As a beginner in chicken farming, among the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to build or to buy the chicken coop.
The first option (building) has its advantages: it enables you to plan a shelter suited to your needs and to the space you have. However, buying a coop remains a very practical solution: it doesn’t require hours of work, and you can install it easily yourself.
Choosing the right poultry house isn’t a straightforward task. You will need to take into consideration many parameters, such as the space you have, the size of the coop and the material of the coop. In a certain way, the choice depends on the number of chickens you intend to raise.
Buying the chicken coop
Instead of building the coop, buying it can be –contrary to conventional wisdom- a better decision. Of course both options have pros and cons, but overall, getting a ready-to-use coop can save you some hours of tinkering. The models available are ecological and easy to use. Some are even movable.
Chicken coops available differ in a number of aspect. The following might help you choose the one that suits to your needs.
Wooden vs plastic coops
The benefits of a wooden coop and a plastic coop are not the same. The difference lies in the properties of each material.
These are generally made of treated wood. Thus, the material resists better to moisture and has a decent durability.
Different types exist: it can have a classical, modern or even a rustic appearance. One can also find fixed and movable coops. The wooden shelter is often equipped with several hatches and doors to facilitate the access for cleaning.
Like wooden cabins, plastic coops are ecological as well, as they are made of recycled material. In terms of durability, the plastic house is better. As plastic has a smooth surface, cleaning and upkeeping are easier.
Plastic coops have several advantages: they are simple for you to use. You can assemble them quite intuitively, they aren’t lice friendly. Since they are not heavy, you can move them easily.
Size and number of chickens
Raising backyard chickens differs a lot from the industrial methods. Instead of being stressful to its occupants, backyard chickens’ coop should be the most convenient and comfortable possible.
Your choice should thus consider the number of chickens you are raising. As animals need space to feel free. Be careful not to pile up a large population in a small area.
To ensure comfortable conditions, a 40 feet square coop can accommodate no more than 3 chickens.
Also opt for spacious shelters if you intend to have chicks.
While we recommend to use large wooden houses for bigger species, a small plastic coop can suit small bantam chickens.
With or without wire?
The choice depends on your situation: Do you have a large backyard? Will you take your poultry to their daily walk yourself? Is your backyard safe against predators? The budget and the esthetic appearance would also influence the choice.
Benefits of coops with wire
The best coops for domestic use are the ones with wire. The benefits they provide are worth their price. Wire ensures your poultry is inside its pen and intruders are outside.
By having a wire, one prevents its chickens from causing any inconvenience to the garden’s vegetables. You also ensure that their waste stays in the coop. Beginners should keep in mind that the poultry needs to regularly stretch legs in a space other than their dorm. Hence, with coops with wires, you don’t have to walk your chickens every day nor to watch over them.
Benefits of coops without wire
If your backyard is well enclosed and safe, you can opt for a coop without wire. Your poultry can freely jump around and get other nutritive elements from the yard. This type of cages suits those who intend to install customized pens.
While allowing a great freedom of movement for your poultry, these enclosures offer the advantage of limiting the damage the flock can cause to the backyard. Aslo, you can easily move them which allows you to change the path of your chickens. Thus, the grass can grow back quickly.
Sliding vs fixed roof
Benefits of a sliding roof
The main advantage of a coop with a sliding roof is that you can easily access it and clean it . This way, you will be able to perform frequent polishing which maintains the hens in good health and immune from infections. It also keeps bad smells away. During the winter, you can simply fix the roof.
Benefits of a fixed roof
A coop with a fixed roof is the ideal house to guarantee the protection of the poultry against wind and bad weather.
Building the chicken coop
Building your own coop is a great alternative. It is less expensive and enables you to end up with a coop that adapts better to your specific situation. You are also free to design it the way you want.
But before you engage in such a project, you need first to have a clear coop plan (a variety of chicken coop plans exists) that clearly specifies (among other things) what your chickens needs are, what space do you have, what adjustments you will have to make to the backyard. This way, your poultry house is operational and practical on a daily basis.
What size should the coop be?
The size of the poultry house depends on the number of chickens you are raising and the level of comfort you want to grant them.
Basically, 3 chickens need 40 feet square of free space. Such space offers optimal conditions unless you walk them every day, in which case the space you would use could be only 20 feet square.
Elaborating the plan for your coop shouldn’t be a hard task. In fact, plenty of books and sites on the web describe the whole process and give useful insights concerning all the important details.
Keep in mind though that there are three parameters that you shouldtake into consideration when you begin planning: Dimension, space, and openings.
The number of chickens is the ultimate factor that would determine the dimensions of the house and the overall space to use in the yard. The more the chickens, the bigger the coop and the larger the backyard should be. As for the openings, they should be the most convenient possible so that they provide the coop with the air and sunlight necessary, while offering the possibility to protect the flock from bad weather during winter using a good locking system.
What elements compose a good coop?
The main accommodation:
The coop needs to be maintained in an elevated position. In this way, you can preserve it from moisture. You can use concrete cleats to do elevate it. As the hens like ths position, such cleats will make the house more comfortable for them.
As for the ground, keep in mind to cover it by a layer of hay or wood shavings to keep the chickens warm. It also serves as an absorbing litter. You should then renew it regularly to keep the area clean. Permanent upkeeping ensures good health and prevents proliferation of parasites.
If the coop is small, painted wood is the best materiel you can use to build the roof. This is because the roof should resist to bad weather. A sliding, slightly inclined roof is perfect as it enables to clean the coop and to keep it aerated.
Hens are sensitive to moisture, heat and airstream. Use Shutters to protect the coop against rain and wind. It also protects it against the sun during summer.
Chickens sleep on a perch of 20 inches height approximately. For a flock of 3 to 5 chickens, the ideal perch is 10 feet long, and 2 inches wide with round edge. It should be easily removable to allow for regular upkeeping.
Wires are essential as they allow for enough air and sunlight to enter the coop. They should all be on the same side of the coop to prevent airstream.
Hens lay eggs in nesting boxes. It’s a small compartment in which you put straw t and you renew it every week. As hens need calm to lay, make sure to put the nesting box in a high and dark area.
To get rid of parasites and nurture their feather, chickens need to take a dust bath in a sandbox. We suggest you to fill the sandbox with a mixture of dust and wood ashes.
The coop needs to be supported by a solid structure that keeps any wood or floor damage to bay. The best choice is a solid concrete slab especially if you top it by some layers of wood shavings.
For the cleaning of the coop to be the easiest possible, a large enough opening is most welcome. For a small coop, this door can be replaced by a removable panel than opens a whole side of the house.
What qualities should a good coop have?
For a chicken, a good coop must be comfortable and hygienic. For the farmer, a good coop is convenient and cheap.
A comfortable poultry house means that it is dry (but not necessarily warm). Moisture in a coop comes from inside, from outside or from both. Exterior humidity is caused by bad drainage. The location of the coop is then to blame. Interior humidity isn’t due to location choices and sometimes, its cause is hard to define. It can be due to an excessive number of chickens or to poor ventilation. Anyway, if the poultry house is wet, there are simply no chances of success.
Cleanliness and ventilation insure good hygiene.
Cleanliness is essential in poultry housing. This doesn’t mean the coop needs to be cleaned every day. Instead, cleaning has to be done regularly enough to ensure that bad smells and vermin are always kept away.
Ventilation must be perfect. There will be much less illnesses if the coop is well ventilated. Keep the air and sunlight abundant, the coop is going to be dry and the chickens will stay in good shape.
The simpler the job, the more likely it is going to be performed effectively. That’s why it is crucial for the coop to be easy to access. It allows the amateur farmer to take care of it with minimum effort. This detail is often overlooked which makes the upkeeping job more difficult and often neglected.
So makes sure to put your coop in an accessible location, to prepare food in advance and to make all the tools related to the job available and ready to use. You’ll discover that what has been a chore is now a simple and enjoyable task.
As far as the economics of building a coop are concerned, one can go from an extreme to another quite easily.
At one extreme, those who waste their budgets on superfluous purchases focusing practically exclusively on the appearance of the coop while other essential considerations are not satisfied.
At the other extreme, those who consider that building a beautiful coop is not one of their objectives, focusing only on what they consider essential for their flocks’ survival.
If you are building on a bugdet, you might want to consider the following tips before beginning the project:
- Choose the location carefully: In fact, in many cases, the coops are built on uneven surfaces which makes them less stable than they should be. This may cause additional expenditures on rebuilding.
- Lighting must be well thought of before the start. If the windows are not well placed (not toward the sun for example), you might need to use electrical lighting which is far from being cost effective. Even for you chickens’ health, sunlight is way better.
- Do not spend much on warming: even in cold countries like Canada, where the temperature gets pretty low, warming is a secondary issue as the chickens naturally warm up when they are in a dry and comfortable environment.
- Go for small coops first: as a beginner, your project must not get out of control (which occurs quit easily for less experienced farmers). Start your journey with a limited number of chickens (2 for example) that wouldn’t require a large house. The project is then well controlled operationally and financially.
The ultimate aim should be to build a beautiful and effective coop with a reasonable investment.