Bollith Bred Poultry
Specialising in quality, free range poultry, perfect for your backyard
Housing Adult Chickens - The Coop
Do not position the chicken coop too close to your house, neighbouring properties or boundary fences.
The coop must be suited to your birds' needs: it must be the right size for your flock; it must be weatherproof and sturdy; and it must allow you easy access to the inside for egg-collection and easy cleaning & regular maintenance. Ideally, it should be as large as you can afford and as large as space allows. Do not overcrowd chickens as it will cause undue stress, bullying and illness - and no egg production!
If you have a permanent chicken coop built (ie not one which can be relocated around your yard) then we highly recommend you concrete the interior floor. This will significantly reduce the number of rats and mice which can access the inside of your coop, and they are much easier to clean. A compacted-dirt floor is the most primitive solution as this will quickly turn to mud and is the hardest to keep clean and disease-free. A solid, good-quality wooden floor can work well but note that the droppings will eventually rot the wood - and can also make it very slippery - so you will need to clean and maintain it regularly. In addition vermin will eventually chew through the wood to gain access.
The floor of your coop will need to be furnished with 'litter' for bedding, and for the chickens to scratch around in. Hay is not recommended but straw can work well if cut into smaller lengths. It will need to be changed regularly as it can hold moisture and become mouldy making the chooks very sick. You can aerate the litter with a rake and fluff it up to help it dry out, or scatter some grain around and the chooks will scratch it up in search of food. Wood shavings are a good alternative as they neutralise the ammonia and dry out manure making it easier to handle. Shredded paper is another option and a great way to recycle although it's so light weight it will blow around in the wind. Chooks love scratching around in the autumn leaves but make sure they are completely dry before adding them to your yard or you'll end up with mould causing respiratory problems.
The coop needs to be well insulated against the cold, but it also requires fresh air without creating a draught which can be fatal to chickens in the winter months. Without adequate ventilation, a coop will soon become stuffy, damp and unhygienic - ammonia from droppings will build up - and it will then provide the prefect breeding ground for respiratory problems in your chickens.
Nesting boxes are vital for hens to lay their eggs. If you don't provide them with a comfortable area to lay their eggs they'll wander off and find their own place. It can take 1-2 hours per day for a hen to lay her egg so ensure that they are as comfortable as possible and not too small. Ideally you should have around 1 nesting box per 3 birds, around 45cm high and 30cm2. This size will suit most light breeds, but for smaller bantams the boxes could be a little bit smaller, and for larger birds make the boxes a little bit bigger. Nesting boxes should be situated just off the ground (if you have them higher you will need to supply perches so the chickens can access them easily without
having to jump and possibly injuring their feet causing painful sores). Place the nesting boxes in the darkest section of the coop as the hens like to lay their eggs in a dimly lit, quiet area. Line the nesting boxes with a deep layer of hay or straw (hay is okay to be used in nesting boxes). Remember this must be cleaned out and replaced regularly. Remember to collect your eggs at least one a day and to remove any broken shells as soon as possible.
Perches: One or two long perches will provide roosting places for your chickens at night. If there is two or more perches they must be situated at the same height otherwise they will all try and get on the highest one and squabble all night. The perches must also be situated high above ground level (provide "steps" to avoid the chickens having to continuously jump up and down) and they should be higher than the nesting boxes to ensure the hens don't roost there instead.
Around half of the chickens droppings are produced at night time and they contain high levels of ammonia, so it's essential cleaning is carried out regularly. Importantly, ensure that feeders and water containers are not situated under the perches to avoid contamination.
You also need to ensure the size of the perch is suitable for your chickens. Depending on the size and breed of your flock, the perches should be around 5-8cm wide and 3-5cm thick. Do not use square perches or the chickens toe will not be able to grip properly. Ensure the perch is smooth with no bark, ths ensuring there are no splinters nor places for mites and parasites to hide. Allow 20-30cm width for each bird to roost.
Chickens have to wash themselves on a daily basis in a dust bath to keep mites at bay. You will need to provide your birds with a permanent, and completely dry, dust-bath that they can use all year round. Free-ranging chickens will make their own dust-baths, usually in a patch of the garden you wished they wouldn't!