CU-Housing & Habitat: What Are Some Basic Chicken Coop Tips?
What things do I need to consider when buying a chicken coop?
We have been building coops for years and after several generations and changes we have finally come up with a design that will make maintaining your chickens easier as well as creating a healthy environment for them…
What things do I need to consider when buying a chicken coop?
We have been building coops for years and after several generations and changes we have finally come up with a design that will make maintaining your chickens easier as well as creating a healthy environment for them. Through experience we have created a list to inform you of what to look for in a chicken coop.
1. Building too small of a coop 2. Too Low to the ground you need to clean It bending over and climbing in 3. Not a access door or not big enough access door 4. A coop that is not drafty
If your birds are out of the wind, they'll be fine. I live in MN, where (in a normal winter) it can get as cold as -20's at night. No heat or insulation in my coop. It's well ventilated with vented soffits, and is draft-free. I had no problems with my chickens last winter when it actually got cold. I'll admit they've had an easy time this year. Last night was -11, but that's the coldest we've been so far.
Drafts and ventilation - aren't they the same?
No. Ventilation is required in a coop of any size and the larger the ratio of numbers of birds to coop size, the more ventilation is needed. Ventilation holes are strategically placed, while drafts are random cracks and holes that need to be filled in.
Drafty is nasty
Chickens can withstand steady cold but not direct draft. Make sure that there are no holes or cracks in your coop that allow cold air to blow directly on your chickens in the nest boxes or as they roost overnight. Chickens' feet and head are most susceptible to the cold when they're not in motion, so plug any source of draft that would be directed at any area where they're at rest. If using caulk to fill cracks, make sure to do it early in the day to allow any harmful fumes to dissipate before the chickens roost for the night.
Ventilation a must
If you left doors or windows open in your coop all summer, you'll need to make adjustments as the temperatures drop at night. Adequate ventilation in your coop is important, even in severe temperatures. Don't make the mistake of plugging all holes so that your chickens will be warmer, because you will be doing them more harm than good. Chickens are susceptible to respiratory problems and lack of proper ventilation is one major cause. As hours of daylight decrease, your chickens will be spending more time roosting, so proper breathing space is as important in winter as at any other time of year, regardless of how low the thermometer reading.
Vents are required on at least two sides of your coop to allow for cross ventilation. Position the openings so that that cold air won't be blowing on the roost or nest boxes. My larger coop is 4' x 8' and the roost is positioned the 8' length of the coop, about 10" or so from the ceiling. My ventilation is placed at both short ends of the coop at almost the same height as the roost, but towards the front (See photo #2). Since the roost is further back, air flow is adequate, but there's no chilly draft directly on my hens.
Bottom line on airflow
Your chickens' feathers are sufficient to keep them warm as long as you dictate how fresh air is introduced into the coop. By putting thought into where ventilation is placed rather than allowing drafts to appear wherever they may, your chickens will be able to ward off the cold with just what nature provides them.
I keep seeing that coops should be well ventilated but not drafty. What is the difference between ventilation and drafts?
A: Yes, that can be confusing, can't it? Try thinking of it this way: Generally, you might think of drafts as air that will blow directly onto your chickens through the coop at floor level where they stand, or at roost level where they sleep. Ventilation, on the other hand, simply permits air to move through the coop (overhead) but does not blow directly on the chickens.
In the winter, chickens need protection from cold weather, which their feathers provide by keeping an insulating layer of warm air between their feathers and their body, trapped in their down. If they are situated directly in the way of a breeze or a draft, that warm air is blown away, and they can get too cold because that insulating layer is not working in those blowy conditions.
On the other hand, they need ventilation in the coop not only to let in fresh air, but also to let out moist air that accrues from their respirations and droppings. In the winter, moist air inside a coop can lead to frostbitten combs and wattles, and an airtight coop can also cause respiratory illnesses if the air is too wet to let the droppings dry out. In those conditions, the droppings can begin to compost right inside your coop, and an ammonia smell can build up inside. Bad news! So be sure your coop is well ventilated and kept dry, but that your chickens are protected from direct drafts.
5. A coop with proper ventilation 6. Tall enough coop 7. Proper size of coop for the amount of birds 8. Flooring: wood and wire are the best 9. Protection above below and through 10. Light 11. Number of nesting boxes (size of nesting boxes) 12. Type of construction (metal, plastic and wood) 13. Easy feeding (the best feeders) 14. Easy watering (the best waterer) 15. Plenty of run space for chicken scratching and pecking 16. Easy cleaning (wire floor or pull out floor) 17. Easy egg access 18. The right kind of chicken door (best pull up door the better auto door) 19. Where to position the Roosting bars and how many (were the spacing is and 2” rounded edges) 20. Easy assembly 21. Mobile (for fertilizing different areas of the lawn) 22. Style (good looking) 23. Rodent
Store your feed in a metal storage container that is attached to the coop Coop mounted storage feeder
Our Auto feeder which only allows chicken access to the feed
Be sure to close up your coop every night. This will make it hard for rats and other vermin to get into your hen house. Keep the coop closed at night (consider our timed automatic door opener & closer)
Our Rat bait station
You should make a conscious effort to minimize food waste. This might mean raising feeders to a certain level so that chickens cannot scoop food out on the floor with their beaks. (Hanging Feeders up off the ground making it more difficult for mice to reach)
Keep your coop as clean as possible
Building a I have seen many coops that look economical and cost effective but end up being very hard to maintain and to clean. Many coops are too small for the amount of chickens people put in them. Some are so low to the ground you would need to clean it out while sitting on your knees and even bending further.
Hens that have enough space and are comfortable lay more eggs! A Coop that is easy to maintain will stay clean which reduces disease and improves overall health of your chickens. Here are a few things to think about when building your coop. Decide what you are willing to put up with for your circumstances, always do what is best for your personal situation.