If you are thinking of purchasing some chickens for you homestead, don’t let the task of planning your chicken coop stop you in your tracks. It may seem like a daunting task, but my simple checklist is all you will need for this process.
When we first though about getting some chickens, we looked online at pre-built coops and decided we didn’t have the money to spend on chickens. The coops you see online are so perfect, well designed, warm, and expensive as hell. Not many people that are looking to purchase chickens for the first time are ready to make that kind of an investment on something that they are not sure will fit their lifestyle.
As we started to spend more time with other homesteaders, we noticed that not a single one of them had one of these prebuilt chicken coops. Everyone we knew had built their own chicken coop from sheds, doghouses, pallets, or just by hand with scrap wood they had. This really got my husband’s wheels spinning and he set out to build us the ultimate chicken coop.
Naturally, I started doing research on what that chicken coop needed to include because I knew that he hadn’t. After going from one page to another, I found that there was no single resource for new chicken farmers to use so I decided to make one. Here is my list of everything you will need to include when planning your chicken coop. You might also want to chicken out these common chicken keeping mistakes to avoid before you get started.
A place for your chickens to roost is the most important, and often most overlooked part of a chicken coop. Chickens are sound sleepers and naturally like to sleep as high off the ground as possible to stay away from predators lurking in the shadows. They will sleep on the perches according to their pecking order, with the more prominent birds at the top, so the “most important” birds are safer.
It is also much healthier for your birds to sleep on roosts. Sleeping on the ground increases their chances of getting sick from the pathogens, parasites, and bacteria that are thriving there. You can keep them as high off the ground as you want, just make sure there is enough room for them to roost without hitting the ceiling!
Nesting boxes are an essential consideration when you are planning your chicken coop. The idea is to encourage your chickens to lay their eggs in a clean environment by providing them with a warm and private spot to do so. It also makes it much easier for you to find the eggs without having to get on an Easter Egg hunt!
I have found some cheap nesting boxes online that I really like, but I have also had my husband build them as well. The chickens are not particular about the nesting boxes as long as you give them enough room to fit and line the nests with someone warm and clean. The industry standard is to provide one nesting box for every 3 hens in your coop
While it should be obvious that you chickens need to have food and water, it is important they you keep that in mind when you are building your coop. If you can build a feeder into your coop from the start, it can save a ton of headache later. Any way you can keep the food and water off the ground is highly recommended!
When it comes to bedding, it is probably best to use something that you already have an abundance of on your homestead. Our alpacas only eat the leafy hay and leave behind the stuff that is a little more course, and we use that for out chicken bedding. Hay, wood shavings, wood chips, or anything else that is absorbent and warm will work great.
Since we live in New England, we like to add a little bit of insulation to our chicken coops. It will help keep them warmer in the winter and extends their laying season a bit longer than it would if they weren’t insulated.
Ventilation is one of the most important things to consider when planning your chicken coop, yet most people completely ignore it. If you want your chickens to stay healthy, you will need to give the coop a source of ventilation for air flow. At the very least, you should provide them with a small window that is protected with chicken wire or mesh. From personal experience, if you don’t provide any insulation, the chicken coop will start to stink on the summer!
Predators are a very important thing to consider when you are building a coop for your chickens. You should keep them in mind in everything you do because the smallest whole can be deadly for your chickens. Patch every air whole with chicken wire and remember that predators come from the sky as well as the ground.
Depending on what the predator situation is in where you live, you might want to have a sliding door on your chicken coop to keep them secured at night. Closing and opening the door every day is a great chore for my kids, but many fellow homesteaders have purchased units that open and close on a timer. This ensures that they won’t lose any birds just because they forgot to close the door one night.
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