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Chicken Coop Ideas for the Best Hen House:
We have had family laying flocks for decades. First of all, chickens are not hard to keep but there are several things to be aware of when deciding to raise laying hens. When designing your chicken coop, you will need to consider things like weather with temperature extremes, predators and feed. Here are some chicken coop ideas for the best hen house ever! Taking a little time in the beginning to plan your chicken coop will make it so much easier, safer and healthier for your homestead, farmstead or backyard flock!
Here are several chicken coop ideas and tips that have worked well for us. First of all, laying hens have very basic needs like all animals: food, water and shelter.
Shelter / Housing:
Location, Location, Location……this is true for all real estate and it also holds true for your chicken coop as well! The ideal location for your coop is out of the wind with a south facing window or windows! Since the girls will need extra sunshine in the winter, windows are really important. Some winter days can just be too cold for your chickens to venture outside which is why the sunlight coming through the windows provides a pleasant and warmer coop in the winter. Even a window in a door can be helpful as long as it receives direct sunlight in the winter months.
#1. The Coop -Chicken Coop Ideas for the Best Hen House
Basic Chicken Coop Requirements:
There are a variety of chicken coop styles that you can buy or build. Chickens basically need to be protected from the elements and predators. They need ample floor space, nesting boxes and roosts. Your flock will need to be closed up each night so plan on adding some type of chicken door as well as making your coop varmint proof.
The rule of thumb is that chickens will each need a minimum of 4+ square feet of floor space inside the coop and 10+ square feet in the outside run. This will allow ample room for each bird to move freely about as well as scratch through the litter on the floor. Most importantly, you must guard against overcrowding so make sure to keep the “4+ Square Foot per Bird” rule in mind when designing your coop space.
Some will say that 3 square feet per bird is adequate but if you have the room 5 square feet is so much better. If you have too many chickens in a small space, it is very difficult to keep the floor litter clean and dry. Wet and damp litter on the floor can also spread illness.
This floor space rule is especially important in the colder winter months when your flock will not have as much outside time due to inclement weather. Rain, snow and cold will all discourage your chickens from venturing outside.
Please note: overcrowding can cause and spread disease.
If you do not have a wooden floor in your coop or barn, consider putting one in or burying wire at least a foot into the dirt around the outside of your coop, barn or shelter. Turning the wire at a 90 degree angle with about 12 inches laying flat in the bottom of your trench will stop digging predators like coyotes and foxes. Make sure to trap any and all rodents in your coop.
We decided to add electricity to our chicken coop for overhead lighting which is helpful on dark winter days. There is a wall switch, overhead fixtures and an outlet inside the coop. We have added a timer for additional lighting during the winter months which has been helpful not only with egg production but the addition lighting gives the girls extra time to feed and scratch about the coop. This has proven helpful especially in the dark days of winter.
There are many types of chicken coop ideas and designs with something to fit any budget.
Small Chicken Coop from Amazon
Mid Size Wooden Chicken Coop from Amazon
Backyard Chickens’ Guide to Coops and Tractors from Amazon
#2. Roost Space
Your coop area will need roosts for the chickens to perch on each night. Chickens will sleep huddled on the floor if there are not any roosts. Perching at night is their natural way to sleep. Roosts enables the chickens to huddle closer together if it is cold or spread out if the temperatures are warmer. If given ample room, your hens will self-regulate their need when roosting.
The rule of thumb for linear roost space is 12+ inches per bird. If you can provide 14 to 16 inches, it makes the roost more comfortable for your hens.
#3. Nest Boxes
Chickens like to lay their eggs with a little privacy! Providing individual nesting boxes has worked out the best for our flocks. We have had store bought metal nesting boxes as well as diy plywood nesting boxes and they all work well as long as the dimensions are correct. The nesting boxes should be approximately 14″ x 14″ X 14″ with divider walls. We received our first set of Store bought nesting boxes as a Christmas gift from our dear old friends, Dell and Lorraine. I will never forget our boys helping Dell put these together on their kitchen floor. Great memories!
Dell and Lorraine taught me most everything that I know about chickens! It is fun to pass their knowledge on to you!
Take a look at these nesting boxes from Amazon
If the nesting boxes are too small, the laying hens feel super cramped and might squash their eggs when moving around as they get settled. Conversely, if the nest boxes are too large, the chickens do not feel private and might go look for a dark corner of the coop! Nesting box size does matter to have happy chickens. So people like to provide community nesting boxes for multiple hens to occupy at one time. We have always provided individual nest boxes but have found that once in a while, 2 hens may nest together which is okay!
We have used several different types of nesting material in our nest boxes but we prefer wood shavings as they are easy to handle and are not dusty. Wood shavings or planer shavings work really well plus they are available in large bales from a local hardware store.
Our nest boxes are accessible from the outside. The lid lifts up over the nest boxes making it super easy to gather the eggs. You can also see the bottom corner vents that provide air circulation for the coop. These vents can be opened in the warmer months but closed during the winter.
#4. Floor Litter
Chickens, by nature, love scratching about on the ground or coop floor. Providing litter on the coop floor gives the chickens something to scratch through as well as keeps the floor cleaner. Various coop litter options are: sawdust, wood chips, straw, hay, and leaves. Use what you have available just make sure it is clean and dry.
#5. Outside Run
Fresh air and sunshine with a little room to run and spread their wings are what chickens love! Our hens cannot wait to be let out each morning; they congregate at the small chicken door and jump out as soon as it is opened. Each gives a few flaps of her wings and start scratching in the grass or dirt looking for seeds and bugs.
Some type of secure outdoor run is highly recommended. Some people choose to let their chicken run free which is called Free Range Chickens. This is okay as long as they are safe. Just be wary of dogs, hawks, fox, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, weasel, mink, etc and etc all of which can reduce your flocks very quickly.
We had a horrible experience where a pair of fox almost completely wiped out our flock of 40 young pullets overnight. This pair of fox worked all night climbing in and out of the wire enclosure. They even buried some of the dead birds for safe keeping. We managed to save 2 or 3 but it was an horrible, expensive lesson for us. So plan ahead to save some grief……
Make sure to assess your location and the pending dangers and take necessary precaution. It is extremely sad to lose even one bird let alone an entire flock.
#6. Heating and Cooling
Our chicken coop is insulated but we do not heat it with any type of electric heat. We have south facing windows that warm the coop in the winter. So far, we have not lost any chickens during the winter due to freezing temperatures. We live at just under 7000 ft and our winters get cold. Our hens roost close to each other to stay warm.
We do use an electric heated water bowl inside the coop during the winter months. Chicken must have fresh water available at all times. Birds in general have a high respiration and so need lots of water. Plus, if they are laying, eggs have a high moisture content. Make sure to always provide adequate fresh water even during the winter.
Our coop is not air tight though, for good reason. With chickens having a high rate of respiration, moisture build up inside the coop can be a major problem. Damp, moisture air can cause respiratory ailments in chickens. So keeping the coop insulated but allowing for some ventilation is very important.
There are vents in the top and bottom corners of our coop. We can open and close these vents depending on the weather and temperature. We open them in the summer and close them in the winter.
During the summer, chickens will need some type of shade either from the coop itself or shade trees and shrubs.
#7. Bathing Facilities!
Chicken love to take baths…..dust baths that is!!! They must have some type of loose dust or dirt in which to roll and kick around in. Bathing is a very important routine in a chicken’s day. If allowed in an outside run, they will actually find a favorite spot and dig holes in the ground from so much routine dusting. This dust bath is extremely helpful in keeping your chickens bug and insect free. No water for their bath just dirt or dust!
If your birds cannot get outside to dust themselves, then consider adding a small rubber tub or child’s swimming pool in the coop that is filled with clean dirt and sand. Dusting helps maintain your chickens health and vitality. Plus, it is fun to watch as they seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves in their dust bath!
#8. Feeders and Waters
Hanging Feeders as so convenient in your chicken coop. The particular feeder in the above photo holds approximately 30 pounds of layer feed. It is advisable to keep the feeder just high enough so your chickens can comfortably reach the food but not be able to knock it out of the feeder so it is wasted. Hanging the feeders also frees up the floor space under the feeder. We liked to put a small dish of scratch grains in the rubber feed dish under the hanging feeder. This has worked out very well.
In the spring, summer and fall, we use a rubber feeder pan for water. These are flexible and easy to clean. If the water should freeze, the ice can be simply broken out. These rubber pans are very handy to have for livestock and poultry. Also, remember to keep your feeders and waterers clean at all times.
Double Wall Poultry Drinker really help keep your laying flock’s water super clean. Just make sure to wash and rinse them out regularly.
As mentioned above, we use an electric heated water bowl inside the coop during the winter months. Chicken must have fresh water available at all times.
As mentioned above, birds in general have a high respiration and so need more water. Plus, if they are laying, eggs have a high moisture content. Make sure to always provide adequate fresh water even during the winter.
Chickens need additional calcium added to their diet to insure strong egg shells. Adding Natural Oyster Shell as a supplement helps maintain egg shell integrity. It is advisable to use real oyster shells as the supplemental calcium as opposed to a composite form of oyster shell supplement. The natural oyster shell can be conveniently fed, free choice, in a small wall hopper like this:
#9. Feed Storage Bin:
We added a super handy and convenient wooden storage area for sacks of grain and feed. This has been so handy and was easy to add to our design. It can hold 4 – 50# sacks of feed. Having a storage bin inside the coop has saved time and handling of the sacks of feed.
The wooden lid is hinged and has a convenient hook & eye to hold it up while scooping out grain or loading feed sacks into it.
#10. Divided Compartment for Raising Chicks
Our chicken coop has a separated compartment that we have used to when raising baby chicks. We put our 6-week old pullets into after they are fully feathered and ready to be moved out of the brooder. Beside that, this fenced area is helpful when separating out injured birds. There is a small roost in this area plus there is plenty of room for a waterer and feeder. It has been the perfect transition area from brooder to coop!
Related Post: Raising Baby Chicks from my friend at Hillsborough-Homesteading.
Chicken are easy to raise and keep as long as you have a solid plan. Therefore, make sure to take into consideration all the topics that have been covered to include:
- Shelter that is predator proof with plenty of windows for natural light
- Adequate floor space per bird
- Nest Boxes
- Roosts with Adequate Roosting Space per Bird
- Feeders and Waterers
- Natural Oyster Shell
- Feed Storage