Getting started. Why raise chickens? 0/3
Requirements (parts list) for raising chickens 0/4
Basic breed types and their characteristics 0/2
Purebred flock vs. assortment 0/1
Incubators and hatching chicks 0/3
When things go wrong and predators too! 0/5
Processing birds 0/4
What’s involved? Shelter (Coop)
Shelter (Chicken Coop)
Chickens need shelter. They need a coop to protect them from snow, torrential rain, sleet, hail, hot sun and predators, both human and animal. We have some birds which regularly sleep outside, but they have the option of going inside. If one doesn’t have at least one livestock guardian dog on duty, then the birds really do need to be inside a very secure coop at night. There is no place where having chickens won’t come with “having predator problems.” Coyote and raccoon, opossum, hawks and owls (just to mention a few predators) can be found even in the inner city. When they are not properly educated, dogs are terrible about killing chickens. Even some house cats will kill a small chicken, if given the chance. Most people have both coops and an enclosed run. There are some, however, which just go with coops in which the birds find shelter and sleep. The birds are free range during the day. Whichever way one goes on this, it is necessary that the birds have more room to run than just the coop in which they sleep. Also, keep in mind that free ranging birds make a mess and will also get into one’s flower beds, destroying delicate plantings. Unless you have an immense vegetable garden and only one or two chickens, don’t even think of letting your chickens run in the garden. They’re too destructive.
These are two coops. The one on the right is a “mini coop,” good for 2-3 full sized birds.
Coop (shelter): 4 square feet per bird
Run (pen): 8-10 square feet per bird.
Keep in mind that bantams require less space and larger breeds may require a bit more.
It is important that chickens have protection, especially at night, when they are most vulnerable. It is not uncommon for a nocturnal predator to wipe out most of a flock of chickens all in one fell swoop. If the coop is their primary protection it is important that it be secure, with openings no greater than ½ inch. It’s important that the birds be shut in at night and the door secured. It doesn’t hurt to have the coop close enough to the house that one can hear a commotion, if one occurs during the night. It cannot be emphasized enough that some predators can fit through impossibly small openings. Raccoon have been known to reach through the wire of a chicken tractor and rip chickens apart, pulling bite sized pieces through the wire.
A coop should provide protection from rain, snow, direct sun and strong winds. Yet, the coop ought also be cool enough that the chickens not be stressed during a heat wave. Ventilation is important for the chickens’ health.
Perches are nice, especially for the light breeds, which like to fly up and roost. If you use perches, be sure to position them so you yourself can still move around in the coop. Some heavy breeds are better served with perches which are no more than 2’ off the floor. Our preferred perch is made of a two by four, so the birds have a bit more space on the perch and so the perch is easy to scrape clean.
A floor probably isn’t necessary. We’ve had coops with cement floors, wooden floors and dirt floors. The wood floor was the hardest to clean, as it was all too easy to splinter the wood when scraping up the manure. A dirt floor can get really soggy during prolonged rain. But it is good, in that it allows moisture to filter down and out.
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