Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Backyard Chicken Coops


Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Backyard Chicken Coops

Chickens are lovely and need comfort and security. This is what a chicken coop provides. This is basically a hen house where your birds can sleep, perch, and comfortably their eggs. In most cases, the floors of chicken coops – especially the exterior floor – are covered with wood chips and straws to improve ventilation for the chickens and take care of their droppings.

The chicken coop must have the direction for ventilation and elevation for security and accessibility. Chicken coops should, therefore, be furnished with windows and vents. Chicken coops need to be insulated too, but necessarily don’t need heating. A chicken coop must have good hygienic conditions to keep the chicken healthy.

There are vital things you need to know, like the direction your chicken coop should face, the right height they should be raised from the ground, and if it is safe enough for your chickens to sleep in a nesting box. These and many more we will be learning in this extensive guide.

Should the Chicken Coop Remain off the Ground?

It is fundamental that your chicken coop is elevated from the ground. Of course, you are free to let it rest directly on the ground, but let us tell you a couple of compelling reasons why your chicken coop should remain off the ground.

Elevated chicken coops are safer from predators

Your lovely chickens are preys to animals like foxes, rats, and predators. If your chicken coop sits directly on the ground, it makes it much easier for these predators to invade your coop and wreak havoc on your birds. If you have overhanging nesting boxes, they mustn’t be easily pushed up from below. Otherwise, this is an exploitable opportunity for predators.

Protects your coop from excessive moisture and consequent rot

No doubt, if you are chicken coop is sustainably exposed to moisture, it will rot. If you leave your chicken coop directly on the ground, it will quickly contract the dampness, and the wood would begin to rot.

This is why it makes much more sense to elevate the coop to save it from the dampness of the earth. Also, when a flood comes in, a chicken coop that is not elevated will quickly collect water and mess up your litter. Also, puddles will find their way in quicker.

Raised chicken coops are more accessible and cleanable

You will admit it could be quite arduous having to bend so low to your chicken coop to access it or even clean it. If your coop is raised, you can get around it and reach its remotest areas more easily. You don’t have to crawl painfully across it.

Saves your bird from the ice and snow

Winter will always come, wouldn’t it? Of course, you need your hens safe from the savage cold, ice, and snow. Perpetually standing on iced floors and snows will make your birds more susceptible to frostbites (although chickens have an inherent way of combating this) and other cold-related diseases.

Raising your coop gives it that vital clearance off the settled snow and all the icing devastation that comes with it.

How High Should a Chicken Coop be off the Ground?

Having established the need for the elevation of chicken coops, the next question that naturally sets in is: what is the ideal height for the elevation of the coop?

Well, a chicken coop should be raised at least one foot from the ground. The roosts also should be no less than two feet raised from the ground. You can simply achieve such roost elevation by fastening them to the wall. The height of the nesting boxes from the ground also needs to be no less than two feet.

Do Chicken Coops Need Windows?

Yes, chicken coops need to be outfitted with windows. Let us tell you why.

Windows help dispose of moisture content of the air

Your chickens need the right humidity to live healthily. Moisture has a way of piling up in enclosed areas. This is even more particular to chicken coops.

Chickens are notorious for spilling their water. They are also discourteous to leave their droppings anywhere.

Such droppings that have significant moisture content in addition to the hens’ respirational activities build up moisture in the coop. Windows are great to let the moisture escape and not accumulate to harm the birds.

Windows are necessary for ventilation

If there is no proper air circulation in your coop, there is no way the chickens would be comfortable or healthy inside. This is because aside from moisture, chickens also give off ammonia into the air.

In the absence of proper ventilation, such emitted ammonia will accumulate in the air and even poison your birds.

Now, if the chicken coops are equipped with windows, fresh air will readily come in and ensure the right equilibrium of temperature and freshness. Agreed, excessive ventilation is not healthy either.

Your chickens need natural lighting and airing

Chickens, just like humans, love natural lighting. Keeping your birds all locked up inside is sure to kill them eventually. Such lighting is necessary for vital functions like laying their eggs and even molting.

Heat strokes kill chickens a lot. Chickens are some of the least resilient animals to sustained high temperatures. Chickens are far more efficient in managing cold (courtesy of the natural insulation from their features) than heat. Windows help to air the coop. This keeps the chicken from getting excessively hot.

It is also necessary for your chicken coop windows to be equipped with galvanized hardware cloth for extra security. The mesh openings shouldn’t be more than half an inch.

Will Chickens Return to Coop at Night?

Many owners of chicken coops are skeptical of letting their hens for the fear or worry about how they would return at night. Indeed, herding chickens can be really demanding. Nonetheless, chickens, if well trained, will return to their coop at night. Let us give you some handy tips to achieve this.

For your chickens – as adventurous as they naturally are – to voluntarily return to their coops at night, they need to recognize the coop as their home. This way, on their own, they will come back to it to roost at dusk.

When you bring your chickens to a new coop, they need to sustainably stay in the coop for a while to get acquainted with it and accept it. This way, they will feel more secure and comfortable roosting there at night. This should be done for 5-7 days at the start.

Make sure the living conditions in the chicken coop are optimal during this period. The food should be regularly replaced. The water dishes should be changed often too. Yes, you can outfit small doors into your coop for these functions.

Chickens don’t like to be impounded in soiled beddings, and they would yearn to break free into the open. You must also change the bedding at least once every week. All these will make the chickens like the coop to see it as their beautiful abode.

After this period of “confinement”, you can now let them go out and enjoy the open. Ideally, they should return on their own at night. If they come back to the roost at dawn, it signifies that they have not totally adapted to the chicken coop. Thus you may need to confine such chickens again for about a week.

Which Direction Should a Chicken Coop Face?

Your chicken coop needs to have the right orientation. This is majorly because of natural lighting and ventilation. Indeed, chickens are extremely vulnerable to drafts.

If your coops are unprotected from these blasts of moving air, your hens will pay dearly for it. Pitched roofs are magnificent in deflecting such blasts of air upwards.

A good direction is keeping the chicken coop facing south. This gets he coop warmer in winter, especially when the coop (facing south) has windows on the west and east sides. This way, cold winds coming from the north will not directly invade your coop and your chickens. When summer sets in, the coop shouldn’t face the sun directly.

Do Chicken Coops Need to be Heated in Winter?

The answer is no. Chickens have natural mechanisms that help them to manage the cold (so long the cold is not extreme) and conserve their heat.

One of such is the puffing of its feather at night. When a chicken puffs its feather as such, it produces a wall of air between its feathers and skin. This acts as a natural insulating barrier preventing the cold from directly penetrating its skin.

That is not all. You see that chickens have a habit of tucking their heads under their wings. This gives them an insulated shed as well for their heads. Fluffing actions from chicken protect them from frostbite.

In all, if you have made necessary procurement for the insulation of your chicken coop, you shouldn’t bother about procuring additional heating facilities for your chicken coop during winter.

If you must equip your chicken coop with additional heat during winter, go with a safe heat source like a radiant heater (preferably the flat-paneled version).

Do Chicken Coops Need to be Insulated?

Yes, chicken coops need to be insulated to keep humidity levels at optimal levels. This aids heat conservation (and emission) among your birds.

Such heat conservation is particularly vital in the winter. Insulation also helps to keep your chicken cools cool when summer sets in.

Having saw shavings on the floor enhances the insulation. In the case of elevated chicken coops, you may want to insulate the bottom as well. Typically, optimal insulation materials should have R-values of not lesser than 10.

Do Chicken Coops Need Sun or Shade?

Indeed, chickens love natural lighting. Thus sitting out in the sun is not unusual for chickens. That said, chickens have a high tendency to overheat. Heat stress, just like heat stroke, is dangerous for your chickens.

This enunciates the need for moderate exposure to sunlight. Shades help keep your hens cool. Shades also prevent the ice blocks in your waterers from melting rapidly.

During the hot summer, you can place your chicken coop under trees. Deciduous trees are preferable for the encompassing shade they provide.

What Should be Inside a Chicken Coop?

A chicken coop should be amply fitted and furnished to keep the chicken comfortable and healthy. This comfort is vital in helping your chickens to acclimatize to the coop.

Some of the most important facilities that shouldn’t be missing from your chicken coop include:

A Roosting perch

Roosting perches can be made from PVC or metallic material. Basically, nesting boxes (which we also will be learning about) are installed below roosting perches.

Roosting perches are critical to the safety of your hens, being that chickens are favorite preys of many predators. Aside from predators, roosts contribute significantly to the health of your hens. You will agree sleeping directly on the floor makes them more vulnerable to disease infestation – especially bacteria.

Your perch needs reasonable sturdiness. In the case where you are herding a sizable number of chickens, the roost needs sufficient space to accommodate all of them.

Nesting boxes

Chickens need a convenient place to lay their eggs. You also need somewhere accessible and comfortable where you can easily collect these eggs laid for those nice breakfast delicacies.

Considering the poop of your chickens, nesting boxes shouldn’t be above your perch. Otherwise, your hens can make a mess of their perch.

These nesting boxes should be floored with dry material. You can use straw for the bedding or saw shavings. These bedding must be changed from time to time. If not, and moisture could provoke aggregation of dangerous bacteria.

It is optimal that you keep your nesting boxes dark. Depending on the number of chickens you have in your coop, you can keep 4 hens in one nesting box.

Your chicken coop needs lighting

We all love light, and your hens are no different. Being that your chickens are going to staying indoors inside their coop for a substantial period, your chicken coop should have lighting facilities (both natural and artificial) lighting. For natural lighting, windows are excellent facilities.

Insufficiency of lighting will impede the ability of your hens to lay eggs. This is because natural lighting plays a critical role in the reproductive cycles of your birds. When winter sets in, you may augment the lighting with soft, yellow light.

As we have pointed out, if hens are excessively exposed to artificial lighting, it will distort their reproductive cycles. That is why we advise that you use artificial light as minimally as possible.

You just can’t do without litter trays

It is normal for hens to pass out waste while they sleep. Admittedly, this makes cleaning chicken coop helluva work. The sad thing is that if you don’t clean off this poop early enough, the ammonia levels in the chicken coop will hike, threatening the health of your birds.

However, you can make your job easier by keeping litter trays under the roosting perches. This makes it far easier to collect the chicken’s poop.

Make sure to clean your litter tray regularly. We prefer you clean it at least once in a day. If you are too busy, make sure you clean it at least once a week then.

Should Chickens Sleep in Nesting Box?

Owners of chicken will admit to the agony of meeting their chickens napping in their dirty nest boxes instead of their nicely designed roosts. This can really be mess considering that these nest boxes could be bestrewed with their poop.

The risk of contamination makes this habit (of sleeping in nest boxes) more worrisome. This also means the eggs are soiled with increased stress on the hens.

The good news is that you can encourage or compel your chickens to sleep in their roosts. There, you can readily collect their droppings in the litter tray beneath.

One way to achieve this is by blocking the nesting boxes all through the night to avoid access.

You can use your plant pot. Just turn it upside down and block the access point (into the nest box) with it. You can even use a soccer ball – or just anything that your hens would be unable to move out.

They will not exert themselves much to move the barrier out of the way, and would readily move over to their roosts to spend the night.

If your chickens experience such hindrance to the nesting boxes at night perpetually, they will get used to sleeping in the roosting perches. Always remember to come back and remove the barrier in the morning so they can comfortably lay their eggs.

Do Chicken Coops Stink?

The answer to this is a big NO. Chicken coops don’t stink so long they are well cleaned. Indeed, if you allow moisture and droppings to pile up in your chicken coop, it is only natural that your coop will exude a bad odor with time.

Spills frequently occur in chicken coops, and you should try to clean them as up as much as possible. This prevents the accumulation of such spills that will undoubtedly lead to that ammonia stench.

If you use bowls, there is a higher tendency of spilling. A better option is resorting to fount style waterers to reduce such spills. This prevents the accumulation of such spills that will undoubtedly lead to that ammonia stench.

Ventilation is also paramount if you don’t want your chicken coop to stink. Try to keep the air moving, allowing for fresh air to always come in. If the air doesn’t move appropriately, the stench is inevitable. Stagnant flies also make your coop more conducive to flies.

This makes it necessary to have windows in your coop for natural ventilation. This can also be supplemented by installing a fan to circulate the air and keep the coop from getting excessively hot.

Mints are excellent in keeping off pests. You can also improve the smell of your coop by using rose petals in the nesting boxes.

Fowls like the smell too. If rose petals appear too flamboyant for you, you can make do with fresh herbs. Keep them in the regions where your hens sleep in the coop.

Can Chickens Stay in the Coop All Day?

By nature, chickens are pretty adventurous. However, you can get them to spend the chunk of the day (if not all day) inside their coop. The biggest drive for chickens venturing outside is the quest for food, water, and light.

If all these needs are procured for your hens inside the coop, they will comfortably stay inside all day.

Do Chicken Coops Attract Snakes?

Snakes have a strong appetite for birds and smaller animals. They love the fowls and their eggs. Thus, it is unsurprising that snakes fervently prey on chickens.

Indeed, snakes are attracted to chicken coops, especially those which are not elevated.

There are ways to confidently tell if a snake has been invading your chicken coop. The biggest clue is if your eggs keep missing. This is common to snakes that swallow eggs. Regurgitated eggs are also strong pointers to the presence of a snake.

Snake skins are also other signals. Snakes shed their skin from time to time. If you find these scaly skin (normally dry and translucent), you can be convinced that a snake has been frequenting your chicken coop.

There are ways to protect your coop against snake invasion or reduce the attraction of snakes to your chicken coop. It is crucial to install screens in the door and windows of your chicken coop. Use hardware material like a strong mesh. Also, reduce foliage, which could conceal snakes.

If you have door gaps in your coop, you can fit such openings with door molding. Weather stripping is another excellent option to fit those gaps. We admit you can’t block off all the gaps fully, but if any gap must exist, they shouldn’t be more than 1.5 inches in size.

Considering that snakes are pulled in by eggs, try as much as possible to remove the laid eggs quickly.

Are Chickens Noisy at Night?

Basically, chickens are more active during the day, almost dedicating the night to sleep. That is why chickens are not normally noisy at night.

Often they cluck at night, but this is almost inaudible. If you hear chickens squawk at night, it is most likely because something is startling them.

The only exception to this regimen is the cockerel, which doesn’t sleep deeply at night and is notably active.

Do Chicken Coops Attract Rats?

If you don’t maintain your chicken coops appropriately or the structural built of the coop is poor, rats and rodents are almost unavoidable guests. Rats love the food you give your chicken too. They also like the water and in some cases, the eggs as well.

Rats attack your coop most time or night or in the morning when they notice far reduced human activity in the vicinity of the coop. In turn, snakes hunt these rats into your coop, making it a double nightmare.

One way to reduce the pull of rats is to reduce the accessibility of the chicken feed to these rats. You can use a treadle feeder. This way, the hens would have to step on it to reach their food. Another way is using rodent-proof containers for keeping your feed.

Do Chickens Need Light in Their Coop at Night?

Chickens have little or no need for light at night in their coop. Such reduced visibility needs can be attributed to the related inactivity of the hens at night. Chickens barely drink or feed when dusk sets in.

However, if you move a chicken that is already adapted to sleeping at night with light to a coop that is usually dark at night, expect it to chirp for about three nights. This is the process of the chicken adapting to these dark night conditions again.

It is the owner of the chickens that need light more at night. This makes it easier for him to navigate the coop say you want to check for eggs, apply medications to the chickens, or check out if you heard a disturbing intrusion.

Do Chickens Need Food and Water in their Coop at Night?

If your chickens are awake at night, they will most likely eat. But most hens sleep deeply at night, reducing the possibility of them feeding. On the contrary, if you have a broody hen, it is likely it will wake up to eat or drink at night.

Nonetheless, it is safer to make sure there is food in the coop all through the day and night. This way, your hens can feed or drink just anytime they desire.

How Often Should You Clean Chicken Coop?

We have established the need for a fervent periodic cleanup of your coop to prevent a toxic buildup of ammonia and bacteria. Clean your coop at least once in 7 days. Make sure to bring in new beddings when you clean the coop. Bugs can stay in your chicken coop. You can get mite powder sprinkled around your coop to get rid of these bugs.

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