What requirements should a good chicken coop meet?
Keeping chickens is a fun and rewarding hobby that you can make as extensive as you want. For example, you can choose to build your own loft or purchase a modern, low-maintenance loft. You can also choose from all kinds of different chicken breeds that you can buy or hatch yourself with an incubator. Before you start with this hobby, it is important to think about housing. While keeping chickens is not very difficult, there are some basic requirements that a chicken coop and run must meet.
Start keeping chickens: selecting or making a coop
Many people initially think of a traditional wooden chicken coop when keeping chickens. Yet nowadays there are also very maintenance-friendly plastic pens available. Whether you buy a plastic coop or assemble a wooden coop yourself, in both cases there are a number of basic conditions that a good chicken coop must meet.
The basic conditions that a good chicken coop must meet
A chicken coop must be sufficiently insulated. This not only ensures that it does not get too cold in the coop in the winter, but also that it is not too hot in the coop in the summer when the chickens go to sleep to roost. Special thermal blankets are available from some brands of chicken coops. You can also choose to put an old rug over the loft when it gets very cold in the winter.
Although a loft must be well insulated, it is important that there is also the necessary ventilation. If a loft cannot ventilate, it will become damp in the loft, causing mold. This is an unhealthy environment for chickens and can cause respiratory problems. Ventilation is therefore important, just make sure there is no draft in the loft. For this, the ventilation slots must be high in the coop so that the fresh air flows over the chickens when they roost.
Make sure all chickens have a place to roost in the evening. However, when you open the house in the evening, you will likely see your hens huddle very close together to catch each other’s heat. When picking out a perch, make sure it’s wide enough so their legs don’t cramp.
Chickens need a nest corner to lay their eggs. This must be in a dark place and must be at least 30 by 30 cm wide (bantams need less space).
Chickens need free-range space. At best, they have free access to a run attached to the hen house. Depending on how and where you live, you may be able to let your chickens roam the yard freely (but beware, predators can lurk during the day too!).
When buying or making a run, make sure that it has a flanged edge so that predators such as foxes and badgers cannot dig a tunnel in. An edge around the run (which lies flat on the ground) only needs to be 25 centimeters wide.
Chickens clean their feathers and get rid of parasites by taking sand baths. You can give this to your chickens by, for example, filling a children’s sandbox with white sand. Make sure that the sand bath is in a sunny spot in the garden or run and that the sand is dry (a covered children’s sand tray with a minimum size of 100x100cm is a good solution).
Feeders and drinkers
Chicken feeders and waterers are best placed in the run. This way the loft stays cleaner and in winter you also prevent the drinking water in the loft from evaporating and causing condensation. By choosing a feed bowl closed at the top, you prevent the feed from getting wet when it rains.
Modern or traditional chicken coop?
Traditional chicken coops are made of wood. The disadvantage of this is that these pens are difficult to clean. This can be a particular problem when your chicken coop faces a dreaded red mite invasion. These parasites settle in all cracks in the coop and are very annoying to chickens (they can even die of anemia) and they can be nearly impossible to get rid of. Moreover, wooden cages often only last for a limited time because the cages quickly rot. Plastic chicken cages offer a solution. For example, in the plastic cages, all parts of the coop can be cleaned with a high-pressure cleaner. This is easy for the weekly cleaning of the cage, but also in case of a red mite invasion. Plastic hutches also last longer and are usually better insulated and ventilated.