Housing Poultry from City to Country
By Fred Dunne
In my part of the United States, you can't drive down a back road without seeing the remnants of an old bygone chicken coop near a barn or house. Quietly decaying as time passes, a visual marker of a time when almost every rural family kept chickens close at hand.
No matter where you plan to keep chickens, consideration must be given to housing. Chickens need a place to be protected while they grow, eat, sleep and rest. Chicken housing may be as simple as an old existing shed or fwd housing solutions for backyard chickens garden shack, a light weight portable design, or a poultry barn, housing hundreds.
The single most popular small scale housing solution today is the chicken tractor, a portable coop designed usually to house a small flock. Many people are using a modification of this open bottomed solution, to tend raised garden beds. I use the chicken tractor only during summer months as a method of starting young birds safely on open range. They benefit from fresh forage daily and are not free to roam, nor are they easy pray for hawks or stray cats and dogs. No matter what housing system you use, there must be a roosting space where the birds can be securely locked up at night.
If chickens are to be kept throughout the year in a colder climate, then your plan must be large enough to provide moving room when ?cooped up? for several months at a time. This is the case in my neck of the woods? 4 square feet of coop floor space is a good standard per bird. So, say you have an 8 x 8 foot shed? Then you may house sixteen large standard birds throughout the year comfortably.
Nest boxes are necessary if you want your hens to have a place to lay in a predictable location. One nest box for every four hens is all that's necessary. Decoy eggs help to educate your chickens as to where you'd like them to deposit their own eggs. If there is a window in your coop, then the nest boxes should be on the same wall as the window, this is the darkest location. Elevate the nest boxes above chicken eye level, so they don't notice eggs and peck out of boredom.
Covered water and feed bins are also something you need to plan for in a coop. Keeping these things inside will greatly reduce the chances of wildlife or other animals sharing your chicken dining facility.
A coop should not be air tight, but should reduce drafts and provide adequate shelter from cold, wind and rain. A coop properly sized to the number of residents, will be warmer when closed, just from the body heat of your chickens. Enough ventilation is necessary to keep your coop dry and ventilated. Adult chickens do not require auxiliary heat sources in winter, so save your money on those heat lamps and other energy consuming heat units. Chickens that are well watered and fed, are capable of generating their own heat so long as they are draft free.
If you want to get your creative wheels turning and need some chicken housing ideas? Consider picking up a copy of Chicken Coops by Judy Pangman. In this book are samples of chicken structures from very simple/recycled, to completely out of control demonstrations of architectural artistry.
I wish you all well with your chicken rearing in 2010!
Frederick J. Dunn is a retired Navy man and a life long poultry man. He raises bees, emu and chickens in rural PA and is the author of the DVD Regarding Chickens. Fred is a contributor to Mother Earth News. Check out his website: www.fredsfinefowl.com to learn more about him.
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