Here is a list of 5 backyard chicken coop must haves. When building or buying a chicken coop for your hens, be sure the coop has these 5 essentials.
1. Nesting Boxes for the Chicken Coop
A good nesting box is essential for encouraging your hens to lay their eggs in the same place each day. The nesting boxes do not need to be fancy or complicated. They just need to provide the hen with a cozy place to lay her eggs. The nesting box needs to be large enough for the hen to sit in comfortably. You can add some straw or hay to help her make a nest. Hens typically prefer to lay their eggs in a more dimly lit place as opposed to someplace very sunny.
It is a good idea for the sides and top to be slanted so the chickens don’t try to roost on the nesting boxes. If they are able to roost on the nesting boxes it will be harder to keep the nesting boxes clean. It is not necessary to have a nesting box for each hen. A nesting box can accommodate 4 – 6 hens.
We also put straw in the nesting boxes to make them more comfortable for the hens to use. They can use the straw to make a little nest in each nesting box. We got the idea and size for our nesting boxes here.
2. Chicken Roosts for the Chicken Coop
A roost is a place where chickens like to go each evening to sleep for the night. Chickens can roost in trees with lower hanging branches and other similar places. I was shocked to see how high up in the trees our free range chickens liked to roost at night. It is not always safe for the chickens to roost in an unprotected area. Especially if you live in an area with animals that like to eat chickens.
We prefer our girls roost inside the coop so we built a couple of roosts for them. The roosts need to be at least 2 feet off the ground. The roost that is closest to the wall of the coop needs to be at least 18 inches away from the wall. That way when your chickens poop it won’t make a mess all over the walls of the coop. For the same reason, your roosts need to be at least 18 inches away from each other, so the girls won’t make a mess all over each other.
Originally we put a cheap plastic table cloth under the roosts. We covered it with pine shaving thinking that this would help with the clean up. It did not! As the chickens scratched around, they absolutely shredded the plastic table cloth everywhere making clean up worse. Now we use the deep litter method. The deep litter method works great for us! Our girls are happy and our coop is clean!
3. Ventilation for the Backyard Chicken Coop
Ventilation is important. It helps your coop dry out, while preventing the build up of ammonia and other toxins. In the warm summer months ventilation helps keep your chickens cool, but ventilation is important in the winter months too. Be sure the roosts are below the vents so the girls don’t have blustery, winter winds blowing on them all night. Vents can be another way predators can get in the coop, so we covered our vents with rat wire to keep out unwanted visitors looking for a meal.
4. Chicken Run or Chicken Yard
Your chicken coop needs to be connected to a run or yard of some sort so the chickens have plenty of room to stretch their legs, scratch the ground, and run around. If you live in an area where you can have free range chickens this isn’t quite a necessity. But there are lots of other animals that enjoy eating chickens: foxes, hawks, dogs, weasels, etc. So you may eventually find it necessary to add some sort of covered run to protect your chickens from predators.
We have a medium sized chicken yard for our girls, and this year we are planning on building a few chicken tunnels so the girls can help keep insects out of the garden.
5. A Good Door for your Chicken Coop
This one might seem a little obvious. But it is very important to have a door that closes securely to keep the chickens in and the predators out. It is very easy to sneak up on roosting chickens. They are basically sitting ducks. So if you have a door that doesn’t close properly your chickens will be very vulnerable to anything looking for a quick and easy meal. So help protect your girls with a good door that closes securely.
These 5 backyard chicken coop must haves will help you decide on how to build or what to look for when buying a chicken coop.
First Time Chicken Owner?
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And before you know it you’ll need Storage for all those eggs!
What Are Other Must Haves for Your Backyard Chicken Coop?
I like to add some personal touches to the coop as well. How about you? I plan on adding curtains and a few signs to the new coop soon!