Have you bought into the whole urban farming trend? Perhaps you started off with a simple container garden in your backyard, just to get some fresh herbs for the kitchen table. Then you moved onto a full blown vegetable garden; I mean, why limit yourself to just herbs right? Might as well get some vegetables to go with it. And now here you are, thinking about rearing your own backyard chickens for eggs, and perhaps meat too. And hey, I don’t blame you; who knows what kinds of growth hormones and antibiotics they are injecting into these factory raised chickens nowadays, and that’s even putting aside the cruel conditions under which these chickens spend their lives.
So if you’ve decided to take the figurative plunge into raising your own food, then it’s time to start planning for your chicken coop. In this article, we’ll take a look at important considerations you’ll have to get out of the way before even putting a single nail in wood. If you have time, check out these DIY chicken coop designs which are complete chicken coop plans to get you started! Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Predator Proofing Tips
Chickens will make a tasty and delicious snack for a whole range of predators such as foxes, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, weasels, and minks. Here are some tips for predator proofing your chicken coop.
- While a dirt floor is easier to clean, it is also easier for predators to infiltrate via digging. Get a nice wood floor for your coop instead.
- If you find any holes in your coop, patch it up with wood or hardware cloth. While these holes may not be big enough for the larger predators to get through, snakes and rats can, and they pose a danger to the smaller birds as well as going after their eggs.
- Make sure both your roof and walls are made out of solid and sturdy materials. Don’t rely on just chicken wire; those can be ripped apart by determined predators. Instead, use chicken wire as a secondary line of defense. And don’t neglect the roof, many predators can climb or fly.
Of course, the size of your chicken coop will depend on your planned number of chickens as well as the size of your backyard. Here are some tips to make sure your chicken coop is appropriately sized.
- Smaller chickens, such as bantam chickens need only about 2 square feet of coop space and 8 square feet of roaming space. Larger chickens may need up to 4 square feet of coop space and 15 square feet of roaming space.
- Consider your local zoning laws; as some laws stipulate that your chicken area must be a certain minimum distance away from your property line, you may not be able to utilize your entire backyard space.
- Don’t forget to designate an area to store your chicken feed bins as well.
- For the outdoor areas, chickens need fresh dirt to scratch in, so if your yard is concrete you’ll need to designate a ‘run’ area for them to roam in. This area should also be fence in for protection. Another option is a chicken tractor which is like a bottomless chicken coop so you can move from area to area in your yard for your chickens to roam in.
Sleeping Arrangements Tips
Chickens need a good night’s sleep too; stressed chickens will not lay eggs in the quantity you desire and are also more difficult to handle in general. To make sure you have calm, peaceful, well-rested and productive chickens, use the following tips.
- Chickens prefer to sleep above the ground, so construct a roosting or perching area in the coop for them to sleep. Each chicken will need about a foot of perch space. Also, chickens poop in their sleep so make sure you don’t position the perch above nesting boxes and feeding areas.
- Provide nesting boxes for your chickens to lay eggs in; without nesting boxes, your chickens will simply drop eggs wherever they stand so you’ll find many hidden eggs, which can be quite inconvenient. Nesting boxes can be shared; one nesting box can be shared by about 3 chickens and each nesting box should measure a foot on each side.
- The nesting boxes should also be positioned about one to two feet above the ground to prevent the chickens from eating their own or each other’s eggs. Yes, this is a real problem experienced by some flocks so positioning the nesting boxes above ground will keep the eggs out of the line of sight of the chickens.
- Don’t forget to add bedding to your nesting boxes to cushion the eggs when they drop. You can any type of bedding but we recommend compostable material for maximum convenience.