hard to get inside to give them a clean, or you have issues with collecting eggs when a hen decides to not lay in the box but in a corner of the coop that is difficult to reach.
This is why you need to think about making all parts of the coop easily accessible for human beings. Nest boxes are usually not the problem as they can be opened from the outside in most cases.
The interior of the coop is a different question. How do you get inside to clean the coop, change the feed, and give the hens fresh water (this is not an issue if you keep the water and food outside.) Make sure that you have a human-sized door that you can use if your chicken coop is large enough to have such a door.
For smaller coops, you should consider having whole walls that can easily be removed to access the inside. You need to clean your coop regularly, so make sure that this job will not turn into a nightmare that requires you to be flexible enough to do some complicated yoga poses with cleaning equipment in your hands!
How to Turn Chicken Coop Ideas into Chicken Coops
Once you have a clear idea about what your chicken coop should look like, i.e. the size, the material, the design, etc., it is time to think about how you can build that coop.
You will first need a plan. If you have the skills or willingness to learn from scratch, you can make your own plan. If you lack the skills, confidence, or time, then you might want to check out the plans other people have made. You will often find that someone else already had the same idea you had in mind. Hobbit chicken coops, for example, are already a reality. You can then use the plans from other people, and maybe modify them a little if necessary.
Once your idea is a proper plan, you need to get the materials and tools to build the coop. Usually, neither the materials nor the tools are anything weird or unusual, so you should have no issues ordering them online or buying them in your local DIY store.
After you bought the materials and tools (if you did not already have those), all you need is time and some very basic DIY skills to build your coop.
What to Consider Before Getting Chickens
Playing around with chicken coop ideas is only one thing you need to consider before you actually buy some chickens. Whether you build a coop or buy a coop, it will be a financial investment. In addition, you need feeders, drinkers, cleaning equipment, and good chicken feed (organic is best – home-made is even better, but can be a bit overwhelming for newbies to chicken keeping). The initial cost can be quite big, so you need to make sure you really want chickens.
If you are only after getting fresh eggs that are produced by proper free range chickens, then you might first want to have a look around your neighbourhood. Maybe there already is someone with organic, free ranging hens who has some spare eggs they sell. Because your own eggs won’t be free either: you have to buy the coop, the chickens, and you will regularly spend money on feed and bedding.
If you, however, also care about personally making sure chickens are happy – and even better, if you want to give a home to some ex-commercial hens – then chickens will also reward you by making you happy in return. Keeping chickens is not only about eating their eggs. They make excellent pets, and have shown to be great company for elderly people, too.
There is regular work involved in keeping chickens, but every single chicken is worth the effort. Each hen and each rooster has her/his own personality, and if you spend time with them, watching them, you will soon find out who is the boss and who is the follower. You will also see that chickens are much more clever than you might think. Do not underestimate them.
Chicken Coop Building Made Easy
It might sound like a daunting task to build your own chicken coop, but it does not have to be difficult at all. You do not even need to be a professional carpenter or have any kind of advanced woodworking skills to turn your chicken coop ideas into reality.
Building a Chicken Coop is an eBook that will teach you everything you need to know, and it will save you having to take measurements and make lists of materials yourself. All you need to do is follow the instructions, and you’ll be rewarded with a great looking chicken coop your hens will love!
Our top pick for chicken coops!
If you’ve ever dreamt of building your own chicken coop, we have you covered!