In recent years it has become increasingly popular to have your very own backyard chickens. What better way to buy local, right?! If you happen to be considering starting your own venture into chicken husbandry you'll need to think about housing your chickens and building the best coop for your new clucky friends. We'll talk about size, ventilation, insulation, construction materials, nesting boxes, and all things building your birds their best home.
1. Make it Legal
Before you start mapping out your yard and deciding on placement for your chicken coop, make sure you visit the appropriate local authorities. You'll need to find the laws your state and city have for backyard chicken husbandry before you begin. Some locations have limitations on the number of birds an individual can own and may forbid homeowners to keep backyard fowl period. If your neighborhood has a Home Owner's Association you might want to check in with them as well. While we here at PopWorms! thoroughly enjoy chickens and the benefits of owning them, not everyone feels this way.
According to Claborn Farms there are a few important factors to consider when choosing placement for your chicken coop. The first factor is convenience. Where you place your coop should be easily accessible while still being safe for your chickens. You'll want your coop to be located someplace you're able to easily collect eggs, feed, water, and care for your chickens. The second is shade. If you live in a warmer climate placing your coop in the shade of a large tree, or providing shade another way, will be important for keeping your chickens cool during the hot summer months. Your coop should also be located in an area with good drainage and dry ground for sanitary and health reasons. Finally, you'll want to place your chickens where it most benefits your yard. For farm owners, having chickens is highly beneficial as they can move them around to where they're needed to fertilize orchards, gardens (in the off season) and lawns. Since your coop will likely not be portable, it's important to place it where it works best for you and your chickens.
3. Building Materials
First and foremost, you'll need some building plans for your coop. You can purchase chicken coop plans, or there are websites like The Happy Chicken who offer free DIY chicken coop plans. If you're feeling daring you also have the option to create your own. Once you have your plans you'll need to start gathering materials.
Depending on your design you have a few options for building materials. Generally speaking, you'll need materials for framing, walls, ramps, foundation, doors, windows (if you want them), roofing, exterior finishes, and fencing or screens. Your choice in materials will vary according to your chicken coop plans. What works for someone else's coop may not also work for yours. Coop Design Plans has multiple suggestions for creative material use in chicken coops. They are quick to point out that while lumber works best and allows more creativity in construction, it can often be more expensive. If it is within your budget, it's a great option. Coop Design Plans also states that fencing your chickens in for their chicken run will need to be done with careful consideration. While chicken wire might seem like the most obvious choice, it rusts quickly and doesn't protect your chickens from predators. Chain link fencing poses a similar problem as smaller predators, like raccoons, can still get their hands through the fence. Creating a wood framed and screened chicken run that's attached to your chicken coop may be preferable in this instance. You have endless options for the roofing of your coop as it's acceptable to use just about anything you'd use for roofing on a house. This opens up a lot of options for design, aesthetic, and overall safety.
The size of your chicken coop will depend on how many chickens you intend/are allowed to have. It's important not to build for more chickens than you have the space for. You'll also have to be within the limitations set by your city and state. The general concesus is that you need 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the coop and roughly 8-10 square feet per chicken in an outside run. Make sure you have the space for these accommodations prior to building.
5. Ventilation and Insulation
According to Better Hens and Gardens ventilation is of the utmost importance for chicken health, even in winter. You might be thinking, "But won't my chickens be cold? It's freezing outside!" Truth be told, chickens generate a lot of heat all by themselves! During the winter months your chickens may be spending more and more time inside the coop. Their body heat, breathing, and droppings all create moisture and humidity inside the coop. That moisture in the air can create a multitude of problems for your feathery friends including illness, frostbite, and respiratory tract damage. The amount of ventilation required will depend upon the climate and weather conditions. The hotter it gets, the more ventilation your chickens will need. In places where very hot weather isn't a concern the recommendation is one square foot of ventilation per ten square feet of floor space.
Insulating your chicken coop is easy. Simply make sure to fill in any holes in the walls. Additionally, you'll want to check for any drafts in the coop. If you do find it to be a bit drafty you can use caulking to cover any gaps or cracks in the coop.
6. Nesting Boxes
The folks over at The Happy Chicken Coop make a great point: the nesting boxes are not for the chickens, they are for YOU! Chickens will lay their eggs wherever they feel safe and secure. The nesting boxes make it so you can easily find and collect eggs each day. Otherwise you would be searching the whole area for eggs. The ideal nesting box is quiet, safe, private, and dark. It should be in a low activity area and no more than 18 inches off the ground. The number of boxes you need will depend upon the number of hens you have and size will depend on the breed you have chosen. You have the option of building your nesting box into your coop, purchasing one, or creating one of your own. The nesting boxes create a safe place for egg laying while maintaining convenience for you, it's a win-win!
Deciding to get backyard chickens is a huge decision. It requires a lot of careful thought and planning. We hope this guide gives you a jumpstart in your planning so you can make your way towards creating the dream chicken coop for both you and your charming fowl.
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