Choosing a Breed

Housing Chickens - The Basics

Chickens need housing for several reasons:

Chickens need housing to sleep in, for shelter from weather, for protection from predators, to lay eggs in and (if desired) to go broody (incubate the eggs).

You must provide good adequate shelter with enough room for your chickens. This could be a ready made chicken coop, a converted shed, a rabbit hutch, a dog kennel etc.

Chickens like to perch on something off the ground when they go to sleep.

It must be dry in wet weather, free from draughts, cool enough in the summer and warm enough in the winter.

It must be predator proof. The most common predators are domestic dogs ferrel and domestic cats and theft from people. Others include Foxes, Stoat, Mink, Weasels, Rats and large birds such as Hawk.

You should provide an area where your hens can lay their eggs, this should be dark with some sort of nesting material such as wood shavings or shredded straw.

If your eggs are fertile (a cockerel has mated with your hens before the eggs were laid) and one or more of your hens goes broody (sits on and protects the eggs) you should provide her with a quiet area where she will not be disturbed with food and water nearby.

Housing Chickens - In-Depth

How much chicken pen / run space do I need?

Its always a good idea to look at the space you have available for your chicken run before you decide how many chickens to buy. You can then get the right amount of chickens for the space that you have available. Chickens do a lot of pooping and need space to roam about. The more space you can give them the better the less cramped they will be and less likely to become ill from walking aroung in their own poop. For a fixed run, as a guide, based on my experience, I would recomend at the very least 1 square meter of run space per bird. You can buy pens that you can move about so they have a fresh patch of ground each day for this type of pen less space is required. Specially made coops with runs attached will often recomend the amount of birds that it can house. I would always suggest you get less birds than is recomended so if it houses 5 i would suggest 3.

What size coop should I buy?

This depends entirely on the amount of birds you intend to keep in it. Chickens like to perch at night off the ground they tend to huddle together, often squabbling over a certain spot. As a guide based on my experience I calculate the amount of floor space in square feet and divide by 2 and this will gives the maximum amount of birds I would comfortably recomend e.g. 6x4 foot shed = 24 metres square so 24 divided by 2 = Max 12 Chickens. 3X2 foot hen house = 6 square metres so 6 divided by 2 = Max 3 Chickens. This calculation has always worked well for me if I add more the housing becomes more cramped, the birds squabble more, there is more poop, more smell, more pests and illness.

How do I make my own D.I.Y Hen house or coop?

Chicken / Hen houses can be expensive. There are many ways to make your own housing, there are no rules about how it should look, it can be as basic, or fancy as you are willing to make it. Here are some basic's that I would recomend...

1. Predator Proof it!- ensure that no other animal can enter the coop at night. Foxes and rats are good at digging so a hen house without a floor should have chicken wire around it dug in to a depth of approx 1 & 1/2 - 2 feet deep preferebly at an angle away from the coop. Ensure you have a good door that can be closed securely and locked shut. Make sure you have no holes, rats and mice can squeeze through the smallest of holes. Make sure its not too flimsy a good solid house will not only keep them protected but last much longer.

2. Protected from the elements - The coop should be warm and draught free. It should be dry in wet weather and have no leaks, an angled roof covered in roofing felt should prevent this problem. It should have adequate ventilation. It should be cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.

3. Perches - Chickens love to perch at night and although they are not essential they can be made easily and its always best to encourage their natural behaviour it makes for chipper chickens. Perches can be made from 2x2" timber or even 2x1".


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  Disclaimer: All Chipper Chickens information provided on this website is to be used as a guide only.  For the best advice and treatment, especially with illness, we always recommend that you contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Chipper Chickens accepts no liability for the care and safety of any animal, property etc.