Keeping chickens has become increasingly popular as more and more backyard farmers are discovering the joy of caring for these friendly birds and enjoying the benefits of freshly laid eggs. In order to keep your chickens healthy, happy, and safe from predators, chicken runs and coops must be carefully planned to meet these requirements. There are a wide range of features and styles for your chicken runs and coops, limited only by the size of your farm or farmette.
There are a few basic requirements for your chickens, including perches, nesting boxes, barriers of small gauge chicken wire or hardware cloth, and a cover to keep out flying predators. One popular style is called a “chicken tractor”, which is simply a mobile housing unit and attached run, which can be moved about the yard to allow the chickens to freely enjoy fresh grass as you move their coop. The chicken tractor may feature a triangular shaped coop, a coop which resembles your own house, or even a coop which has a more traditional shed appearance, with a slanted roof. Two wheels may be attached to the rear of the tractor for easy mobility.
The run must be completely enclosed with a fine grade of wire, so that hungry neighbourhood intruders are kept away from your flock. The size of your flock should be carefully planned, so that there is not an over-abundance of chickens in a small space. Your hens will require nesting boxes for those upcoming eggs. It is not necessary for each hen to have her own nesting box, as two to three hens can use one box at different times, depending upon their “broody” characteristics. The nesting boxes should be easily accessible for the gathering of eggs, as well as cleaning the chickens’ living quarters.
A perch may be made of any sturdy wooden, metal, or other natural material, and should be securely attached to the walls of the coop. Chickens naturally desire to sleep above the ground, and plenty of perching space should be available in the coop area, so that they are not stressed by sleeping on the ground. Their natural fear of predators requires that they return to their coop at dusk, and climb and fly up on their perches for a long night of sleep.
Chicken runs and coops are both necessary for the safety and well-being of your poultry. Some backyard farmers prefer a stationary coop, which is not moved about the yard. Such a coop may mimic the lines and colors of your own home, or may be built to resemble a rustic barn or old-fashioned doll house. It is advisable to paint the coop, or else use treated lumber, so that your creation is easy to clean.
You will need to carefully plan the living area for your chickens, and line the floors and any cracks in the walls with hardware cloth so that predators such as cats, snakes, skunks, raccoons, and opossums may not find a way into the chicken coop. The run should be as large as is practical for your space and time, With a modestly sized chicken run, the birds can assist in pest control and weed control in the backyard, so that the yard can also be used for other activities for the chicken farmers and farmerettes of the family.