What Every Chicken Coop Should Have
Once your chicks are fully feathered, at about 8-10 weeks old, they are ready to leave the brooder and head outside into the coop.
When setting up a coop, most first timers may be drawn to the variety of pre-made, fabulous-looking coops that are available. Those are perfectly fine, but keep in mind they are usually only suited for a flock of 2-6 birds. Do-It-Yourselfers can save money by building the coop as a fun weekend project. Whichever route you go, the coop should have the following qualities:
- Shelter – Protection from the sun, rain, and wind.
- Space – There should be 4 ft.2 of coop space and 6 ft.2 of run space for each bird.
- Ventilation – This is super important! Airflow in the coop will reduce ammonia, heat, and moisture. High humidity, especially in cold weather, can lead to respiratory illness and frostbite. Make sure your coop has ventilation up near the roof to prevent drafts but still allow oxygen to flow.
- Predator Protection – Don’t think predators like coyotes or raccoons live in your area? Think again! They’ll show up once you start tempting them with chicken. A predator-proof coop is essential. Make sure the doors securely lock and the openings are covered with wire. Instead of chicken wire, it’s best to use something with smaller openings to prevent predators from reaching through. Also, the wire used for the run’s fencing should extend underground to keep out diggers.
- Roosting Perches – Chickens like to sleep up and off the ground. Wooden boards or dowels, old wooden ladders, and even tree branches work just fine. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll want to make sure that the chicken’s feet can rest flat as they roost. This will keep their feet covered by their body and protect them from frostbite.
- Nesting Boxes – Hens like to lay their eggs in privacy. Provide nesting boxes off the ground to give them a quiet, safe location to lay eggs. (Keeping them off the ground helps keep the eggs clean too). Nesting boxes can be buckets, milk crates, wine barrels, dresser drawers, you name it.
- Clean Bedding – Changing the bedding keeps the coop sanitary and your fluffy friends healthy. Disposing of waste reduces the risk of illnesses and parasites. Fresh bedding cuts down on barnyard smells too, keeping the humans happy!
Aside from a happy home, your chickens will of course need fresh food and water. At this stage, it is recommended to feed Ace Hi or Kelley’s Grow Mash (where to buy). Its 18% protein is the perfect transition feed from chick to adult bird.