When you become a chicken keeper, one of the toughest decisions you’ll need to have answered is what kind of chicken coop to purchase. Failure to get the right one could lead to unhealthy living conditions for your chickens. This can lead to three key things:
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When you’re in the market for a chicken coop, you must consider the amount of chickens you’ll keep and why. Once you have a number in mind, you can know what size coop will be needed to house your hens.
A family of four who have hens for eggs would need multiple hens to lay about 700 eggs per year. You’ll need to consider the kind of hens that would lay this amount. A regular laying breed hen can lay up to 200 eggs each year, which means you need at least four hens. Some breeds can lay only 80 to 100 eggs each year. Therefore, you’ll need more hens to get the 700 eggs.
It’s important to remember that has hens age, they don’t lay as many eggs, and it can become inconsistent. During the winter season, hens will become much slower at laying the eggs. And, hens that enter the molting stage stop laying eggs altogether.
Your decision on the amount of hens depends on the above factors. Therefore, you must carefully consider your needs before you purchase a coop. You need to also take the future into consideration.
What is going to happen several years later when the flock isn’t laying eggs anymore? Will you hold onto the chickens and just purchase new hens? If you do that, you’ll need to consider a bigger coop.
People are permitted up to 50 hens before they must register with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Areas (DEFRA). Apart from the legal aspect, your hen amount will be based more on outdoor space.
Hens must have space to roam – one square meter per bird is the minimum (more is preferable). If you’re using a run to shield the hens from predators or pets or keep them out of the garden, you’ll need to consider the space for the coop.
Chicken coops, also known as a hen house, is the building where hens lay eggs and sleep. The area outside the structure is called the run. These structures come in various sizes and shapes and comprise of all kinds of materials.
It’s important to note that like everything else sold, there are both good and bad coops and runs. While retailers must sell them in a responsible manner, it’s you that must decide if something is worth the price you pay.
It’s imperative, to ensure the welfare of your hens, to follow the rules that DEFRA has set forth. Remember, it’s one square meter per hen. If you have three hens in a coop that measures two feet long and only 18 inches wide, they’re not going to feel comfortable.
Your coop should allow plenty of space for hens to wander about. They need to and from their nesting box and get to perches without climbing on top of one another. You also need to provide space for their water and food dispenser – a location that ensures it doesn’t get knocked over. You also need to be mindful of droppings under the perches.
You also need to consider overcrowding as an issue because it increases the risk of injury and illnesses along with affecting their behavior – pecking, squabbles, depression and boredom.
You also need to consider the breed’s size when trying to determine what coop size to get. If a coop says it can hold up to four to six hens, it means four large hens, five average-sized ones and six bantams. However, the internal dimensions are what you need to look at. Ask yourself this: does it offer the hens space to move along with the items noted above?
Your coop isn’t going to be your hens be all, end all – it’s just a place for them to lay eggs and sleep. Most days, minus really cold days, they’ll want to be out and about in the run.
Since egg collection is liable to happen every day, you want a coop that gives you easy access. Many coops offer the easy access design, with some type of door or lid, so you don’t need to put your hand fully into the run or coop.
Not only can you easily collect the eggs, but you won’t bother the hens.
It’s imperative to keep the chicken coop as clean as you can to ensure your chicken’s health. Make sure this is done weekly, sweeping out the droppings, dirt and old bedding. Use a hose to water the coop down. While it seems like a huge chore, it’s not as bad as you think, especially if you purchased a well-made coop.
Today, coops tend to have pull-out trays that are lined with metal so you can easily sweep and rinse them out.
You need a chicken coop that offers a plethora of ventilation, as the ammonia from chicken droppings in a coop can hit toxic levels. Be sure your chicken coop as a couple of ventilation areas – one that removes the bad air and the other to allow fresh air through.
With a properly ventilated coop, it decreases the buildup of viruses and airborne bacteria that could cause respiratory issues with the chickens. It also helps to eliminate any extra moisture that has seeped into the coop. This keeps the coop dry and cool during the warmer parts of the year. Thus, your chickens won’t suffer from overheating.
Keep in mind that chickens don’t like breezes, so a well-designed coop will have ventilation points at the top of the coop to ensure the air doesn’t hit their feathers.
There are some coops that offer adjustable ventilation, allowing you to make it wider and colder based on the coop’s interior and exterior condition. You never want to close off the coop’s ventilation completely.
Going back to ventilation for a second – you want to make sure the ventilation isn’t big enough to allow predators like weasels or minks to get through and, if it is, there’s a tough protective mesh to cover the ventilation, so they’re unable to get through.
There are several predators that would love to get their claws and teeth on your chickens, which is why it’s so important to choose a coop that offers safety designs from predators like:
Keep chickens safe from any predator by giving them high-off-the-ground perches. During the winter, they tend to gather together, sharing their warmth. Have enough perches for every hen to have a perch at night and wide enough for at least two hens.
You also want comfortable perches for the hens, who’d rather sit on flat surfaces with a slightly rounded edge. This ensures their feet can easily grip the perch, which should measure around three to four centimeters wide and be wooden to keep in the warmth. Never use narrow metal, plastic or doweling pieces for a perch.
You should be able to easily move the perches to clean the coop. You also don’t want them to be near any food or water, as these can become contaminated from the bird droppings.
Hens are vulnerable when they lay their eggs, and would rather be somewhere quiet and dark away from the flock when laying. Keep your eyes out for a coop that has comfortable nesting boxes for your hens. Since you’re going to be eating the eggs, ensure the area allows for eggs to stay clean and can easily be collected and remain unbroken.
A well-designed coop has nesting boxes that stick out from the coop side with a hinged lid that allows for egg collecting access. Look at the boxes, and you’ll see they’ve been separated into at least two isolated compartments.
If you need to, there are some coops that let you purchase and add on nesting boxes. For bigger flocks, this provides them with plenty of space to lay their eggs. One nesting box is ideal for up to four hens. If you plan to have more egg-laying hens, you’ll need additional nesting space.
Since hens like sitting up high, place the nesting box lower the perch. If they sleep in the nest and lay their eggs, they won’t become damaged or broken. Line the nesting boxes, which should already be off the ground, with soft bedding material.
When it comes to coops, you always want one that’s been properly built and is very sturdy in its construction. Most coops are comprised of wood. However, it’s not uncommon to find recycled plastic and plastic coops. And, some manufacturers have created coops using more than one material.
If you go with a wooden coop, you want to consider the wood’s viscosity and quality. Is the base solid? Is it a tongue and grooved wood?
Coops made of fragile timber last no more than a year before problems start to ensue. Go for well-manufactured timber that can withstand the elements and has metal and galvanized steel hinges that won’t easily break off or rust.
If you opt for a plastic coop, you want a very thick plastic that’s resistant to both extreme temperatures and predators attacks. A well-designed plastic coop should also be well-sealed, as not to allow precipitation through. You also want to look at the design of the locks and hinges. Though plastic will not rod, it doesn’t mean it can’t eventually snap and break.
Sure, a coop you like is important, but not near as important as the reason for the coop. Looks get your attention because you don’t want an unsightly coop in the backyard. It’s important to remember that looks are not and should not be the end all, be all. You need to consider its design as well.
The health of your chickens is the key consideration to remember when buying a chicken coop and run.
The biggest consideration chicken coopers look at is the door; more specifically, automatic door openers. These devices save you the time of having to physically go out and open and close the doors, as it does it automatically for you.
You can purchase automatic door openings that will open at dawn and close at dusk. Or, you can purchase a timer automatic door opener that works when you set up.
Special Note: automatic door openers are only offered on vertical opening coop doors. Many manufacturers have begun altering coop designs so as to include vertical doors due to the popularity of automatic door openers.
A run isn’t as important as a coop, but most chicken keepers buy them. Why?
Many coops have built-in runs or specifically designed runs that you can easily affix to the coop. Some coops with runs are extendable, so hens will have more space to roam. Again, at least one square meter per hen is required.
You can either by the run individually or find a manufacturer who offers both coops and runs together. Be sure to purchase a run that comes with a cover to protect your chickens from the elements.
Your chickens’ run should also be well-designed and durable – solid wood, strong joints and galvanized steel for metal parts are ideal. For runs off the ground, make sure it can be secured, so it doesn’t blow in the wind. Never purchase a run that can topple over on a windy day.
You also need to consider the wire you’ll use to protect your hens. Chicken wire isn’t strong enough, as predators like foxes will push and pull until a big enough hole is made to allow them through. Chicken wire is extremely thin and flimsy. Go for thicker, tightly woven wire that can easily be affixed to the wooden frame.
Make sure the run includes a mesh on the top and for its fencing. This keeps jumping, climbing and flying predators from getting through day and night. You should also ensure the mesh is tough, making it really tough for any predator to try and get through.
The underside of a run is the most difficult to protect. Foxes have been known to dig under a fence to get through. Therefore, you must defend your hens from all possible invasions. There are several ways that this can be done:
Dig a one-foot trench around the coop’s perimeter then do the following:
If a trench isn’t an ideal solution for you, consider paving around the border.
Your hens need a dry are of soil to take their dust baths, which is the way chickens eliminate the parasites lingering to their feathers and skin. If the run you have doesn’t already have this, consider offering them a deep, large container with sand and soil in it – planting pot or cat litter tray will suffice.
The location you place your run is going to become barren fast. Therefore, add in things that keep the chickens occupied such as perch to climb on (tree branches are fine) or items to peck out such as grit. Never throw food around the run since this will attract predators’ attention.
If a large space is desired for your animals, a run isn’t very practical. Consider the investment of an electric fencing kit – the cost will depend on the size you get. There’s no need to employ the services of an electrician. You can set it up easily for yourself.
To make buying process so easy we at chickencoopbuyingguide.com have prepared the review for the top 10 coops and you can confidently buy any one for your chickens.
There are a lot of places you can go to purchase your coop and run. The Internet has made the process even easier. There are some really good retailers with highly competitive prices – you just need to find them.
When buying a chicken coop always look for the quality. Do not only look for cheep coops.
The best place to go for your coop and run is a specialist who’s established their reputation as being the leader in quality chicken coops and runs. Specialist companies are often highly competitive with their prices, but you’re going more for their knowledge and foresight for times when you need a coop, and there are problems.
Think of it this way – Would you rather have a chicken coop from a retailer with very little experience in the field? Or, would you rather be able to pick up the phone or email a highly-respected chicken coop individual to address your questions and needs?
You need to take special care of your coop. Sure, your wooden coop may have already been pre-treated, but you still need to use a preservative to protect it even further from the elements – rain, snow, wind, hail, etc. Whatever treatment you decide on, make sure it’s something that is safe for your animals – all animals, not just the hens. You can easily find animal-friendly preservatives being sold on the Internet and in brick-and-mortar stores.
Over time, your coop will need to be repaired. Look over for roof leaks, rotten timber and wood splinters that could injure the chickens. While most problems can be easily remedied, if you feel the coop has outlived its usefulness, it may be time to purchase something newer.
There are several accessories you need to include in your chicken coop and run including but not limited to:
Any prospective hen keeper needs to do their research into the subject before making the split second decision of raising chickens. As you see, it’s not as easy as you might think. You certainly don’t want to buy any old coop – for the sake of having a chicken coop and save money. You need to really do your homework – consider the factors that will affect how big or small your coop will be and what kind of material the coop will comprise of.
Do this, get answers to your questions and you’ll have eggs every day you need them from healthy egg-laying hens.