Hens In The House!
By: Hen Up®
Welcome back to Chicken Confidential, an ongoing series of posts that’s part FAQ, part how-to, part advice column and all about helping you have the best possible experience with your backyard flock.
In our last post, we covered the basics of welcoming new chicks and starting your backyard flock. In this post, we’ll give you the scoop on building the perfect coop for your pretty biddies, who will be ready to move out of the brooder at about six weeks of age.
The first rule of coop creation is: Start early and plan carefully. You’ll have a lot of choices to make and details to consider, but all of them will add up to a place your egg-layin’ ladies will call home for a long time. So you want to make sure it works for them, your family and your neighborhood.
Rules and Regulations
As you might expect, most cities have at least a few standards and restrictions around the keeping of chickens, including how close the coop is to neighboring houses or buildings, property lines and even roads. Be sure to check out the codes for your area as it’s no fun to have to relocate or rebuild a coop.
Location, Location, Location
The big draw of chickens for you might be the fresh eggs. But as you’ll soon discover, the true joy of having a backyard flock is getting to watch your chickens being chickens. They’re occasionally odd, often hilarious and always adorable. Keeping chickens is like watching your favorite TV show and then having it bring you breakfast.
Of course, there’s also the practical concern of being able to keep an eye on your funny feathered friends when they’re playing and pecking around in the yard. With all that in mind, you’ll want to put your coop in a spot you can watch from a window.
Other thing to consider in picking the perfect spot:
- Flat areas make it a lot easier to set up a structure, so it might be worth doing some landscaping and leveling in your yard before you get to building.
- Having good drainage is essential, so avoid low-lying areas and anywhere that water tends to pool in your yard.
- You’ll find it convenient to have access to both electricity and water (more on that in a bit) as well as a place to store food that’s out of the reach of mice, squirrels and other critters.
- Chickens can get stressed out by environmental conditions like too much direct sunlight, wind and loud noises, as well as by predators — ones that come from the ground and the air. Shade, shelter and security will be important to keeping your flock happy and healthy.,
Creature Comforts for Happy Hens
Inside and outside of the coop, your birds need room to roam (and some personal space). You’ll want to make sure each hen has 2-3 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space, along with easy access to both.
Speaking of access, it’s important to remember that you’re going to need to get in and out of the coop as well for both egg collection and regular cleaning. Ideally, the coop should be tall enough for you to stand up inside of it.
Just like us, chickens don’t like feeling, well, cooped up. They need fresh air in all seasons, so plan to have windows on all four sides as well as ventilation on the roof. Even during cold weather periods, proper ventilation and fresh air are important to preventing ammonia buildup that can be harmful to hens.
Put food, water and any treats outside of the coop to encourage your flock to get out and about, and also to keep the coop comfortable for laying eggs. Make sure your hens always have access to fresh water and a complete feed like Hen Up® Layer Mash or Layer Pellets as 90% of their diet. Treats like Hen Up® Scratch Grains should make up the other 10%.
Lastly, there are a few reasons that you’ll want to have ready access to electrical outlets near your coop. For laying hens, peak egg production requires 16 hours a day of light. To add lighting inside the coop, use one 25-watt incandescent bulb or 3 watt LED bulb for every 100 square feet of coop space. Putting the lights on an automatic timer is a good idea — we all forget to turn the lights off sometimes and hens need a good night’s sleep, too.
You may also want electricity to have fans running during the hottest months of the year — box fans are preferable to overhead fans for the safety of the chickens — or water heaters when the temperature falls below freezing.
In next month’s post, we’ll share some tips for protecting your backyard flock against common predators. Until then, may all your eggs be good ones.
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