10 Must-Haves for Your Chicken Coop: Lessons Learned from Experience

Raising chickens can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, providing you with fresh eggs and a connection to nature. However, creating the perfect chicken coop requires careful planning and consideration. In this blog, we'll explore the ten essential items that many chicken keepers wish they had included from the start, based on lessons learned through experience.

1. Adequate Space and Proper Ventilation:
One of the most common mistakes is underestimating the space chickens need. Aim for a minimum of 2-3 square feet per bird inside the coop and 8-10 square feet in the outdoor run. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation to prevent moisture buildup and ammonia odors. If you are in a HOT climate make sure to have plenty of ventilation, when we lived in Texas our coops were all open meaning they were wood framed and hardware cloth was basically the walls for the coops, we used tarps and fence boards during winter time but otherwise kept our coops open and ventilating. When we moved to East TN we brought all of our breeding pens with us. We use the Tractor Supply Welded Dog Kennels for most of our breeding pens, we added metal slanted roofs and everything was for the most part easy to disassemble and assemble once we got to our new Farm. 

2. Nesting Boxes:
Provide cozy and easily accessible nesting boxes for your hens to lay eggs. A ratio of one nesting box for every 4-6 hens is recommended however, don’t build 16 nesting boxes because they will only use 4. Choose a dark, quiet location to encourage egg-laying and minimize stress.


3. Roosting Bars:
Chickens naturally prefer to roost at night, so include sturdy roosting bars at varying heights. Allow at least 6-10 inches of roosting space per bird, and ensure they are easy to clean. We love to use tree branches for our roosts when possible, the chickens enjoy them as well.

4. Predator-Proofing:
Predators can be a significant threat to your chickens. Install hardware cloth or strong wire mesh to protect windows, vents, and any openings in the coop. Bury the wire at least 12 inches deep around the coop to prevent digging predators. Do not use chicken wire to predator proof your coops. Chicken wire keeps chickens in and does not keep predators out. A raccoon or a possum could easily access chicken wire without issues. I cannot stress this enough!

5. Secure Latches and Locks:
Invest in high-quality latches and locks to keep your chickens safe from both predators and curious children or pets. Double-check that all doors and access points can be securely fastened. Our Rarest breeds are locked up with actual locks every single night.

6. Feeder and Waterer:
Provide easy access to clean food and water for your chickens. Hanging or wall-mounted feeders and waterers help prevent contamination and waste. Regularly clean and refill them to keep your flock healthy. Chickens don’t understand the benefit of clean water, they love to muck up their water within 5 minutes of receiving fresh clean water. Hanging up their waterers has helped tremendously!

7. Bedding Material:
Choose suitable bedding material, such as straw, wood shavings, or sand, to keep the coop dry and comfortable. Regularly clean and replace bedding to prevent ammonia buildup and ensure a clean environment. With our current coops and breeder pens we use the forest floor and add tree mulch or horse stall pellets if needed after a heavy rain.

8. Dust Bath Area:
Chickens love to take dust baths to keep their feathers clean and free of parasites. Create a designated area in the run or coop with loose soil, sand, and wood ash for your chickens to enjoy their natural grooming behavior. I am not a fan of diatomaceous earth added into dust baths as it can cause respiratory damage to both humans and poultry if inhaled, also if it happens to get wet it is absolutely useless.


9. Adequate Lighting:
Natural light is crucial for your chickens' well-being and egg production. Ensure the coop has windows or openings that allow sunlight to enter during the day. Consider adding artificial lighting for the darker months of the year to maintain egg production.

10. Easy Cleaning and Accessibility:
Design the coop with easy cleaning in mind. Include features like removable trays or tarps under roosting bars and nest boxes for simple waste removal. Additionally, design the layout to allow easy access for cleaning, egg collection, and general maintenance.

Creating a functional and comfortable chicken coop is a journey that often involves learning from experience. By incorporating these ten must-haves into your design, you'll set the stage for a successful and enjoyable chicken-keeping adventure. Remember, a well-designed chicken coop not only benefits your feathered friends but also makes your life as a chicken keeper much more enjoyable and efficient.

Masha at Mockingbird Homestead

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