No matter what you may have heard about free range hens, part of taking care of backyard chickens is providing them with some sort of shelter. Creative chickens may find their way into places your neighbors might not appreciate. A home of their own will keep them warm, dry and out of the way from possible predators, rodents and mailmen.
While the exact size and placement depends on the number of chickens you have, some attributes of a dependable backyard chicken coop are universal. Take a look at the following “go to” list of what’s important:
1. Space: Your chicken’s premier frontier. A chicken needs a certain amount of space – for indoor space, 2 square feet per bird and for outdoor space, six square feet per bird.
2. Finding the Ohmmmmm. Your chickens need breathing room, so that means good ventilation, especially in summers. To keep a consistently warm area in winter, open a window on the south side of the hen house.
3. Do the Chicken Light. Your chickens need 14 hours of light during the day, and if you don’t have that much sun light during the winter, the hen house needs to be wired for back-up artificial light.
4. Not too hot and not too cold. Your chickens’ egg laying results will be affected with temperatures in either extreme. With proper insulation, the chicken coop shouldn’t need to be heated too much. At least 3 inches of saw dust or shavings (“litter”) on the floor would help cool in summers while winters would require a layer of about 6 inches to keep the area warm. Don’t neglect this daily chore: remove wet litter and replace with fresh litter as needed.
5. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Easy access to food and water during the day means that your hens receive delivery of the nutrients necessary to lay eggs.
6. How to sleep like a chicken. Horses stand, dogs lie and chickens roost. For the best sleep, your chicken needs a roost pole that’s between 1.5” and 2” in diameter. Ideally, the roost pole should be 18 to 24 inches above the floor, and something like a litter box below it would make clean-up easier in the morning.
We received a timely email from one of our favorite backyard chicken farmers just today. It talks about the importance of adequate shelter:
“I just read your post about chicken breeds. We have about 15 Polish and have not lost any to predators yet. The only bird that we have lost to a predator was a Cream Brabanter to a hawk. I always feed the birds under trees and put the feeds in clusters. We also have shelters in the open areas that the birds can run under if a hawk does fly over. I never feed them or place waterers out in the open where a hawk can come down while they aren’t paying attention. We would lose a lot of birds if they didn’t have the trees to shelter them. Chickens did evolve from the jungles in Asia. I think that if chicken owners have adequate shelters for their birds, they wouldn’t lose so many to hawks.
I better go knock on wood now!*”
*Used by permission.
Finding the perfect hen house for your flock may take a little time, but it’s certainly doable, especially since you’re researching what’s important. Kits for portable, small or medium chicken coops are available from Amazon: Creative Coops Hen House Starter Kit, Small
Wherever your hens come home to roost, keep them healthy and content with Reedy Fork Organic Feed. Your hens will thank you, and so will we.