Chicken Coop Essentials
You should plan for 3-4 square feet per bird in the interior section of your coop. Smaller breeds, like bantams, may only need 3 sq. feet, while large birds like Plymouth Rocks may need 4 or even 5 square feet. If you live in the cold, you should also remember that your birds will be stuck inside for a good part of the year. If your birds don’t have access to an outdoor run, you’ll want to plan for 10 square feet per hen. If you don’t do this, your flock will be crammed and unhappy, which can lead to chickens pecking one another, resulting in injury to your birds.
These are just guidelines; if you think your birds are too tight, watch for signs of discomfort and agitation. When deciding on coop size, always err on the side of caution. Too much space is better than too little!
Chickens sleep on a roost, a horizontal bar a few inches or feet off the ground. The ideal roost is a round bar 2” in diameter. Don’t use a 2x4 or another board unless it has been sanded into a circle-- it can be hard on chickens’ feet to use a square-edged roost. Also, make sure that the rod is sanded to avoid the chance of splinters.
Plan for one nest box for every four or five hens. Line the nest boxes with straw or wood chips, and make sure to change this lining regularly. Some chicken keepers line their nest boxes with rubber or other lining, which allows for easier and quicker cleaning.
Your coop needs fresh air, especially if your birds don’t have an outdoor run area. Keeping air flowing through the coop is extremely important for preventing disease and keeping your birds happy. Chicken droppings contain CO2 and ammonia. If moisture is not allowed to evaporate, it will cause a breeding ground for disease and your birds may become sick. Place ventilation above the chickens so that incoming air does blow on the chickens’ feathers (including when they are roosting). Make sure the rest of the coop is draft free.
Shade & Cover
Your chickens should have somewhere to go to cool off. If your coop is lifted off the ground, this can be a great spot for your birds to get a break from the hot summer sun. In the winter, you may want something to cover your outdoor run area so that your flock can use it without wading through snow.
Level Up Your Chicken Coop
Chickens use grits to help them digest food. If your birds only have an internal area, you will probably want to feed them grits to supplement their diet. You should also use grits if hens’ eggs are weak and break easily. Grits, either crushed oyster shells or crushed egg shells, contain calcium that strengthens shells and helps birds digest their food more easily.
Dust Baths (Optional)
Chickens clean themselves and prevent pests by taking dust baths. You can make a designated dust bath for your flock by mixing some diatomaceous earth, dry dirt, sand, and fine ash. We mark this step as optional because if you don’t provide a dust bath, your chickens will make some anyway in their run or coop.