Are you a new chicken mom? If you succumbed to the "chick days" displays at your local farm store and came home with some little peeps, or even if you're a seasoned chicken keeper, let's talk about the must-haves in your chicken coop.
A chicken coop provides shelter from the weather, just like your own home. It also keeps your chickens safe from predators. It needs to be weather-tight and yet provide plenty of ventilation to keep your birds healthy.
Something that keeps rain and snow off of your birds, keeps them safe, and keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer is all you need. Your coop might be a converted shed, a commercial coop, or something in between. And while it doesn't have to be pretty, if you'd like to paint the door a bright color or hang flower boxes on the shuttered windows, that's up to you; it really just needs to be functional.
Large breed chickens need four square feet of floor space per bird; bantam breeds need three square feet per bird. If your birds are confined to the coop all the time with no time spent outdoors, they should have at least ten square feet per bird.
Why is ventilation important?
There are several reasons for providing fresh air ventilation in your coop. Chickens produce a great deal of ammonia in their droppings, which is harmful to both the birds and to you. Ventilation also removes moisture from the coop, reduces the risk of airborne diseases and replaces stale air with fresh.
Chicken coop must-haves:
Now for the "furniture" inside the coop, just like in our own homes. Your chickens need food, water, roosts, and nest boxes in which to lay their eggs.
Feeder - Some folks just toss chicken feed on the ground and let their girls hunt and peck. I prefer to use feeders to help lessen waste and also lessen the attraction to mice and rats who just love to eat spilled chicken feed. Ick!
You can put chicken feed in just about anything, but a spill-proof feeder is best. I've gone a step further and hang my feeder by a chain from the ceiling. You can choose plastic or metal feeders. After replacing several plastic feeders, I've opted for a metal feeder (affiliate link) which is working well for my girls. It will hold thirty pounds of feed, but the only time I fill it is when I go out of town and have someone else feeding for me. This also helps prevent rodent problems.
Waterer - Waterers also come in plastic or metal. I have a terrible time refilling the metal ones so I use plastic. I bought a seven-gallon waterer (affiliate link) so that the girls have plenty of water in the summertime. During the winter I change to a black rubber pan; it's easy to dump the ice out of it and it doesn't crack or break when the water freezes.
Nest boxes - In the past I've used kitty litter buckets on their sides as nest boxes, but my hens usually preferred to nest in the dirt in the corner of the coop. A few months ago I traded with a friend for a bank of eight wooden nesting boxes that my hens absolutely love.
Dispenser for grit and oyster shell or eggshells - Last but not least, your chickens need grit to help them digest their feed and either ground oyster shell or eggshells to provide calcium. These should be offered free-choice, separate from their feed. You can use a low dish or a dispenser that attaches to the coop wall. There are some cute DIY projects on my Pinterest board.
Would you like to read more? I've written about keeping your chickens safe from predators and also how to keep your chickens entertained if you can't let them free range.
You might also like to follow my Chicken Coop Pinterest board on all things chickens.
Do you have chickens or other poultry? I'd love to know what's in your chicken coop; I hope you'll leave a comment below.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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