This spring is going to be yet another busy one here. Our first project (at least is my mind) is chicken coops! We need at least one made up this year, but I would prefer two. Our sights have been moved to meat chickens to help fill our freezer come fall, and I need somewhere to grow them!
Our other need is the group of mainly buff orphingtons with a few light and one silver sussex thrown in. Buff orphingtons are gorgeous birds and I just couldn’t pass them up! I am weak when it comes to chickens. And they are in big need of their own coop in the spring.
This won’t be our first go round with building a chicken coop, and thankfully we have learned a thing or two along the way. If you are planning on building a coop this spring allow me to share a few things we have learned.
Ventilation. Ventilation is your friend! You don’t want the coop air tight, but you don’t want it drafty either. Chicken poop contains a lot of moisture. If you live in a cold climate, such as I do, the moisture released in the droppings and from their breath can put too much humidity in the air and can cause frost bite on the bird’s comb and wattles. The ammonia from their droppings can also damage their respiratory system. Proper ventilation will help keep the air cleaner, keep the air drier (which will reduce frost bite) and will help them stay cooler in the summer time. (You can read more about ventilation for chicken coops here).
Predator Proof. You don’t want any obvious places left unguarded. Chickens don’t have any real natural defenses – they depend fully on you to keep them safe. If your coop has a dirt floor make sure nothing can dig under the coop and get in that way. Also make sure there are no obvious openings where an animal can crawl in. If there are windows on your coop and you leave them open for ventilation, be sure they have strong wire over them. A predator can easily chew through window screens and chicken wire, so be sure to use something strong like a woven wire with a tight grid. Even if it seems unlikely, never underestimate a predator. We had a big ol’fat raccoon go through a 4 inch by 4 inch window, that had plexiglass in it, and kill 5 of our birds when we were first starting out. It was a hard lesson, but one we learned quickly. Also be sure to predator proof the run as well. Hawks and owls can swoop down and take off with even full sized hens, and foxes can chew through chicken wire.
Size matters. When you’re building or looking to buy a chicken coop the size is very important. The coop is where the bird will spend a lot of its time – especially if you live in a cold climate. My girls have down right refused to come outside several days this winter because it’s been too cold or too snowy. You want to make sure they have enough floor space inside the coop to accommodate them not going outside. Also be sure to plan ahead when building your coop. Will you be adding new birds to your flock in the near future? Will you have enough room in the coop to do so? It is usually better to go a bit bigger than you actually need because chickens are like potato chips. You just can’t stop once you start 😉 .
Have Fun. Once you get the basics in order, be sure to have some fun with it too. The coop will be a fixture in your yard for hopefully many years to come. Bright paints, cute signs, and even design can all add fun to the look of your coop. Our chicken coop is painted in the classic red and white design to make it look like a little barn. I’ve seen other coops that look like they fell out of a fairy tale. Make sure your coop reflects who you are as well as add interest to your yard.
I tend to be one of those people who dive in and figure the details out later. Like when I brought home my very first box of peeping chicks and didn’t have a chicken coop even planned out. Don’t be like April – be prepared! Because it is a lot easier to have just done it right the first time, as opposed to try and fix a preexisting coop.
….Not that I would know.