Photo credit: Tracy Halladay

Monday, February 7, 2011

Housing Your Chickens

I thought I'd write a little about how to house your chickens.  Chickens don't require much and can take up very little space.  Plus, their house and run can be made to compliment your yard.  There are a few things that your chickens need to be happy and healthy.  Below are guidelines, you can find more specifics online.  check out the resources on the right side of this page.
  1. Hen house- an enclosed area with roosts where your chickens sleep. - Minimum 2 square feet per bird.  Most of the chicken droppings happen at night so be careful not to put roosts above and below each other.
  2. Nest boxes- Usually inside the hen house or built on the adjacent to the hen house with access from the outside. - about 18 square inches per bird, one box for every 3 birds (They'll share)
  3. Run- this is the play area where the chickens spend time while they are awake. - at least 5 square feet per bird
These structures should be made to fit where you live.  In Utah, we get quite a bit of snow in winter and some wind.  We want to protect the hens from that.  Some areas have preditors that dig and can get into the chickens by digging under the sides of the structure.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not very skilled at building things.  The first structure I built was a mobile "Chicken Tractor".  A Chicken Tractor is a coop/run combo that can be moved around the yard or garden. This 'A' frame coop had a house and nest boxes in one end and the run in the other.  It was 8 feet long by 4 feet wide.  The hen house was 3 feet long and the run 5 feet.  The chickens were happy and comfortable.  If you feel uneasy building something yourself you can find sources online for similar structures.  One site that was recently recommended to me is http://www.thelittlechickenfactory.com/.  Their tractors look lightweight, easy to move and well built.

I made my tractor out of scrap wood and it lasted about 3 years until I decided I wanted something a little better looking in my yard.  Again, I have virtually no skills in carpentry so I wanted something easy and inexpensive.  I saw many hen houses online that looked like a childs play house.  I thought that looked nice in the yard.  One spring I ran into a play house kit at Lowes.  I showed my wife and she agreed it was attractive.  The price was more than I was ready to spend so I kept looking.  Later that fall we stumbled on it again at Lowes and it was on closeout for $75.  I couldn't buy the materials for that price!  We took the kit home and I built it and painted it.  On the left and right sides the walls have windows...I turned one wall upside down when building it and that window became a door for the chickens to enter their run.

I converted the 'A' frame tractor I built into a run and butted it up against the side of the newly built hen house and now my hens had more space and I had a hen house which was easier to clean AND it was better looking in my back yard.  The chickens don't need much headroom so they were plenty happy.  Now to clean the run, all I did was tip it up on its end away from the hen house and shovel out whatever there was and dump it in my compost. 

The aging 'A' frame was not holding up after 3 years of use and I decided I really wante a run large enough for me to stand in.  This would make run cleaning easier and would improve the yard look another notch.  So I began scouring the internet looking for ideas.  I took my family and we attended Salt Lake City's Tour De Coops in the spring.  This is a self guided tour that you take and visit yards of fellow chicken owners in Salt lake City.  Yes, Salt lake City allows chickens.  Their ordinance is quite liberal as well!  We saw many beautiful chicken houses and had a great day.  Now, at this point I decided to solicit the help of my best friend who spent many years as a carpenter and home builder.  I drew out on paper roughly what I wanted to build and we took a shopping trip to Home Depot.  We built it in about one afternoon.  It ran about $200 for the materials.

The options are endless and you can do something that fits your yard and what you want to accomplish.

Here is a list of housing resources that may be of interest to you:
http://www.omlet.co.uk/ (Great Britain)

No comments:

Post a Comment