Pets & Animals | 8 December 2016Using Existing Structures for Chicken Coops Share article facebook twitter google pinterest There are many benefits to raising your own chicken. Taking care of chicken though, is like any other pet. You have to prepare a place for them to live, know what food they can eat, and learn how to shelter them from the elements. Backyard chickens fixtures, if you have space may be the best. Here is an excerpt from The Backyard Field Guide to Chickens to help you figure out if you already have the making of an excellent chicken coop on your property. Chicken House Design and Features Before you build a shelter, consider any existing structures you have, such as a play structure or space beneath a deck or staircase. Those spaces may be ready for a new life as a chicken house. A corner of the garage can become the indoor chicken house, with a run built outside. A chicken tractor is a movable coop that allows the chickens to forage safely on different parts of the yard. Use a search engine to find dozens of plans and ideas on the Internet. In urban and suburban settings, attractive buildings and landscaping can help chickens fit in with the neighborhood. This is an example of good fences making good neighbors. Landscaping can muffle their vocalizations. Secure feed containers reduce the rodent problem. Architecturally inclined chicken keepers design coops to complement their homes. Many cities now have annual chicken coop tours. Find out if there’s one in your area and visit the coops on tour. The variety is inspiring, and everyone on the tour loves chickens. Wood, hinges, doors, windows, and other construction materials that were previously part of other structures can be effectively given new life as parts of a chicken coop. Check with local resources for centers in your community that provide used building materials. Costs are much lower than new materials. Ready-made or do-it-yourself chicken coop kits are available. The Eglu arrives in a box, ready to be set in your yard and welcome chickens. It is made of durable plastic with a simple and attractive design. Prices range from around $500 to $1,300. Some assembly is required for kits. They come complete, with some options to customize for individual taste. Coops that are easy to clean get cleaned more often. No one wants to live near a smelly coop. Pull-out trays underneath the roosts are convenient, while deep litter systems require cleaning only once or twice a year. A deep litter system uses material such as pine shavings, leaf litter, or chopped corncobs on a dirt floor. As the chickens scratch their manure into the litter, the carbon and nitrogen mix, compost naturally, and create excellent fertilizer. The bugs that live in it add a tasty protein boost to the chickens’ diet. Add litter as needed throughout the year and remove the dirt/litter/manure compost annually. Replace it with fresh dirt and litter and start over. Chickens need shade from the heat and protection from drafts, while still having fresh air circulating. Windows allow air circulation, while protecting chickens from wind and rain. Shutters or some other way of closing windows in winter will contain the chickens’ body heat and keep them warm. A line of screened vents across the top of the north and south walls provides cross ventilation without drafts. A good coop is wind- and water-tight. Chickens are perching birds and prefer to sleep on perches. Plan on six to ten inches of perching space per large bird. Perches can be made from 1×2-inch boards for bantams, 2×2s for large fowl, broom handles, or even natural branches. Round off sharp edges and sand rough spots. A separate section for isolating a few chickens from the flock is an advantage. A hen with the sniffles can be treated without letting her infect the flock. A broody hen can be protected from annoyance. New hens acquired can be watched for a week or two before allowing them to join the flock, to make sure they aren’t carrying any disease. Nesting boxes provide a comfortable, private place for hens to lay their eggs. Each hen doesn’t need her own—they sometimes bunk in together, and prefer to lay an egg in a nest that already has an egg in it. One nest box for every four or five hens is adequate. A wooden, glass, or plastic egg in the nest gives them the idea of where to lay. A hinged back door provides easy access for collecting eggs. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Every common breed of chicken, organized into one information-packed guide. Fueled by the local and organic food movements, as well as a sea change in local ordinances, backyard chicken keeping is booming. Anyone who’s decided to join the new wave of chicken keepers knows that the poultry breeds available are dizzying in their variety. Calm your anxiety with this book–a guide for backyard chicken keepers in search of chickens that best fit their needs. Each breed of chicken listed in the field guide is thoroughly described and is illustrated by color photos. The book tells you all about the bird, detailing each breed’s particular usefulness, adaptation to climate, coloration, number of eggs typically laid, foraging ability, temperament, and unique qualities. There are fun facts about varieties of chickens, as well as information about color and comb varieties, rare breeds, classification, and hybrids. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.