23 Simple Ways to Better Your Chicken Coop & Run (Free Infographic)

Here, you go!

Within the chicken keeping world there are loads of people who are looking for information about chicken coops and chicken runs.

It is not really that surprising that this topic creates so much interest considering how fundamental a good design and build of the coop and the run are to health and safety of our flocks.

I have created a list of 23 “elements” that you need to have  in your coop and run in order to get close to perfection!

I have created a free infographic for you to download and print out and then I have written a very detailed article in which I explore each of those 23 elements, providing you with the very best information available.

If you like my infographic and article then please share it as much as possible.

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Download Instructions

Windows Computers

Hoover over the infographic with your mouse and then right click. Select “Save Image As”, name it and then download it.

Mac Computers

Hoover over the infographic with your mouse then press the control key and your mouse. Select “Save Image As”, name it and then download it.

Article

To complement the infographic,  I have written a 9000 word article that breaks down each of the 23 points in the infographic- providing  you the best information written by some of the top practitioners in the chicken keeping world.

I know that you will learn a lot from reading it because I learned so much from writing it.

Now because the article is so long and in-depth, I have created some shortcut buttons to help you get to the best content quickly. The article, like the infographic, is split into three sections; general principles, chicken run and chicken coop. Press any of the buttons below, takes you to that section. Go on, try it!

General Principles - Edited Chicken Run - EditedChicken Coop - Edited

Not only that, but I have created shortcut buttons that will allow you to access individual elements immediately. Go on, have a go!

Am I Allowed (1) - Edited Plan Ahead (1) - Edited Portable Or Not (1) - Edited 4. Eye Candy - Edited -5. Easy & Quick - Edited 6. Security Counts (1) - Edited (1) 7. Provide Shade (2) - Edited 8. Level Ground & Drainage - Edited 9. Recycle & Re-use - Edited  10. Space - Edited 11. Storage Containers - Edited  12. Dust baths - Edited 13. Food & Water Bowls 14. Strong Fences - Edited  15. Fence Underground (1) - Edited16. Space in the Coop (1) - Edited  17. Nest Boxes - Edited  18. Ventilation (1) - Edited  19. Perches - Edited 20. Insulation - Edited   21. Light - Edited  22. Elevated Coop - Edited  23. Coop Flooring - Edited

 GENERAL PRINCIPLES

The following six points are important to bear in mind when you are thinking about the design of your coop and your run. 

  Untitled drawing (1) - Edited 1. AM I ALLOWED?

The first thing to do (if you haven’t already) is to check that you can keep chickens in your area. If  you are in the USA then there is not a “one rule fits all.” Checking to see if you can keep chickens might not be a simple task. Instead you need to check to see if your city allows you to keep chickens.

The specific page to look for is here

If you look at the column on the left hand side of the page then you can check at the ordinances at State or City level.

In the UK, the situation is simpler.

There are no blanket rules that apply nationally to stop you keeping chickens. Instead you need to check bye laws, covenants and house deeds just to make sure that you are allowed.

Keeping Chickens has a great page on rules and regulations.

Tim Daniels notes that you need to register a flock of 50 or more birds with DEFRA.

  Untitled drawing (3) - Edited 2. PLAN AHEAD

Once you have checked to make sure that you can keep chickens in your backyard or back garden, the next thing to do is to plan for the building of your chicken coop and chicken run.

Unless you are a very experienced builder or carpenter and have lots of experience with building stuff without the use of a plan, then for the the rest of us, creating or following a plan will make the building of a coop and run a far easier and quicker process.

Although you might be raring to go and having glanced at a few plans and having a stack of wood outside your door, you might be convinced that building a chicken coop and run from scratch is simple, believe me, following a plan will save you time!

The less experienced or confident you are, the more detailed the plan will need to be. Your options here are to buy a plan off the Internet or to download one for free.

A third option of drawing one yourself, should be reserved for those of us who are super confident.

You can pay for a plan for a chicken coop. I am not going to recommend any particular plan because I have never used any of them.

However, if you don’t want to pay for a plan then a good place to start your search would again be on backyardchickens.com. They have hundreds of different coops that have been submitted by their readers and the overwhelming majority are free to copy. 

Tractor Supply has a section dedicated to free plans of coops of different sizes. Or, another site that has an easy to follow plan is Home Depot.

 Untitled drawing (4) - Edited 3. PORTABLE OR NOT?

Perhaps this should have been mentioned before you spend too long looking at ideal plans for your chicken  coop or run!

You need to decide if you want to dedicate a specific part of your yard or garden to chickens (a static coop and run) or whether you want to frequently move your chickens from one part of the garden to another (a portable coop and run which are also called chicken tractors or chicken arks.)

Most people who opt for a portable runs do so because they want to protect the grass in their garden and don’t want their chickens living “in a muddy, poop covered space”.

The chickens will also benefit from having a near constant supply of fresh grass. Mother Earth News tells us that “Compared with industrial eggs, eggs from hens allowed to feed on pasture contain four times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta carotene.”

The downside of having a portable run is the hassle involved in moving it and not having a run that is quite so predator proof.

If you are worried about your grass then the run will need to be moved every few  days- come rain or shine!

Those of us who chose to build a static run for our chickens benefit from not having to move it and having a run which is probably more robust and predator resistant.

A disadvantage will be that there will be no grass in the run and the best that we can hope for is dried mud on the ground!

And so, if you choose to have a static run then look at Point 23 for a discussion about the best flooring and bedding for your coop and run.

 Untitled drawing (2) - Edited 4. EYE CANDY

Once you have made the decision to start keeping chickens, it follows that you are in it for the long term.

I think that most chicken keepers are also passionate about their gardens and so your chicken run and chicken coop should add to your garden- it should make it more interesting and hopefully more beautiful.

Like much of rest of your garden, you will be looking at it each day. Well built coops and runs tend to be better looking than ones that have been hastily put together and poorly thought out.

Something that I discuss later on (see Point 9) is to consider reusing or recycling objects or bits of timber when building your run or coop.

Just because you are recycling materials doesn’t mean that those materials and structures need to be untidy. Recycled materials can go towards making a great looking coop or run as well.

Other ideas for beautifying your chicken coop and run include adding window boxes.

Or you can make something totally spectacular and unique!

 Untitled drawing (6) - Edited 5. EASY & QUICK

Your chicken run and coop should be as accessible and easy to use as possible because the easier it is to use, the cleaner that you will keep your coop and run- which of course directly affects the health of your flock.

Clean Air Gardening  believe that it is important to “Make sure the coop is easily accessible to clean. This includes the nesting boxes.”

The Chicken Chick  thinks of access in terms of how easy the coop will be to get to in the very worst of weather. How easy will it be to get to and clean out thoroughly in these conditions?

Also can you reach every part of the coop?  Think about that by considering if you could get to a sick or injured chicken that is stuck there.

Untitled drawing (5) - Edited  6. SECURITY COUNTS

Any doors on your coop or run need to be locked shut with latches or bolts. These latches should be made out of galvanised metal (which makes them weather proof.)

In the UK less sophisticated latches are needed because the most common  predator is the red fox which cannot open doors which are secured by simple bolts and latches as long as they have been shut securely. It goes without saying that a fox will get into a run or a coop  in which the doors have not been secured.

Bolts and latches need to be more sophisticated on coops and runs in places such as the USA and Canada because predators such as racoons and opossums can open simple latch mechanisms.

An article on My Pet Chicken discusses the need for two step latch systems or using padlocks to secure any opening.

Over at Small House Big Sky they describe a double lock system involving gate latches and a spring loaded dog lead clip which has kept raccoons at bay for 8 years.

Over at Backyard Chickens in a discussion about raccoon proof latches- some chicken keepers go further than a 2 step lock system and just use padlocks and combination locks!

THE CHICKEN RUN

The following nine points are important factors to bear in mind when you are thinking of designing or modifying your chicken run.

 Untitled drawing (9) - Edited7. PROVIDE SHADE

Your chickens will need to have shade in their run. Shade protects your flock from the sun in the hot summer months but it will also provide protection against wind, rain and possibly snow at different times throughout the rest of the year.

The Happy Chicken Coop describes having to add shade to their run when, during their first heatwave, the chickens were trying to dig under the nest boxes in order to escape the immense heat.

Your best bet for providing suitable shade would be to site your run near a row of bushes.

In the infographic I have used a picture of a tree but although trees can provide a run with great shade they might also provide predators with an opportunity to get easier access into the run.

Foxes or raccoons can use a nearby tree as a means to get into your run and hawks or other birds can use a tree as a great place for a look out.

Fresh Eggs Daily  describes using shrubs and small bushes to provide shade for the flock. Other solutions for providing shade include using an old dog house (kennel.)

 Untitled drawing (10) - Edited8. LEVEL GROUND & GOOD DRAINAGE

It is important to try and place your run and coop on a place in your garden (that is on fairly level ground with good drainage.

The coop should be on a level piece of ground in order to help stabilise it.

It is important that your run has good drainage, otherwise no matter what type of floor that your run has (concrete or dirt or bark chips) it will get wet and stay wet.

The reason for this is that most chicken runs in the wettest parts of the year, left alone,  will turn into “mud baths.”

Mud is not great for chickens or chicken keepers. Chickens that live in a muddy and wet run are far more likely to get infections in their feet (bumblefoot.)

Tim Daniels discusses the need to keep wet litter and mud at a minimum, even in the wettest conditions.

Chickens cannot scratch around in a muddy run either and therefore might get lethargic or aggressive. It is much more likely that your flock will be unhappy.

As an owner, you are far less likely to properly clean out a muddy run because it is such hard work.

Level ground and good drainage also relate to a point I made earlier in which I discussed having a portable run or a static run (point 3.) I don’t think that drainage is quite such a big issue if you use a portable run because it will never be in one place for very long.

Drainage also relates to an issue, discussed later, regarding coop flooring (point 23.) Mud is not such an issue if your run has a concrete base as advocated by Terry Golson.

Whereas the Chicken Chick uses sand in her coops and runs for a huge variety of issues- one of which is sands ability to drain so well.

Newland Poultry believe that there is no perfect cure for a muddy run. Their solution starts with placing a sheet of turf protector or weed suppressor over the ground within your run.Make sure that you secure the sheet to the ground so that there is no chance of it becoming loose. Then lay 2-3” of woodchips  (but not bark as it holds too much water) over the top of it.

  Untitled drawing (11) - Edited9. RECYCLE & RE-USE

Recycling and reusing materials when building your run and coop makes sense on two fronts. Firstly, by doing this you will be saving money. Secondly I consider recycling to be part of a sustainable lifestyle- an ethos that includes keeping chickens.

One of the most common approaches to building runs and coops with recycled wood is to use pallets. Here is a very detailed article showing step by step how a chicken coop can be made from pallets. The coop is well built, very robust and easily accessible. It could easily be made to look more beautiful with a coat or two of paint.

I think that there are advantages and disadvantages to using wooden pallets. Over time, the price of wood is increasing and wooden pallets are either free or relatively cheap. However, pallets take quite a bit of time to break apart into lengths of timber.

Also, if you are following a plan that you have downloaded from the Internet then the wood will probably not be to the required lengths and so you will need to make some adjustments. For this reason alone you might be best to use pallets if you have designed your own chicken coop.

I think that it will take more work to create a chicken coop from pallets that looks stunning (see point 4 above) but if you succeed, you will have created something that looks truly unique.

For more inspiration, you might want to take a look at the following article which shows eight different coops that have been made from recycled materials.

Of course, if you want to recycle but you haven’t got the time or the spare materials to make it yourself, there are plenty of ready made coops that you can buy that have been made from recycled materials. Just type “recycle chicken coop” into your favourite search engine!

 Untitled drawing - Edited10. SPACE

How much space do your chickens need in their run? The simple answer to this is to give as much space to your chickens as you can.

Over at Poultry Keeper Tim Daniels believes that a bare minimum in your run is 3 ft.² (or 1m²)  per chicken. Always ure on the side of caution and give your hens more space in the run not less.

If your chickens don’t have enough room, you will start to see some negative behaviours such as bullying or lots of noise.

Natural Chicken Keeping, suggests a much larger minimum and that  the space in the run should be at least 10 ft.² per chicken.

All of these figures are very different to the official figures recommended by government agencies, responsible for animal welfare in the USA and the UK. In both places the figure is about 1 ft²!

  Untitled drawing (1) - Edited11. STORAGE CONTAINERS

Most chicken food comes in bags of about 20 kg (50 lb.) Having spent money on buying the food, you need to protect it by storing it properly, because, to state the obvious,  “feed sacks are rarely designed to withstand water, heat, and hungry critters.”

Of course, the type of storage that you need depends on the size of your flock. If you keep dozens of chickens then you need to think about building a shed or using a garage to store feed. I am thinking of the chicken keepers with flocks of ten birds or less.

The cheapest option here will be a plastic waste bin although at Poultry Keeper, Tim Daniels notes that rats will try and chew through these.

If you feel that you need more protection then you might want to spend slightly more and buy a galvanised metal bin.

When you use a storage container be careful how you mix feeds from different sacks- make sure that the oldest feed at the bottom of the bin is not wet or mouldy and if it is, dispose of it before you add fresh food because otherwise the whole lot might spoil- feeding chickens mouldy food increases their risk of contracting a disease.

These bins are a great solution as long as you remember to puts the lids back on and secure them properly- something that I don’t always remember to do!

 Untitled drawing (2) - Edited (1)12. DUST BATH

Bathing in dust is a chicken’s way of keeping clean. Kathy Shea Mormino believes that dust baths serve a functional and recreational purpose for chickens.

Functional because it is how chickens clean themselves and recreational because they seem to enjoy it and they often bath in small groups.

By burying themselves in dirt, ash or sand,  excess moisture or oil is being removed from their feathers as well as controlling any parasites on them.

Kathy Shea Mormino believes that sand is the perfect medium for a dust bath.

Over at Fresh Eggs Daily they like to use food grade diatomaceous earth (DE), wood ash and herbs in dust baths.

She notes that, since chickens decide where to dust bath, it is easier to add the DE, ash or herbs to where the chickens are currently bathing, rather than setting up a specific area and trying to encourage them to bathe there!

Backyard Poultry believes that dust baths can help chickens to smell less.

Untitled drawing (3) - Edited (1) 13. MULTIPLE BOWLS

Food and water need to be in plentiful supply in order to keep your chickens healthy and happy. However remember to put all food and water away at night to discourage vermin or predators. Try your level best to stop the food from getting wet when it is out in the run.

Not only should there be plenty of food and fresh water but it should be in multiple bowls, dotted around the run. The Poultry Guide website explains that multiple feeders stop bullying.

The exact number depends on the size of your run and the number of chickens that you have. By having multiple bowls dotted around, any food and water related bullying that might otherwise occur, will stop. This is because a bully can only block access to one food bowl or water bowl at a time.

Terry Golson suggests that  another way to stop bullying is to have feeders that are hanging “so that the hens can circle around it and no one gets trapped in a corner when trying to eat”  

 Untitled drawing (4) - Edited (1)14. STRONG FENCING

On the outside of your run, there needs to be some very strong fencing. The primary purpose of this fencing is not to keep the chickens in but to keep predators out. Chicken wire, which is what most people would opt for, is only meant to keep chickens in and not predators out. The biggest predators that you need to keep out in the UK are red foxes and badgers.

Both Keeping Chickens and Tim Daniels believe that chicken wire can be used in fencing, although Daniels does warn that chicken wire comes in different thickness and to make sure you that you opt for one of the thicker gauges.

What is more important is the height of the fence, that it is buried and reinforced in places. A fox can clear a five feet high fence and so to be on the safe side the fence should be six foot tall sloping outwards at the top.

Keeping Chickens cautions that however high or deep that your fence extends to, the chicken wire needs to be installed correctly and pulled taut between fence posts with no obvious signs of sagging that a fox might tear at.

Advice from the USA seems to be that chicken wire is not robust enough as it is primarily designed to keep chickens in and not predators out. Instead commentators in the US, recommend the use of hardware cloth in fencing.

Hardware cloth is not cloth at all but it is welded wire mesh, that has ½” or ¼” squares. It is a thicker and tougher gauge of wire than chicken wire. Installed correctly, it will keep out raccoons and opossums.

Fresh Eggs Daily writes that “a dog, raccoon or fox can chew or rip through chicken wire pretty easily.” Backyard Poultry goes even further by believing that chicken wire is totally unsuited for chicken fencing and that it is more suited to being used in craft projects!

 Untitled drawing (5) - Edited (1)15. FENCING UNDERGROUND

The fence needs to be buried in the ground to a depth of about twelve inches because a few predators in the UK and several in America,  will try and dig their way underneath.

Because of this, you might want to double up on the thickness of wire that you are using. To be very thorough you might want to bury some rubble at the very bottom of the fence.

At Backyard Chickens there was a discussion about burying the fence in a chicken run. Some people though that digging a trench sounded like hard work, and so instead of burying the fence you create an apron with the wire.

When the wire reaches the ground turn it outwards for about another 12” or so. Over time the wire will settle in the ground and it will stop even the most determined predator.

THE CHICKEN COOP

The following seven points are important to bear in mind when you are designing, building or modifying your chicken coop.

 Untitled drawing (6) - Edited (1)16. SIZE MATTERS

The recommended space that you should allow for each chicken varies depending on how much time they will spend in the coop.

I will presume that your chickens will have a separate run to be in to during the day and so the primary purpose of the coop is for sleeping.  

In the chicken run, you should try and give your chickens as much room as possible but for your coop, there is a fine line between too much room and too little room.

The Happy Chicken Coop write that “Large chicken coops with only a small number of chickens in them can actually be a bad thing because the chickens can’t generate enough heat to keep the coop warm.” The guide suggests allowing 3 ft.² for every chicken that you keep.

Leigh over at Natural Chicken Keeping recommends 4 ft.² for every chicken, which is the same advice is given by RidgeRunner on the BackYard Chicken website although RidgeRunner is quick to point out that this is a only a rough guideline because chickens are kept in such varied locations and climates around the world that there is no “one size fits all.”

 Untitled drawing (7) - Edited 17. NEST BOXES

Chickens need nest boxes because of the privacy, quietness and cleanliness they provide. We need our chickens to have nest boxes so that eggs are laid in one location (instead of in several places)  and so that they are in a place that we, as chicken keepers, can have easy access to.

Although the overwhelming majority of chicken keepers and experts think that nest boxes are a necessity, Down The Lane believes that egg boxers are a waste of time, recalling with bitterness how their nest boxes took a long time to make and hardly ever used.

Apart from the fact that locating eggs that are laid on the ground is more time consuming than collecting eggs from nest boxes, there are other reasons to try and encourage your hens to lay eggs in nest boxes.

Backyard Poultry Mag informs us that when eggs are laid on the ground, the invisible protective layer that surrounds an egg can be smelled by potential predators.

At The Poultry Site we are told that “floor eggs” are more likely to be broken which can encourage hens to eat the eggs (which is a highly undesirable behaviour) and that broken eggs will attract ants. And since the ground is in all probability dirtier than your nest boxes, floor eggs will attract more bacteria.

Nest boxes need to come in different sizes because chickens come in different sizes. My Pet Chicken informs us that, in terms of size, nest boxes should be cosy without being tight.

Tim Daniels recommends that there should be one nest box for every four chickens. Too many hens trying to share too few nest boxes leads to broken eggs.

The Backyard Poultry Mag provides us with ten examples of everyday objects that can be used as nest boxes. These include cat litter boxes, whiskey or wine barrels cut in half, wooden crates, five gallon buckets and pet carriers.

The Poultry Site believes that you should have a slight variation in the illumination within each nest box to suit the individual preferences of your hens.

Tim Daniels cautions us to place the nest boxes lower than the perches to discourage your chickens from roosting (sleeping) in them. Chickens poo (poop) a lot at night and so if they are sleeping in nest boxes then the boxes will need to be cleaned first thing in the morning to avoid newly laid eggs becoming dirty.

Backyard Poultry Mag advises that nest boxes should be “lined with wood shavings, sawdust or shredded paper.” Hay is not thought to be a suitable liner for a nest box because it tends to go mouldy. However, any liner used in a nest box that isn’t changed frequently will become dirty.

The Poultry Guide suggests that if the floor of a nest box is covered in wire, fleas and mites won’t be as welcome.

The Chicken Chick doesn’t just believe that hens need nest boxes, she feels that nest boxes would benefit from curtains and that the best material from this is curtain material. The benefits include providing more privacy, discouraging egg eating and encouraging broodiness in hens.

 Untitled drawing (8) - Edited18. VENTILATION

Before writing this section of the guide, I thought that ventilation was a only means to keep the coop cool in summer. How wrong could I have been?! Backyard Chickens states that coop ventilation is important in summer because if a chicken’s body temperature goes above 90°F (32°C) then they could die.

However, ventilation of the coop is as important in cold climates or during the winter. Better Hens and Gardens note that “Chickens need lots of ventilation particularly in cold weather.”

The Chicken Chick goes even further and tells us that “ensuring adequate ventilation is the single most important chicken care task” (in winter.)

Chickens can survive in very, very cold climates as long as there is no humidity- low temperatures rarely kill chickens but dampness does. Whilst in their coop, chickens generate a lot of moisture- from their breathing and from their poo (poop.)

HenCam informs us that chicken manure is 75% water and that damp air holds germs and viruses. Better Hens and Gardens notes that this dampness can cause respiratory diseases and frostbite.

And so, in order to get rid of the dampness a coop needs ventilation and lots of it.  Backyard Chickens suggests that in mild climates your coop needs 1 ft. ² of ventilation per chicken. If you live in wet climates, you will need more. In warmer climates, they suggest one wall of the coop being made of wire mesh.

Over at Natural Chicken Keeping, they make an analogy between a chicken coop in winter and a car with people in it in winter. Without ventilation, the moisture in a car builds up very quickly as the windows steam up.

To get rid of the moisture in the car, you need to turn on the fan or open a couple of windows.

Yet, it is not just the amount of ventilation that you need to think about but the placement of it in the coop as well. Poorly positioned vents will cause drafts, which are bad. My Pet Chicken explains the difference between ventilation and drafts.

Drafts are flows of air that blow directly at the chickens, displacing all the warm air that has built up between their feathers. Ventilation is a flow of air that moves above or below your chickens.  

It replaces the damp air with fresh air. Vents are best placed below the level at which your chickens sleep or above it or both.

 Untitled drawing (9) - Edited (1)19. PERCHES

It is important for chickens to have perches in their coop because like most birds their instinct is to sleep off the ground, away from predators.  

Backyard Poultry Mag adds that chickens that roost and are off the floor have more protection from mites and lice than chickens that sleep on the ground.

Perches are best made out of wood, although Your Chickens informs us that wrapping the perches in a material such as rubber from old bike inner tubes will help the chickens to grip.

Plastic perches are too slippery as are metal perches- with the additional problem of getting very cold in winter.

In terms of shape, Your Chickens like many others, advises us that a perch should be square, with rounded corner/ edges. This enables the chicken to grip the perch by wrapping their feet around it.

However, Backyard Poultry Mag is convinced that hens like to sleep flat footed and suggests that using a 4” wide piece of wood is ideal. So, go figure? Who should we believe?!

If you have different breeds of chickens,  then the size of their feet will vary and so, if possible, you should have different size perches.

It is important that the diameter of the perch is greater than the length of the chicken’s feet so that their toes don’t touch their heels.

Just as it is instinct for most chickens to try and roost on a perch, they will also perch on the highest one available according to their position of importance in the flock. Pet Chicken tells us to avoid the fighting that results from getting a position on the top perch, make all perches level.

Now, we need to look at some more suggestions for sizes or spacing relating to perches. Like in many other areas of chicken keeping, there are some differences of opinion in some of these measurements. Backyard Poultry Mag believes that on a perch, you should estimate that each chicken needs 8” of width. .

Natural Chicken Keeping believes that if you have perches at different heights then there should be 18” between them- to allow for headroom. You should also allow for a similar space between a perch and the wall in front of it and behind it- to allow for head and bottom room!

Make sure that your perches are not above any food or water and that they are in easy to clean locations because there will be a lot of poo under them (Backyard Poultry Mag).

Finally, if you go to all the effort of sizing, spacing and placing your perches correctly then you might seriously consider using dropping boards.

A dropping board is a shelf situated under a perch, which catches poop (poo.) These boards are then cleaned/ scraped off daily.

The Chicken Chick believes that there are several  benefits of using dropping boards which include; keeping the coop bedding cleaner for longer, reducing the amount of moisture in the coop and reducing the levels of ammonia in the coop- high levels of moisture and ammonia are not good for chickens.

 Untitled drawing (10) - Edited (1)20. INSULATION

Although it might seem to be a bit of a contradiction (in view of the discussion regarding ventilation) some places in the world that  experience very cold winters, will need to insulate the chicken coops as well as making sure that there is excellent ventilation in them.  

Ventilation is a way of getting rid of moisture whereas insulation is a method of retaining heat.  

In the words of Patandchickens  “Insulation is quite useful even with the vents open.”

Tim Daniels believes that insulation is only necessary if you live in a location where the winter temperatures regularly drop below -10 ℃.

The Chicken Chick reminds us that insulation must be hidden from the chickens otherwise they will try to eat it and that a cheap method of hiding insulation from your chickens is to cover it with empty feed bags.

City Girl Farming writes that insulation can be as cheap as sheets of foam or cardboard. Towels and blankets can also be used but as Nancy On the Home Front advises, make sure that if you use materials like towels or blankets, make sure that they are packed tightly together so that they don’t make an attractive home for rodents!

However, it seems that hay or straw are not recommended as a form of insulation because of how it attracts, fungus, mould and mites.

 Untitled drawing (11) - Edited (1)21. LOTS OF LIGHT

In order to keep laying eggs, chickens need between 14-16 hours of daylight. So for some of the autumn, all of the winter and some of the spring many of us will experience an egg drought.

As a chicken keeper we have a choice of whether to let nature take its course and give our hens an egg laying break or to install lighting to keep our supply of eggs constant.

There is no right or wrong answer, although the issue seems to divide the chicken keeping community.

I think all I can say with any certainty is that it seems that the safest and the cheapest option is not to install lighting.

I say safest because Fresh Eggs Daily tells us of some of the potential risks that continued laying over winter has for hens health and these include a vent prolapse and ovarian cancer.

Tim Daniels feels that for the quantity of hens that he keeps, installing lighting is just not worth it.

Terry Golson mentions that lighting might only be economically worthwhile for flocks of over one hundred birds.

One of the articles on The Chicken Chick’s website is written by a Chicken vet who has spent lots of time looking into this issue and he does not believe that winter egg laying will physically harm a hen or shorten its egg laying life.

And so, if you decide to add light to your coop then there are some basic guidelines to follow.

Before you think of adding electrical lights, think about adding more windows (Terry Golson) or using solar lights (My Pet Chicken.)

Make sure that your installation is safe- the consequences of something going wrong don’t bear thinking about (LFresh Eggs   .) Check your wiring frequently for signs of rodents gnawing at it. (Terry Golson.)

Once you start lighting your coop, don’t stop until Spring time. If you stop you might throw your flock into a moult- which is not what you want in winter. Fresh Eggs Daily.

Add light at the beginning of the day, not the end. If you add light at the end of the day then your hens will be plunged into darkness when your lights are switched off and they will get disorientated. (My Pet Chicken.)

Use an automatic timer to control the lights. It will save you the effort of having to remember to turn the lights on and of having to get out of bed early. (Fresh Eggs Daily.)

Don’t leave the light on all day and night- it is not good for your hens and will costs you more.  (Terry Golson.)

You do not need very powerful lights. You might use Christmas lights (The Chicken Chick) or a 25W bulb. The minimum light intensity you should provide should be enough to clearly see the hens feed when standing over the feeder.” (Tim Daniels.)

Choose your type of bulbs carefully.

Do not use fluorescent bulbs (The Chicken Chick.)

Artificial lights that work well are normal incandescent bulbs, halogen lights that produce a yellow coloured light. (Tim Daniels.)

Do not use teflon coated bulbs as they emit harmful fumes. (Fresh Eggs Daily). 

Untitled drawing (13) - Edited22. ELEVATED COOP

An elevated coop is a coop whose floor is off the ground. The biggest reason to elevate your coop is to stop potential predators from burrowing underneath. Earth Easy  

A coop with an elevated floor will also not rot as fast as a coop whose floor is next to the ground.

The space underneath the elevated coop also provides your flock with shelter from different weathers such as rain, wind and snow. Community Chickens.

 Untitled drawing (14) - Edited23. FLOORING

Your choice of flooring for your coop is important because it needs to be predator proof. If your coop is elevated then in all likelihood your flooring will be wooden- probably plywood. Just make sure that it is firmly attached to the rest of the coop and thick enough to deter the most determined predators.

However, if your coop lays directly on the floor then you have more of a choice. Your floor can be wood, dirt or concrete.

Terry Golson is not a keen fan of dirt or sand floors because of how easily predators can burrow through them to get into your coop. However, they do enable your chickens to scratch around.

Sand also retains moisture particularly in winter- another reason why Terry Golson is not a fan.

At the Chicken Breed List, they believe that whatever your type of flooring you should always have pine shavings on hand as it can be used in your nest boxes or added to a solid floor (such as wood or concrete) in winter to add warmth.

Some people such as the Garden Coop  add vinyl flooring to a wooden floor. This makes the wood more durable and makes it easier to clean.

The Chicken Chick believes sand to be the best bedding for your coop. Directly contradicting Terry Golson, The Chicken Chick is adamant that sand does not retain moisture. It also has many other advantages such as how easy it is to clean, how clean it keeps the chicken’s feet, how well it retains heat in the winter  and how cheap it is relatively speaking. However, you can’t just use any sand. The specific sand that you want to use is construction grade sand or river sand. I think in the UK we would call it ballast.

 

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