Welcome back folks! You’ve got your chickens, now where to put them? The hardest and most costly part about raising your birds is the coop. You are looking for a coop that will give the ladies enough room to roost, while working with your available space and resources. In this post, we will address a few hints for properly sheltering your hens and protecting them from natural predators.
Design and DIY or Pre-made Purchase?
Luck for you, there are many different ways to go about procuring a coop. First, set a budget for materials. Take a look at how much time you can allocate to construction of your coop. Most coops can be made in a weekend, but you want to make sure that you can construct it right the first time, and save yourself the trouble of redesign while you have a full house of hens to shelter. Set aside at least $100 for materials, and check your local Craigslist and dumpsters for cheap, leftover wood. Keep an open mind with your search for supplies. An old door, windows or large trunk could end up being a clever part of your design. The more ways to reuse old structures, the better. Remember to measure twice and cut once! This post with examples of greenhouses made from old doors and windows could easily inspire a functional and beautiful coop! Attach a simply framed wire mesh run and you’re good to go.
If you don’t have the time or ability to construct your own, you can also purchase a coop kit or a pre-made coop from a farm store in your area, Craigslist, or online (try Ebay!). However keep in mind where your coop was manufactured and try to make a responsible decision when it comes to purchasing. This is the more expensive, and less rewarding option.
There is a wealth of free and simple coop designs online, accessible by Google search. The simplest and most effective coop you could build is essentially a tall, rectangular frame with a small hinged door in the back for egg access, with a smaller opening in the front, attached to a wire meshed “run” or grazing area. I recommend a slanted, sheet metal roof for easy rain drainage. Inside the coop, you will want to install a sturdy wooden rod or slab for your chickens to perch on. They need a perch to feel safe and comfortable and dry. A fun perch from found material could be a long piece of drift wood from a beach, or an old wooden ladder.
The more room your flock has to roam, the more foraging they can accomplish on their own by finding insects and other wild treats. Backyard chicken owners with little room, will need to purchase commercial feed from a farm store to supplement your bird’s diet. Commercial feed also contains minerals and nutrients that are hard to provide otherwise. Plan on around a half cup of feed per day for each chicken, and don’t hesitate to feed them your fruit, veggie, and grain table scraps. Raw food is best for them, so excellent options are carrot tops, beet greens, and wilted produce, but leftover bread and rice will be gobbled up too. However, avoid giving your flock anything you absolutely wouldn’t eat yourself, such as potato peels and leaves of somewhat poisonous plants. Try asking the produce section of your local co-op grocery store if they give out the produce they would otherwise throw away! Many will be happy to do so. Remember to avoid feeding your birds processed food-products, just as you may want to avoid them yourselves.
You will also need to provide your birds with some sort of gravel, or crushed shells. Chickens need to ingest a small amount of gritty material in order to digest properly. Crushed oyster shell, available at farm stores, is also great source of calcium.
Raccoons, hawks, foxes, and possums can all be a threat to your flock. Make sure that when you build your coop, the chicken run or fence that guards their grazing area goes underground to prevent predators from digging under. Fences should run at least 1 foot underground. Check your coop and fence often for cracks and holes, make sure it is sturdy. Build your coop in an open area, away from bushes and hiding areas. Unfortunately, there is always a risk that you could lose your birds no matter what you do, so be prepared to run outside in the middle of the night with a slingshot if you hear a squak!
- How To Raise Chickens pt. 1 – Chicks (thetradingpostvt.org)
- DIY: Build an Affordable, Portable and Predator-Proof Chicken Coop (realfarmacy.com)