The single most important thing to have when raising backyard chickens is a good coop. Making sure that it is big enough, secure enough, and comfortable enough for your chickens goes a long way towards ensuring their wellbeing. When they are well taken care of, they will lay more eggs, lay eggs for longer, and cost you less to maintain. Follow these tips to make any chicken coop better for your hens:
Pick the Right Spot
Chickens, like any other living creature, are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. If they are routinely exposed to the extremes, it can cause stress or even death.
The best spot for your coop is under a large shade tree. In the summer the coop is sheltered from the sunlight and kept cool. When then leaves fall off the tree in the fall, warm sun rays stream through the branches and heat the coop up.
Add a Light Source
Egg production is directly related to the chicken’s exposure to light. Many flocks stop laying entirely during the winter because the sun shines less and they spend more time indoors.
You can encourage year-round production and keep your chickens warmer by adding a light to the inside of the coop. Just make sure that the light source is not too close to the chickens themselves, and that it casts a warm glow rather than a blue-white glow.
Decorate for All Involved
There are not a lot of limits when it comes to chicken coop ideas for your new design. But you will need to make sure that any coop you build has nesting boxes and roosting perches to accommodate the chicken’s natural instincts.
An easy and stylish way to do this is to mount old wicker baskets to the walls and stuff them with straw for nesting, and to use an old curtain or shower rod for perching and sleeping. With the wall space you have left, why not add paintings or bric-a-brac to give the coop more character?
Choose the Right Hardware
You are not the only one who likes the taste of chicken eggs and chicken meat. There are all kinds of predators – dogs, possums, raccoons, snakes – who like the taste, too. These little creatures can be very persistent about getting into the coop.
Keep your chickens safely in and everything else out by using metal hardware that can’t be easily unlocked by a paw. Don’t underestimate the cunning or determination of predators – they will make a nightly effort to raid your coop. The more secure it is, the better it is.
Let in the Air
Since chickens view anything and everything as a bathroom, the air inside the coop can quickly get foul. This could compromise the health of the animals and make egg collection a less than pleasant experience.
Be sure that your coop has plenty of ventilation. Creating openings at the top and bottom of the coop encourages air to circulate. Cover these opening with a strong mesh to keep out predators and debris.
Think of Yourself
Chickens are relatively low-maintenance animals, but they do require daily attention. You will need to feed and water them and regularly, clean out the coop, and replace the bedding (which can be composted for fertilizer).