With Spring well underway, many of us are doing a little spring cleaning and preparing for some new chicks! Maybe it’s time for a new coop? Here are some basic tips for choosing the right coop for your flock and how to take care of it so you can be sure your chickens and other fowl are happy and healthy.
A chicken coop can have many purposes. It can be as simple as a place to roost at night if your flock is free range, or, if you prefer to keep your flock in one place, serves as their all-inclusive home with room for roosting, exercise, feeding, and laying eggs. There are many different designs and layouts to choose from when picking out a coop. You can buy one pre-made, or find instructions for building your own. Here are some factors to consider when choosing your flock’s home:
- Key Features
There are a few basic features you’ll want for any chicken coop:
Like most birds, chickens, turkeys, and other types of fowl prefer sleeping in an elevated area in order to stay safe from predators. Roosting bars will provide a place for your hens to perch at night so they can sleep soundly.
- A nesting box is a great way to encourage your hens to lay their eggs in a specific spot. If the coop you own doesn’t have built-in boxes, milk crates are a great substitute!
- Dispensers are useful for keeping food and water clean. There are plenty of styles you can buy, or you can make them yourself. Keep food and water dispensers slightly elevated, a few inches off the ground, in order to prevent dirt from getting in. If you have young chicks in your coop, remember to make sure the food and water are accessible, and that they are not at risk of getting caught in the water dish and drowning.
Having enough space is important for your coop if you want to avoid fighting. The average recommendation is a minimum of 1-2 square feet per bird, and much more if your flock remains in the coop 24/7. If your flock is not given enough space, it won’t be long before you notice the signs. Look for birds pecking at one another and birds with missing feathers. Bullying is a common side effect when there isn’t enough room to go around. If you do notice signs of bullying in your flock, separate the bullied birds until they are better and increase the amount of space in your coop.
There are a number of things that might affect your flock’s safety, whether it’s predators or the elements. Protect your flock from extreme temperatures by ensuring that your coop is well insulated and also well ventilated to allow proper airflow. There are a number of things you can do each year to prepare your flock for winter, and in the summer months they need access to fresh air and water in order to keep cool. As for predators, a properly enclosed coop will keep out larger animals, and roosting bars will allow your birds to stay at a safe height while they sleep.
There are plenty of things to think about for your hens when choosing the right coop, but don’t forget about yourself! A good coop will be easily accessible so that you can gather eggs, change out food and water, and clean the coop without much hassle. Many coops will have larger doors or hatches that allow you better access inside the coop, and can be locked up when you are finished.
Basic Coop Care
Once you’ve chosen the right coop, maintaining it is your next step. Be sure to place your coop in an area that will stay dry so you and your flock won’t have to deal with mud and puddles after some wet weather. Give your hens a supply of hay or straw so they can keep warm and build nests, and provide an area with clean dust or sand that will allow your birds to clean themselves and prevent mites. Change out dirty straw regularly, and clean out any droppings before they build up too much. Many coops are designed so that droppings can be removed easily, but in our lean-to coop we use a rake to pull them out. Cleaning up droppings and old food and keeping the coop dry will prevent mold and keep out bugs and other pests.
The right coop will ensure the health and safety of your backyard flock!