Have you ever considered breeding chickens in your backyard? It sounds like a weird question at first but with Covid-19 bringing the subject of food self-sufficiency “to the table” for many people in the west, it might be a question you want to ask yourself.
We talked about easily growing tomatoes in a garden so why not cover chicken coops as well? Of all farming animals, chickens are arguably the easiest to take care of and can bring a lot of benefits to your household.
A basic chicken coop in your backyard can guarantee you fresh, healthy eggs for breakfast, the occasional antibiotic-free large chicken for dinner, and a nice commodity to trade with your neighbors with – what’s not to like? Plus, it can be a nice hobby to tackle, especially if you have kids and you want to teach them things like helping with chores, taking care of living beings, discipline, and more.
Still, the main thing stopping many people – other than the whole thing sounding “too rural” for most suburban Americans – is that building a chicken coop can seem too complicated at first. So, here we’ll list the main guidelines for an easy and adequate basic chicken coop, and we’ll share also some not-so-basic examples as well.
Guidelines for building a good chicken coop
In essence, a chicken coop can be any structure with chicken beds in it and with an enclosed outdoor yard space connected to it. In practice, however, a good chicken coop must adhere to at least some basic guidelines for the chickens to be well taken care of.
Even if you don’t care about giving your chickens a “royal treatment”, a healthy and optimized growth for egg-laying will require certain conditions to be met.
So, how to build a chicken coop? We won’t go through a step-by-step process for two main reasons. One, the internet is already chock-full of amazing plans for backyard chicken coops and two – there’s no one way to go about it. If you want something easy and basic, you can make an effective chicken coop shed plus an enclosed yard in just one weekend. Or, you can spend several weeks building something extra special.
Instead, here are the main guidelines to keep in mind when you’re building your chicken coop – however you choose to go about it, these are the main things that must always be adhered to.
- A chicken coop must always include two things – an enclosed space where the chickens would sleep, rest, and lay eggs, and a fenced yard, also called an “open air chicken run” where they can enjoy some outdoor time throughout the day. Both components must be big enough and secure enough.
- The minimal parameters are 2-3 square feet per chicken for the enclosed space and 4-5 square feet per chicken for the “chicken run”. This is crucial if the chickens are to live a comfortable, healthy, and near-optimal life. Ideally, you’ll err on the upper side of these parameters or even above it.
- Temperature optimization is also important. If you live in the south you’ll want to position the chicken coop in the shade so that the coop and the chickens in it don’t overheat during the day. If you live in the north, positioning it in a sunnier spot in your home can be a better idea. You can use shade cloth if there’s no natural shade in your yard.
- The enclosed chicken “house” must be elevated at least two feet above the ground. This will allow their droppings to drop through the floor on the ground and be easy to collect.
- Use a natural rot-resistant wood like cedar redwood for the chicken coop’s frame. Avoid chemically-treated lumber as the chemicals often include stuff like heavy metals and arsenic which can be harmful to the chickens.
- For the chicken run, you can use a simple wire mesh. It must be sturdy enough to not only prevent the chickens from escaping but to prevent predators from breaking in either. Both foxes and cats can be very persistent when they want to get inside a chicken coop so it’s also a good idea to dig the wire mesh at least a foot into the ground too.
- The interior of the chicken coop shed must have a thick layer of straw over the ground to absorb the chicken droppings and the moisture from the occasional rain. The interior should also include nesting boxes for the chickens, a roosting bar for them to stand on, a feeder and a watering device, and some incandescent lights.
- The exterior of the shed must be covered with any waterproof material. You should also put some raccoon-proof latches on the outside that can open and allow you to easily collect the eggs from the outside. The main door of the coop should also be sturdy and secure and should have a comfortable ramp that connects the chicken coop shed to the chicken run.
And those are the basics. Of course, professional and expert chicken farmers will likely share even more useful tips but this is a good starting point for any beginner.
And, if you want a bit of inspiration for how extra special a chicken coop can be with enough effort, take a look at this nice collection of VIP (Very Important Poultry) chicken coops.
As you can see, some of these and are indeed extra elaborate and time-consuming but others are actually fairly simple as they use already-made structures such as vehicles.