An Unorthodox Use Of Your Backyard: Chicken Coops And Your Own Chicken Flock
Have you ever wished that your backyard could really stand out from your neighbors? Nothing to do with upstaging them (although that’s alright too), but what we’re talking about here is having a backyard that is truly unique in comparison, not just ‘better’. Well, if you have then you should consider jumping aboard the latest urban movement known as ‘urban farming’, which will have you turning your backyard into a space that can literally feed you and your family. How’s that for standing out?
In today’s article, we will be talking about starting your own backyard chicken flock and more specifically, how to house your first backyard chicken flock. To give you an idea of the terminology, what you will need is what is known as a ‘chicken coop’ which is basically a hut for your hens to live in and lay eggs. And while the term itself is generic, the chicken coop itself is not, and chicken coops come in a wide variety of designs and sizes.
To start with, there are broadly speaking three types of chicken coops; the traditional chicken coop, the mobile chicken coop, and the chicken tractor. The traditional chicken coop is a fixed chicken coop and because of that is usually the largest and also the most common. The mobile chicken coop is like a traditional chicken coop except that it comes with wheels attached to the bottom for transport. If the traditional chicken coop is a house, then the mobile chicken coop is a mobile home. And finally, we have the chicken tractor, which has actually absolutely nothing to do with tractors at all but is actually a bottomless chicken coop; think of it like a ‘covering’ for your chickens. Smaller ones can be lugged around while larger ones do come attached with small wheels for transport.
However, for the purposes of this article and your backyard, we will be focusing on the traditional chicken coop. While both the mobile chicken coop and the chicken tractor have their uses, they are more ideal for people with large amounts of acreage, including farmers, and the mobile properties of the two allow the coop to be moved so that the chickens have constant access to fresh patches of grass to scratch their feet on. Since most people’s homes are not large enough to necessitate having a portable chicken coop, we will only be talking about the fixed one.
Let’s take a look at the first planning consideration: size. When it comes to sizing your chicken coop for your first flock, go bigger than you think is necessary; this will give you the room to easily expand your flock later without having to make costly modifications and expansions. The ideal size of your chicken coop is of course proportional to the number of chickens; you need 2 to 4 square feet of coop space per chicken, with the range due to the varying sizes of the chicken breeds. And before you build a chicken coop mansion that covers your entire backyard, keep in mind that chickens need outdoor space as well, known as run space, and this will be 6 to 12 square feet per chicken. Take a look at this guide to building a chicken coop which is really useful if it is your first time constructing a coop.
Second important consideration: shelter. And while shelter from the elements is a given, much more important when it comes to chickens is shelter from predators. We advise you get to know the species of local predators in your area, but common chicken predators are dogs, foxes, coyotes, weasels, minks, skunks, and raptors. Surround your coop with either chicken wire or hardware cloth, making sure the gaps are no larger than 1 inch. While both chicken wire and hardware cloth are adequate, hardware cloth is much stronger while chicken wire can be torn through by larger and more determined predators. Also, don’t forget to make a ‘below ground’ fence as well as predators such as foxes can easily dig underneath your fence.
And the third most important consideration is your local climate. Look up something known as ‘US Hardiness Zones’; if yours is a 3 or above, then no external insulation or heating is required as the chickens’ feathers will suffice as protection against the cold. Regardless of climate however, you absolutely must have plenty of ventilation; minimum one ventilation panel on each wall including the roof.
And finally, make things easy for yourself; the convenience factor. The easier the job of maintaining your chicken coop will be, the higher the chances of its success. Some tips to increase convenience: elevated coop to keep out rats, entry door specifically for you, and hanging feeders and automatic water dispensers.
We hope that this article was informative and you are now better prepared to start your first chicken flock!