A chicken coop can be a rewarding household fixture. In addition to bringing life and activity to your backyard, home-raised chickens can supply your family with eggs, fertilizer and a sense of nature. Here’s what you need to know before you start your own barn raiser.
When building a chicken coop, the climate you live in, space allotted, and
This modern take on the chicken coop is called the Eglu. It comes in five different colors and holds four medium sized chickens. Pricing starts at 5.
predator protection are important issues.
Predators can climb over, fly over, or dig under wire fences and chicken coops. Raccoons are generally the most common and frustrating predator, but wild and domesticated dogs also will attack a chicken coop, as will hawks, owls, coyotes and possums.
"You need to build your structure to protect the chickens against the predators in your area," says Ludlow. "Most people think chicken wire is strong enough to keep predators out but it is only really good at keeping chickens inside," says Ludlow. "We recommend welded wire that is stronger and similar to fencing material."
How Many Chickens Do you Need?
Everyone knows that dogs are social beings, but chickens are even more sociable, particularly comfortable as part of a flock.
"In some states it's illegal to buy less than three chickens at any one time," counsels Ludlow. "In general, we recommend that you get at least two chickens to keep each other company.” Keep in mind that most cities will allow up to five or six chickens.
If your goal is a lifetime supply of omelets, it all depends on the breed of chicken, its age, and the time of year. Chickens lay more eggs in the spring than in the winter. If you have a chicken that's the right age, the right breed and it's the right time of year, on average, expect to get six eggs a week from one chicken.
The next step is deciding whether you will build the structure from scratch, purchase a kit or buy the structure from a manufacturer. The choice will depend on your level of do-it-yourself aptitude and finances.
"We have six models that we offer off the shelf," Zook says. His company also offers custom coops and conversion packages to turn your shed into a cluck-house.
The most popular coop they sell is the 4x6 model that fits seven chickens
This 4x6 coop by Horizon Structures costs $1,595 and fits seven hens a-clucking.
comfortably. All coops come with outside access nest boxes that allow for easy access to eggs without going inside the den. A typical family of six will never need to peruse the dairy aisles of your favorite supermarket for eggs again.
For those new to chicken keeping, Zook says, "If you live in the suburbs, have a quarter acre with neighbors on both sides, the 3x6 mini-coop would be good." This coop can be wheeled around the yard, which will allow your chickens to free-range in your yard with access to fresh grass and bugs but still offers protection from predators.
Typical chicken coop features include glass board flooring similar to shower stall material for easy cleaning, asphalt shingles or corrugated metal roof, nest boxes where the chickens lay their eggs, and roosts to allow the hens to sleep several feet off the ground. Add food, water, and bedding material such as pine shavings or straw to absorb chicken droppings and you are in business.
Erin Moshier and her husband live on a third of an acre just outside town with neighbors on both sides. "I drew the design incorporating ventilation, perches, a run with access to the outdoors and nesting boxes, and my husband pitched in to build the coop." They used old barn wood for the structure and reclaimed corrugated metal for the roof. The bonus: most of the materials were recycled.
You might think building your own chicken coop would take a long time but Erin says, "My husband worked on the coop a few hours in the evening here and there for about two weeks, but he does have some carpentry experience."
Interest in raising chickens and building coops continues to multiply at a rapid pace. Ludlow, the owner of Backyardchickens.com www.backyardchickens.com says his forum has 35,000 members and approximately 100 chicken enthusiasts join the ranks daily. Newcomers are also flocking to backyard poultry groups that meet across the country.