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This is a very difficult topic, as housing is very personal to most hobbyists.
- Basic Instruction
- Adequate Space-Space requirements
- Easy Access to Water and Feed
- Source of Light
- Common Sense
- Links-See great sites with coops to get ideas on what to build!
- Bedding - Great article on bedding by Glenda Heywood
I spent as much time trying to design my coop as I did learning the basics..and we have continually added on, updated, and basically changed many of the designs we originally started with, although we still have the original coop. The biggest recommendation I can give is look at everything you can get a pic of ..then design your own to fit your land, personality, lifestyle, and of course the needs of your birds. Take your time and do not rush it or you will be doing the same thing. Make it fun or you won't want to visit it as regularly as you need to! Paint it, make signs for it or paint signs on it, be creative or find creative ideas. I guarantee some of you are saying, they are just chickens, and that's ok, everyone is different, however think about the dead of winter or the pouring rain no one wants to go out however, if you plan for those things in advance and prepare for freezing weather or lots of mud it is not nearly as bad, my first winter was awful. Rain and mud everywhere...and poop of course. Get some good rubber boots you are definitely going to need them. I have remodeled, chosen different bedding and built a new overhang and the girls are much happier, I hated going out to the coop and seeing everyone soggy and muddy. Not healthy or sanitary (are chicken coops supposed to be sanitary?) well you know what I mean..YUK it was just nasty..
We are getting ready to build 2 new ones for our 4 new breeds..Bantam Cochins: Blue, Partridge, Mottled and Buff (also have black and white)
NOTICE: If you have a pic and/or plans of your coop, send it to me and I will post it for others to see and learn from.
Small scale poultry coops seem to be built in almost every possible shape and size and yet there are some basic guidelines that should be followed.
Those building a new coop often ask for plans for the perfect chicken coop. However, few plans for small poultry houses are available. Many existing buildings can easily be adapted to accommodate poultry. If you want to take some of the pain out of it: the sheds at Home Depot would (with a bit of internal work) be great for chickens. Poultry housing can be as crude or elaborate as you wish to build as long as you provide the following:
A good poultry house protects the birds from the elements (weather), predators, injury and theft.
Poultry require a dry, draft-free house. You need to build a relatively draft free house with windows and/or doors which can be opened for ventilation when necessary and closed at night or in the cold. Build the coop on high, well-drained areas. This prevents prolonged dampness and water saturation of the floor of the coop and outside runs. Allow an adequate level of space per bird this also helps keep the humidity level in the coop to a minimum.
Keep poultry totally confined together with fence and covered runs that is your best protection from predators. If you are building a new coop, one option is to consider laying a concrete floor, and start the walls with one or two concrete blocks. This prevents rodents, snakes, and predators from digging under the walls and the floors.
With outside runs, bury the wire along the pen border at least 12" deep, and toe the fence outward about 6 inches. This stops most predators from digging under the fence. Animals always dig at the base of a fence. By toeing the fence outward and burying it, the predator digs down right into more fencing, we have the toe on top of the soil and the fencing stops my dogs from digging right now as it hurts their feet to dig on the wire. Some people run electric fencing around the outside of their pens 4" off the ground about one foot from the main fence to discourage predators. If your outside runs are not predator-proof, you need to lock up your poultry at dark.
To prevent overhead problems such as hawks and owls, cover your outside runs with mesh wire or netting. A good ground cover of millet, broomcorn, sorghum or other tall leafy vegetation also provides cover for the birds to hide under.
To protect the birds from 2-legged predators (humans), lock your building and pens securely whenever you are not home. Some people actually have burglar alarms or baby monitors in their bird coops, . A protective dog kept near your coop usually works well to discourage ground or flying predators and unwanted visitors.
Caution preventing possible injury to your birds. Remove any loose or ragged wire, nails, or other sharp-edged objects from the coop. Eliminate all areas other than perches where the birds could perch more than 4 feet above the floor.
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2. Adequate Space:
Poultry need adequate space for movement and exercise as well as areas to nest and roost.
Space requirements vary with the type of bird you raise.
Minimum Space Requirements Type of Bird Sq ft/bird inside Sq ft/bird outside runs Bantam Chickens
Roosts: With chickens, always provide 6 to 10 inches of roost space per bird. Roosts are not necessary with meat chickens and waterfowl.
Nests: Always provide at least one nest for every 4-5 females in the flock. (My girls always seem to want the same nest box so they pace until it is free)
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3. Easy Access to Feed and Water
Feeders and waters should be placed conveniently (approximately every 10 ft) throughout the pen for birds' access. Place the bottom of the waterers and top lip of the feeders at the birds' back height. This will help keep the feed and water clean, hanging them is even better.
4. Source of Light:
If you wish to produce eggs from your flock year-round, you must have a source for electric light. One electric light every 40 feet at ceiling height is appropriate. Most small poultry houses do very well with one light.
One trick to remember, put a rheostat on the light it is a big shock to the chickens if you snap the light on or off it is much better if it comes on gradually and goes off the same way.
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Good air movement without a draft is essential. Fresh air brings in oxygen while excess moisture, ammonia or carbon dioxide are removed. Dampness and ammonia build-up are a sign that there is not enough ventilation. For small coops windows or vents on one side of the house usually provide plenty of ventilation. . Failure to insulate or ventilate properly causes moisture to accumulate on the walls and ceiling in cool weather. Poultry can handle cold very well if they are dry. However, cool and humid conditions can create many health problems.
6. Appearance:Remember this is in your yard. The appearance of any poultry house or outside run that is visible to the neighborhood should never detract from the over-all appearance of the surroundings. Exteriors of coops should be kept painted and well-maintained. Weeds and trash should be removed from around all facilities. Proper landscaping can provide screening and also help muffle sounds from the birds.
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7. Use Common Sense:When building a poultry house, use common sense in the design. Build the roof high enough and situate such permanent structures as nests, roosts, and feeders for easy access and to make it easy to clean all areas of the house. Using sliding windows so that the birds cannot roost on them rather than windows which swing in or out. Use building materials which will be easy to clean and disinfect. Slightly sloping the floor toward the door can help prevent puddling in the building and will make the building easier to spray out and dry between uses.
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I have provided several links to pages giving different opinions on the "Perfect Chicken Coop"
- Backyard Chickens - Coop Page
- Chicken-O-Rama - The Easy Chicken pages of Coops WOW!
- Chickens Care and Accommodations: nice pics of hen houses and designs!
- Coop of Distinction -The Easy Chicken-a coop with Stained Glass windows
- Forsham Cottage Arks:
- Castle Dierenverblijven- a neat site to visit it is not in English but great pics for ideas..
- The Chixpage - scroll to the bottom
- Larry's Poultry
- Small Scale Poultry Housing
- Plans for building nest boxes:
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