Chicken Coop Requirements
Proper housing is the key to happy, healthy birds, but building a chicken coop to the proper specifications is not as simple as it might seem. An adequate chicken coop design must:
Be predator-proof, not just from the sides, but from above and below as well.
Predators that would love chicken wings for dinner include but are not limited to foxes, and hawks.
Be secure from nasty rodents (yes, rats!) that will be attracted to the feed and droppings. Rodents are burrowing creatures, so you need to block them from slipping into the coop from below. If you coop doesn’t have a floor, you need to bury small-mesh fencing down into the ground about 30cm all around the coop.
Be breezy enough to prevent respiratory diseases, to which chickens are especially prone, but not so drafty during winter that they freeze their tushes off. Chickens can withstand the cold so long as it’s not drafty!
Be easy to clean so bugs and bacteria don’t fester.
Provide “roosting poles” for your girls to sleep on (5cm wide; rounded edges; allot 20cm of space per bird side to side and 30cm between poles if more than one is necessary; plus ladder-like grading so the pole furthest away is several inches higher than the closest).
Encourage egg-laying with 1 nest box for every four or five chickens. Nest boxes should be raised off the ground at least a few inches, but lower than the lowest roosting pole. They should also be dark and “out of the way” to cater to the hen’s instinct to layher eggs in a safe, place.
Be roomy: at least 1 metre square per bird if birds are able to roam freely during the day, and more if they are permanently confined.
Accommodate a feeder and waterer, which should hang about 20cm off the ground.
Include a removable “droppings tray” under roosting poles for capture and easy disposal of droppings. (Or should we say for easy access to your lawn fertilizer?)
Similar to the coop, the sides of the attached chicken run, if you have one, should be buried 20cm into the soil to keep predators and rodents from digging their way in. Once again, we recommend chicken wire fencing or weld mesh. It’s also our strong recommendation that you secure the top of the run with aviary netting. This will keep wild birds (which can carry communicable diseases) out and provide further defence against predators.