Beginners Guide to Choosing Your First Chicken Coop

Raising “fluffy butts,” also known as chickens, benefits your wallet and soul. Chickens save you money on grocery bills, produce natural fertilizer, and are great pets to incorporate into the household. However, before purchasing a flock of chickens, you need to have a chicken coop set up.

Where to Place Your Chicken Coop

Choosing where to place your chicken coop will largely depend on how much space you have available. Those fortunate with larger yards should aim to place their chicken coops farther away from the house. Contrary to what movies would have you believe, roosters do not only crow at the break of dawn. Roosters will crow throughout the day and sometimes at night too. Hens will also perform a loud “egg song” when they are in the process of laying an egg, and they do not sleep in on the weekends.

The downside to having your chicken coop farther away from the house is predator control. Skunks, possums, and raccoons will not hesitate to perform an egg heist on the chicken coop or find a tasty chicken leg to gnaw on.

Placing your chicken coop in an area with lots of sunlight would be best. Chickens lay more eggs when they receive 14 to 16 hours of daylight. This is why your chickens will naturally lay less over the winter months, and their laying will pick back up as the days get longer. Placing your chicken coop in a bright, sunny spot will ensure your chickens receive as much sunlight as possible.

The Ideal Chicken Coop Size: You Can Never Go “Too Big”

Before you decide on the size of your chicken coop, you must determine how many chickens you want to raise. There is no harm in overshooting and building a larger chicken coop than you need. However, you should never overcrowd chickens into a too-small coop. Our advice is that you can never go “too big” when building a chicken coop.

Chickens need a bare minimum of 4 square feet of space in a chicken coop. Keep in mind that the bare minimum is for standard-sized chickens. Chickens come in small varieties, called bantams, standard varieties, and larger breeds. Standard varieties are approximately 5 – 8 lbs, with roosters weighing more than hens. If you are aiming to raise larger varieties, you must account for more space per chicken.

Free Range vs. Enclosed Coop Run

Allowing your chickens to free range will considerably cut down on your feed costs because they gain the ability to forage. Chickens will naturally forage bugs and vegetation that they find around your backyard. However, free-ranging chickens are also fair game for predators. Once a predator, such as a fox or a hawk, locates an easy meal you will be hard-pressed to discourage them from returning.

You can build a chicken run to keep your flock safe from predators. The fence on a run should be between 4 – 5 feet tall to discourage your chickens from flying over it. You need to aim for 10 square feet of run space per standard-sized chicken.

Chickens will quickly forage through all the vegetation in the run, leaving you with a muddy enclosure. You must either rotate your flock between multiple paddocks to allow the vegetation to re-grow or supplement the run with organic litter bi-weekly.

Although a fence will encourage your chickens to stay inside the run, it will not 100% keep out predators. Many animals, such as raccoons and possums, can climb fences to get into your chicken run. Hawks can bypass the fence altogether. Cover the top of the run with bird netting for additional security on your chicken run.

Types of Chicken Coops

The beauty of a chicken coop is that it is 100% customizable if you are building it from scratch. Even pre-built chicken coops come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Chicken coops are most commonly divided into chicken tractors and stationary coops.

Chicken tractors are mobile coops where you control where the chickens are foraging. Chicken tractors eliminate the issue of your chickens foraging in your garden or flower beds. They do not discriminate between a dandelion and a beautiful petunia.

Chickens can also travel up to 300 yards away from the coop and can easily encroach into your neighbor’s backyard if they are free ranged. Chicken tractors keep your flock from becoming a public nuisance but allow them to forage naturally.

Do Not Skimp on Ventilation

One of the biggest complaints in pre-built chicken coops is the lack of ventilation. Many manufacturers skimp on ventilation because of the added cost of installing windows and vents. Chickens do not need supplemental heat in the winter, so you should not skimp on ventilation to maintain heat. As long as chickens are kept dry and out of the elements, they will be comfortable over winter.

Without adequate ventilation, your chicken coop will have a build-up of ammonia from the chicken droppings. When levels of ammonia get too high, there is a risk of respiratory diseases developing in your flock. Your chickens can even perish when exposed to high ammonia levels.

Features That Elevate the Chicken Coop to a Chicken Castle

Chicken coops can be as fancy or as plain as you would like them to be. Some common features that can elevate your chicken coop include:

  1. Chicken Roost
    • A chicken roost is non-negotiable in a coop. Chickens will seek a place to roost overnight if they are not provided with one. This means finding chicken droppings where you do not want them, such as your nest boxes. Chickens need 1 linear foot of roost space per standard-sized chicken.
  2. Nest Boxes
    • Your hens want to feel safe and secure when laying an egg. You should aim for one nest box per four hens. Otherwise, your chickens will fight for nest box space and you will begin to find broken eggs.

Find Your Perfect Chicken Coop

Choosing the right type of chicken coop for your home is essential, because it directly impacts the number of eggs you receive, predation, and the health of your chickens. Compare various chicken coop features until you find the right fit for your property to get started on your backyard chicken journey.

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