What Do Chickens Need in a Coop?


What do you need to raise chickens? 

Discover the must-have items for new and prospective chicken owners, ensuring a happy and healthy flock. Learn how to set up your coop like a pro and provide the best care for your feathered friends.

Chickens need food, water and shelter, but there are certain ways you should provide those necessities to keep your chickens safe and healthy. Here's what your chicken coop needs.

What do chickens need in a coop?

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 what you need to raise chickens, and what your chicken coop needs.

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.

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Your chicken coop

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. It might be a commercially-purchased coop, or you might have built it from one of Easy Coops' plans

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.

Must-Have Chicken Coop Accessories

How much space do chickens need?

Large breed chickens need four square feet of floor space per bird in the coop.

Bantam chickens, which are smaller than full-size birds, 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.

Ventilation in a chicken coop is important

There are several reasons for providing fresh air ventilation in your chicken coop. 

Chickens produce a great deal of ammonia in their droppings, which is harmful to both the birds and to you, so a source of fresh air is essential.

Ventilation also removes moisture from the coop, reduces the risk of airborne diseases and replaces stale air with fresh.

Windows are the easiest way to keep air moving in your coop, as long as they are covered with hardware cloth or other sturdy barrier to keep predators out. Window screen is not sufficient protection, by the way. You need something stronger.

Windows on opposing walls will ensure a good cross-breeze through the coop.

Other forms of ventilation in a chicken coop

Chicken coop ventilation

We plan to replace this floor vent in our bathroom and put this old register in an outside wall of the coop.

The standard recommendation is for one square foot of ventilation space per ten square feet of coop floor space. 

So if your coop is 6x8 feet, for example, it has 48 square feet of floor space. I'd round that up to 50 square feet for this example, and provide at least five square feet of ventilation, which could be a combination of windows and vented openings along the eaves of the coop.

If you live in a damp or veryhot climate you may need more ventilation than the standard recommendation.

What do chicken coops need?

Inside the coop your chickens need food, water, roosts, and nest boxes in which to lay their eggs.


Some chicken keepers just toss feed on the ground and let their girls hunt and peck. 

I prefer to use feeders to help minimize waste. They 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 hung my feeder by a chain from the ceiling; it's nearly impossible for them to spill the feed now.

You can choose plastic or metal feeders. After replacing several plastic feeders, I've opted for a metal feeder 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. Controlling the amount of feed that's available also helps prevent rodent problems.


Chicken 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 so that the hens have plenty of water in the summertime.

During the winter I add a bottle of salt water to keep the water from freezing. (It's a game-changer! You can read the details here: How to care for your chickens in the winter.) 

One of the most important items in your chicken coop is the roost. Place it higher than the nesting boxes to prevent the chickens from sleeping in and soiling their nest boxes.


Chickens like to sleep as high up off the ground as they can, so roosts that are higher than their nest boxes is the best way to keep your nest boxes clean. Otherwise they'll be sleeping in or on top of their nest boxes every night.

Wooden 2x4's work well as roost poles. Wood is better than metal, which can be too cold on their feet in the winter.

When I moved my young hens into the chicken coop two years ago I "temporarily" used wooden sawhorses as roosts. You guessed it, they're still in use. They've worked great and are easy to move so I can clean underneath them.

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 are up off the ground. So far my hens absolutely love them.

Provide nest boxes where your hens will lay their eggs.

I keep hay or shavings in the boxes to keep the eggs clean. You can buy special blends of nest box herbs or make your own mix to calm your birds, repel insects, and boost their immune systems. More information can be found at Backyard Chickens.

Dust bath

If you don't provide a dust bath area your hens will make their own by digging a hole somewhere, but why not put it where you want it, and make it as healthy as possible? 

Dust bathing helps chickens stay lice- and mite-free and keeps their feathers clean. 

A dust bath can be as simple as a wooden box or plastic kitty litter pan half-filled with fine sand. You can add wood ash, diatomaceous earth and/or dried herbs.

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.

How to "furnish" your chicken coop. Pictured: young speckled Sussex and black sex link hens.

Your chickens' new home

Your chicken coop is now "furnished" and ready for occupancy. 

What you do with the walls and windows is up to you. Just remember that chickens create a lot of dust and anything in their coop will require frequent dusting and cleaning. 

21 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed

When your chickens are confined to their coop and run due to predators, you have to supply all of their food. 

Are you wishing you could save some money on chicken feed? After all, the reason you have chickens is to save money on eggs!

My digital guide Feed Your Flock, 21 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed offers suggestions and solutions to save money on chicken feed, oyster shell, grit and more. Most are simple, several are even free. And if you purchase my ebook using the code FEEDFLOCK50, you'll also save 50% on the price of the guide!

Images of ebook "Feed Your Flock: 21 ways to save money on chicken feed"

Always offer a variety of foods to keep your hens happy and healthy.

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You'll find all of my chicken-keeping posts here. 

How to be the best chicken-mom: what your chickens need from you.


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