Chicken coops or houses are an important part of raising poultry, providing shelter and protection for chickens while also ensuring their health and well-being. In this article, we will discuss the different types of chicken houses, important considerations for their design and construction, as well as the importance of regular maintenance.
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Types of Chicken Houses
Several types of chicken houses are commonly used. The type of chicken house chosen will depend on factors such as the size of the flock, the available space, and your geographic location and expected temperatures. Here are some of the most common types of chicken houses:
Static Chicken Coops
The old-fashioned chicken coop sits in one place, while chickens roam outdoors and have access to natural sunlight, fresh air, and various vegetation. A century ago, this represented the classic chicken house. The downside is that with the chickens running in and out of the door all day long, they will kill all of the grass, which means it will be dusty in summer, muddy in spring, and icy in winter. This is the main reason we abandoned our static chicken house after about 10 years and moved our layers to a henmobile.
A bottomless house that sits on grass and is moved daily. It does not require cleaning as you are leaving behind the chicken waste from yesterday when you move the chicken tractor. A chicken tractor usually has wheels or skids making them easy to move. They are often used in small-scale or backyard poultry farming, as they require less space and can be easily managed by a single person. A chicken tractor for meat birds can be open, where a chicken tractor for layers needs to include a little coop where the hens can lay their eggs and roost at night.
Mobile Chicken Houses
A mobile chicken house, sometimes called an eggmobile or henmobile, is designed to be moved around, allowing chickens to graze on fresh pasture while providing shelter and protection. A mobile chicken house like the one pictured here is often built on a trailer and is moved with a tractor or pick-up truck. It is used with electric poultry netting to keep chickens fenced in and safe from predators.
Battery Chicken Houses
Battery systems keep chickens confined to cages, typically in large barns or warehouses. The cages are stacked on top of each other, with a system of feeding and watering tubes that supply food and water to the chickens. Battery systems are often used in commercial poultry farming, as they allow for efficient use of space and resources. However, they are also criticized for their lack of animal welfare and the cramped conditions in which the chickens are kept, so we will not be discussing them in this article.
Design and Construction of Chicken Coops
Design and construction are important considerations when building a chicken house. Here are some of the key factors to keep in mind:
Size and Layout
The size and layout of the chicken coop will depend on the number of chickens being housed. A general rule of thumb is to provide 2-3 square feet of space per chicken. The layout should allow for easy access to food and water, as well as adequate space for roosting and nesting.
When considering the dimensions of the chicken house, be sure to do the math to figure out how much roosting space your chickens will need. The roosting area will be in addition to the 2-3 square feet of space per bird. Most chickens should have about a foot per bird for roosting space, with bantams needing about half that and extra large breeds, such as the Jersey Giant, needing more.
Proper ventilation is crucial to ensure that chickens have access to fresh air and to prevent the buildup of harmful gases such as ammonia. Ventilation can be provided through doors, windows, and vents.
Common flooring materials include concrete, wood, or dirt. I prefer dirt because chicken poop on exposed concrete is a slippery hazard, and wood will rot. We built our first little chicken coop with a wood floor, and it was completely rotted out within five years.
Don’t even think about using something like linoleum because it was not made to have chicken scratching it and manure shovel scraping it. When we tried this, it was all ripped up within a year.
Metal and wood are options. I prefer wood because our barn has metal walls and is always about 5 degrees hotter than outside in the summertime. Unfortunately, the same is not true in winter! We have used wood when building all of our chicken coops and houses.
Common roofing materials include metal, asphalt shingles, or corrugated plastic. We used corrugated plastic on our first little chicken coop (the one with the wood floor that rotted), and the plastic was also falling apart within about five years. I thought it was a lovely idea because it would let light through, but it doesn’t last.
Insulation is not necessary unless you live in a place where you have extended periods of time with temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Chickens are fine with occasional temperatures as low as 20 degrees below Fahrenheit. If you do have insulation, it makes ventilation even more important so that ammonia and humidity do not build up.
Insulation, such as fiberglass or foam, should be covered because chickens have been known to peck at and eat insulation that is exposed.
Maintenance of Chicken Houses
Regular maintenance is important to ensure that chicken houses remain clean and free from disease. Here are some key maintenance tasks to keep in mind:
Cleaning the chicken house between flocks is important to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites. This should include removing all litter, bedding, and manure, and thoroughly cleaning all surfaces with a disinfectant solution. The chicken house should be allowed to dry completely before adding new litter or bedding.
Rodents are the main pest you will encounter in your chicken house. Always keep chicken feed stored in metal containers, such as a metal trash can, as rats and mice can chew through plastic bins.
It is essential to monitor the chicken house regularly for signs of pests and promptly take action if an infestation is detected. Rats can eat baby chicks, so be sure they can’t gain access by tunneling through dirt or chewing through wood.
Damage to the chicken coop, such as holes in the walls or roof, can provide entry points for pests and predators. It is important to repair any damage promptly to prevent these issues from occurring.
Want to learn more about raising chickens? This Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens (+Pro Tips) will help you ask yourself all the right questions, and it will also give you a realistic idea of what to expect as a chicken owner.
You can also visit our Amazon store to see the equipment and books we recommend for chicken keeping.