If you’re planning to build a chicken coop in your backyard, you first need to know basic chicken coop requirements. This isn’t something you should just jump into unless you want unhappy, sick, or even dead hens! The basic needs aren’t difficult, but they are important.
These are the same whether you live in the city and are building a small coop to hold 6 hens or you live in the country and want the coop to keep them safe but plan to have free roaming chickens. If you live in the city, you’re probably not going to have free ranging chickens.
Why bother making a fuss about your coop?
I know I grew up on stories of our great-grandparents who had fifty chickens living in a three foot square shed, and maybe you did, too. Chickens are incredible birds that can live and grow and even lay eggs under appalling conditions.
But why would you do that? Even removing moral considerations, it’s a terrible investment to buy chickens, pay to raise them to maturity, and then let them suffer in poor living conditions. Happy hens lay better, and more, eggs.
These basic chicken coop requirements, if you take the time to implement them, guarantee that you’re protecting your chickens, giving them enough space to roam, and guaranteeing them the best, healthiest life.
5 Basic Chicken Coop Requirements You Must Consider
Chicken Coop Size
There’s a funny song by a group called the Arrogant Worms here in Canada, talking about the size of our country, that says:
“It isn’t what you do with it, it’s the size that counts!”
Truthfully, when you’re planning your chicken coop, size matters a lot.
It’s the first thing you need to consider once you decide you’ll be raising chickens, and it will depend greatly on what size chickens you are going to keep.
No … I lie. It’s not really the first thing to decide.
Figure out what kind of birds you’re raising, and then the second thing to think about is the size of the coop.
Little bantam hens don’t require the same amount of space as big Australorps.
On average, though, you’ll want about four square feet per chicken inside the coop to allow them enough space to move around IF they also have an outdoor run. If they need to be confined at all times, you’ll want ten square feet per hen.
Protect your Chickens
The plain truth is that everyone loves chicken – dogs, raccoons, fox, mink … There are so many predators out there looking at your lovely chicken flock as a walking buffet, so you need to take steps to protect them.
And while a full-grown, wide awake chicken would happily eat a mouse or snake, they’re a very real danger to eggs and chicks … and to sleeping hens.
Surprisingly, hens are incredibly sound sleepers and are therefore very vulnerable at night.
When building the chicken coop, take care that there aren’t any openings, holes, or gaps large enough for these predators to get through. That means also having a solid floor lined with hardware cloth.
Easy to Clean
Have you ever heard someone talk about their barn boots? Chicken waste smells terrible when it gets tracked into your house or car, but it also smells bad if allowed to build up inside the coop.
A dirty coop means that your hens are walking through their own waste, which increases their risk of infections and disease, and it also means you’ll have dirty eggs.
Take this into account when building your coop. Make it easy to clean, with large doors and removable trays. The bedding needs to be cleaned out regularly.
Keep your Girls Warm
Your hens should also be kept warm while in the coop, but not get too hot either.
Make sure there is sufficient space for fresh air to flow through the coop. That doesn’t mean that it should be drafty – think about your own home. Sufficient air flow isn’t the same as a window that leaks winter winds. The first lets you breathe, while the second gives you a nasty cold.
Roosting poles are great … okay, I admit that I think they’re a necessity, an absolute requirement. Chickens can certainly sleep on the ground, but they’ll be colder, dirtier, and less happy. (Yes, dirtier – even if you clean it out daily, they’ll still be sleeping in poop.)
The roosting poles should be two inches wide and have rounded edges, with at least five inches of space between the poles, with enough room for each chicken in the coop. Don’t place any of them so that they are above another pole because they’ll all fight for the higher resting spots and any that have to sleep on the lower ones will get pooped on!
Finally, you should have sufficient space for the water and feeder, aside from the proper square feet for your chickens to walk around in the coop.
If you follow these basic chicken coop requirements, you will have happy birds.