FAQ

How big should your chicken coop be?

It really depends on how big your flock is and whether they will be cooped 24/7 or not. Three hens can share a 12”x12”x12” laying box. So for twelve hens you would need four laying boxes. Beyond that they need room to roost and two or three choices of roosting poles. A four foot long by seven foot wide coop would be perfectly adequate for twelve hens and maximum capacity would be about sixteen. If you are only planning on having three or four hens, your coop only needs to be about two feet long, four feet wide, and four feet tall. A converted dog house would work for this number of chickens.

Should you construct a metal or wood chicken coop for your chickens?

Metal is very unforgiving in extreme climates and is therefore not recommended for a chicken coop. In the summer it would bake your birds and in the winter they would freeze. Wood is a much more practical material to build your chicken coop with. It is easy to customize, ventilate, and insulate.

How deep should a fox barrier be on a chicken coop?

There are two different ways to run a fox barrier. The first is to run it at least 3 feet deep straight down. The second way is to run it six inches under ground and then two feet horizontally around the perimeter (see Figure 2.1). The second is more highly recommended because anything that tries to dig at the fence line will hit the barrier. Predators will not think to start digging two feet away from the fence line to get under the barrier. Foxes and coyotes are very unlikely to snatch a chicken during the day so make sure you lock up your chickens every night and don’t let them out too early in the morning. Though it is unlikely for predators to be hunting during the day, it is not altogether unheard of. Chicken wire or some other kind of mesh fencing should be adequate for your barrier.

What kind of flooring is best for your chicken coop?

Your flooring can be made out of wood, concrete, wire, or plain old dirt. As long as the surface is dry it should work. For wood flooring, make sure the wood is untreated. Chemicals can be harmful to the birds especially if they peck at it. If you choose to use concrete, you will need to provide ample bedding to protect birds and eggs from the hard surface. Concrete is very easy to clean and maintain and it provides a sound structure for the rest of the building.

A complete wire mesh floor is NOT recommended as it is hard on the chickens’ feet. Instead you can place the wire mesh flooring under perches so that the majority of the droppings fall through while providing solid flooring throughout the rest of the coop. Dirt is cheap and easy but it is a pain to deal with when it gets wet. You definitely do not want a water spill to create a mud hole in your coop. If you intend to have a dirt floor, once again, make sure to provide ample bedding preferably shavings that will soak up any water spills.

Do you need an automatic door for your chicken coop?

You do not need an automatic door but you may want one for convenience sake and extra safety. There are different kinds of automatic doors that can be used. Some operate off a hand held remote, and others have timers. If you don’t want to manually open the chicken door from the coop to the chicken yard everyday and close it every night, you may want an automatic door. A door that runs on a timer is a great idea especially if you are worried about forgetting to close the coop at night. Just be sure that if you decide to buy or make an automatic door that you install it correctly. Otherwise, your chickens will not be safe. This is a link to a very simple yet functional automatic door that runs on a timer http://automaticchickencoopdoor.com/. Here is an excellent video that explains how to install the automatic door to an existing coop.

Remember, if you decide to use an automatic door other than the one in the video, you need to carefully research the product and read the directions before installation.

Why does a chicken coop only need two doors?

Your chicken coop needs a door for your chickens and a door for you. This helps with cross ventilation. In all actuality you could get away with only having one door that is human size with a smaller cut out at the bottom and a ramp for the chickens as long as you also have a window. If you have a yard for your chickens, they ought to be able to go in and out of the coop as they please while the human size door remains shut (keeping out drafts and large animals). They ought to have adequate water outside as well as inside and they should be able to get to food and layer boxes inside at will.

The door for you ought to give you access to all areas of the coop. Your chickens should not be able to get anywhere that you can’t reach. If one is sick or injured and you can’t reach it, it could die and infect the others. Chickens are cannibals; they will peck at and eat any member of the flock that is sickly. If you need to put in more than one door that is ok, but just remember that, that is one more door you need to make secure against predators. The fewer doors in the coop, the safer your flock should be.

Why are chicken coops high off the ground?

Not all chicken coops are high off the ground, but here are a few reasons this might be recommended. If a coop has a wire mesh floor and is high off the ground, the excrement will fall through keeping the actual coop cleaner and easier to manage. This would be ideal for someone living in a warm climate since it also creates ventilation. However, chicken excrement gives off heat and is an excellent insulator. A person living in a colder climate might want to allow the droppings to stay in the coop in order to cut down costs of heat lamps. Of course this means the coop would need to be cleaned more often, but that would probably only need to be done twice a year.

Another reason a coop may be built off the ground would be to keep predators from getting in. This argument for building a coop off the ground is fairly valid. It may keep foxes and coyotes out, but unfortunately raccoons can climb. Even with it being off the ground, the coop would need to be secure.

Chickens enjoy having multiple levels. Though they can’t fly, chickens are like any other birds. They like to perch and roost on many different surfaces. Having a raised house with different levels of perches and a yard could be an extremely enjoyable living situation for your chickens. And a happy chicken is a productive chicken.

What kind of dirt should you use for your coop?

Natural ground is fine; anything with store bought fertilizer in it would be poisonous to chickens. If you have only a few chickens you can always make a mobile coop with no floor that you can move around. Chickens love to eat grass and dust in dirt, but if you have only dirt, you will need to purchase scratch grain for them to graze on. Small rocks are also good because chickens need to eat grit in order to break up there food. If you have a natural area with dirt and small rocks you will not need to purchase grit as often.

If you use wires for your chicken coop flooring, is there a possibility for the chickens’ feet to be trapped in between it?

Yes, this is a definite possibility and one that should be avoided at all costs. When toes get caught in wire flooring there is a high risk of injury. Ripping a toenail off may be a minor injury but as previously discussed when chickens are injured they tend to peck at each other which leads to fighting and more serious injuries. To avoid this, only use wire flooring under perches where chickens are less likely to walk on it. It is probably unrealistic to say that you can completely avoid injuries from wire flooring so it is best not to use it at all.

What would be the best treatment for wood to be used in a chicken coop?

In order to keep bugs and mice away use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or chlorine to disinfect the coop at the first sign of these intruders. This will keep harmful parasites and diseases away from your birds. First thoroughly clean the coop, then apply the disinfectant and let it set for at least thirty minutes before rinsing the area. This will ensure that all bacteria is eradicated.

What is the best bedding for your chicken house?

There are many different bedding options for chicken coops. Large wood shavings are best. If they are too small baby chicks could ingest them which may cause illness. Wood shavings soak up excrement and ammonia smells, any liquid or water spills, and generally help to keep the coop warm and dry. Straw is not recommended because when it gets wet or blends with dirt it turns into a very hard and flaky substance that is extremely difficult to clean. Hay is better than straw and is safe for the chickens to ingest but lacks the absorbent qualities of shavings.

Are wood shavings good to use for your chicken litter inside the coop?

Yes would shavings are great! They are extremely absorbent and will keep your coop warm and dry. They are also fairly easy to remove which makes your coop easier to clean. Cedar smells really good which makes it an ideal shaving for covering up unpleasant odors. Pine works as well and may be cheaper depending on the store. It wont matter either way to your chickens, just make sure the shavings are large so as not to be harmful for chicks.

Do you need perches inside your coop?

YES!! Perches are extremely important. Chickens have terrible night vision and are essentially blind in the dark. Roosting keeps them safe from predators that they cannot see to get away from. Chickens will naturally roost when the sun starts going down when it is still light enough for them to see where to go. Whether they are inside or not your chickens’ instincts tell them to find a high perch to sleep on. For the safety, comfort, and general well-being of your chickens you ought to provide at least one perch inside your coop. If you have a large flock you may need more than one. The perch can be a simple wooden one inch diameter dowel rod.

What materials are good to use as nest boxes?

Whatever you build your coop out of should suffice for the nesting boxes as well. Metal is NOT recommended. This is because metal is a conductor and would drastically affect the temperature of the coop or box due to changes in the weather. Metal is also very hard and might break the eggs as they are being laid. Any kind of cheap wood (as long as it isn’t rotting or totally bowed) should be fine for nesting boxes. However, boxes also need plenty of wood shavings or straw to pad the insides of them.

How many nest boxes do you need for your chicken coop?

Figure about one nest box to every two or three chickens. It is not necessary to have a box for every hen because they will share. However, if there are too many chickens per box and the nests fill up quickly, the hens will start to peck at and break the other hens’ eggs to make room for their own. If they taste the egg after breaking it, they may start breaking and eating their own eggs as well.

What materials should your feeders be made off?

Most feeders are made of either metal or plastic. Plastic feeders are generally easier to clean, cheaper, and lighter. If you intend to hang your feeder, having a lighter feeder is beneficial. Feeders only need to be cleaned in between flocks, or if they get clogged with wet food and droppings. Plastic feeders are less likely to get clogged but they may break more easily if they somehow get knocked over. The same applies to automatic water dispensers.

Which is better hanging feeders or the ones just on the ground?

Hanging feeders are beneficial because they help keep pests away (like mice) and they tend to be less wasteful. Chickens love to peck and scratch which tends to fling their food everywhere, wasting a large portion. With a hanging feeder they are unable to spread the food around with their feet. Chickens are also more likely to knock over a ground feeder, once again causing waste. Providing scratch grain as a treat is a great way to still allow your chickens to scratch to their hearts content while not allowing them to waste their main food source.

Hanging a feeder is simple. The type of twine that is generally found on hay bails is the best material to use, but other twines or ropes may work. Most feeders have a metal handle of some sort that is perfect for attaching your twine. If you don’t have rafters in your coop you may need to attach a screw in hook which can be found at any hardware store. The feeder should hang about six to eight inches from the ground so that the chickens can comfortably reach it. It is unnecessary to hang water dispensers.

How high should the perches be?

It depends on the breed and your preference. Bantams that are able to fly higher than other chickens prefer high perches where as some of the bigger breeds might not be able to get as high off the ground. If you let them, bantams will also roost in trees. You may also want to provide different levels of perches so your birds can decide for themselves.