Originally we had planned to get our first chickens in the spring. We thought that would give us time to build a coop and set up a run. That all changed when we were offered 12 free birds from a local homesteader. Suddenly we had birds coming in a week and nothing for them.
We had no time for fun things, we had to focus on putting together the basics and doing it fast! Eventually they might have fun things like a dust bath, swings and a run, but for now they are safe, fed and happy.
Here are the 5 things that every coop must have:
Even if you free range your birds, they do need to have some sort of shelter for protection from the elements and predators. A safe place for them to go for the night.
How big it is depends on how many birds you are getting, but I say err on the big side. Chances are you might want more birds in the future someday. We used a horse stall from our 1900 milking barn so we have a huge coop. Plenty of room to expand!
Their shelter needs to be:
- Not drafty
- Easy to clean
I guess the last one isn’t a necessity, but it is definitely handy!
Chickens like to be up high when they sleep because it’s safer, and they will try to roost on the highest thing in your coop they can reach. When they sleep is also when they do the majority of their pooping.
If you don’t build them roosts, they will hop up on anything they can and poop all over it. They will also poop on anything under the roosts. So don’t build them on top of each other or put anything underneath them!
Make sure your roosts are easy enough for them to get on, big enough for them all and made of something that won’t hurt their feet. Luckily, we had some old trees laying around our barn that made excellent roosts for them.
3. Nesting Boxes
Ok, these are technically only needed if you have laying hens. If you only have meat birds you can ignore this part.
Chickens like to feel safe when they’re laying eggs, and that’s where the nesting boxes come in. You can make them out of many things: buckets, milk crates and more. We had an old bench and some plywood sitting around and my handy man threw together some nice nesting boxes in no time.
We have ours off the ground because the eggs are easier to see and the boxes are less likely to get messy. Our ducks like to hang out underneath it to feel safer too. You don’t have to though, one of our hens sleeps in the nesting boxes so they get dirty anyways.
Note: If you don’t put a sloped roof on the nesting boxes, they will hang out up there and they will poop all over it. It’s annoying but again: function first. We can add a sloped roof later.
Picking up the bag of feed at the store was easy, figuring out what we’d put it in? That was a little bit harder.
I knew we wanted something we wouldn’t have to fill up every day, we needed something that would be easy to leave for a weekend if we needed. We also didn’t want something that would tip over easily or that would be ANOTHER place for them to poop on.
After searching around, we decided to make our PVC feeders. Or, my man made them, but I helped glue them together!
They work great, I only have to fill them about twice a week, they keep most of the food protected from any wetness or pests and have multiple spots for the birds to eat from. Eventually we want to add a few more pipes and a large bin at the top that they go into, but for now it works!
There are many different chicken waterers you can buy at the store like the one above. We were getting ducks with our chickens though, and ducks need water they can dunk their heads in. The problem is, ducks also tend to make a huge mess with water.
So we came up with a solution. We took an old kitty litter bin (like this one), cut two ovals in it big enough for them to stick their heads in and we had our waterer!
It’s not very pretty, but it keeps the ducks from splashing the water EVERYWHERE. It also doesn’t hold a lot of water, so we have a bigger bucket that we fill with water outside. I don’t mind if the ducks make a mess outside, but wet coops leads to sick birds.
As long as you have those 5 things, you should be ready to go! You can always add a coat of paint to pretty things up a bit if you want, but your birds won’t care. They’ll be happy, safe, and before too long you should hopefully start seeing some eggs of your own.
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