Small Chicken Coops
Raising backyard poultry in a small chicken coop can be very rewarding. Below is the information you will need to know to get started with your own flock of backyard chickens. Read through the whole guide, there a lot of raising chicken tips. These tips include specifics on what your chickens will need to be healthy and produce the most eggs.
Poultry Coop Restrictions
Small Chicken coops are designed to hold 2-8 hens. Before you buy your coop and chickens, check with your city ordinances to see if your town has any restrictions. Many towns now allow small coops with a few hens but larger flocks with roosters may be banned.
Roosters are not allowed by many towns because they are the ones to make most of the noise. A hen is pretty quiet unless there is a predator or she lets out a cackle as she or another hen lays an egg.
Most cities limit the size of the chicken coop, the appearance and require a permit, or limit the location of the chicken coop. So for most backyard chicken hobbyists, a small chicken coop is the most suitable.
Shelter and Protection
Chickens are very assessable to attack by predators. Hawks, owls, skunks, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and dogs will always attack an unprotected chicken. While coyotes may not be common in your neighborhood, dogs and raccoons readily sneak into backyards and coops to kill chickens.
A coop needs to be secure to provide a safe place for chickens to be protected from these predators. The location of the coop is important. If you allow your chickens to roam your yard, the coop should be near some bushes for shelter. Chickens will seek to enter the coop or hide in bushes and shrubs if danger is detected. A small wired outside run is needed so when you are not home, the chickens can get out of the coop without risk of attack.
Chickens need protection from the climate. Chickens do not like to get wet so a coop needs to be weather proof. On rainy or cold days, the chickens may just stay inside the coop. Also consider a covered outside run.
Food and Water
Chickens need fresh food and water at all times. There are a variety of waterers for chicks and chickens, and will depend on the size of your flock as to what kind of waterer you will require. For northern climates, investing in a heated waterer or a heated mat is a good practice. Regardless what kind of waterer you choose, make sure they are easy to clean because chickens will poop in their water.
Chickens feed comes in mash or pellet form. Scratch also is fed to chickens, usually thrown on the ground to induce the natural pecking instincts of the chickens. This also keeps them eating insects around the yard. Chickens will also eat vegetarian food scraps. Oyster shells or another grit high in calcium should be given to your chickens to make for harder eggshells.
Selecting a Small Chicken Coop
Bantam Chickens (small sized chickens): 1 square foot per bird for inside coop/ 4 square feet per bird in outside run
Laying Chickens (medium sized chickens): 1.5 square feet per bird for inside coop/ 8 square feet per bird in outside run
Large Chickens: 2 square feet per bird for inside coop/ 10 square feet per bird in outside run
Check your city ordinances concerning regulations and requirements on chicken coops. Always choose a coop with more space than you think you need. The more space the better.
Breed of Chickens and Size of Flock
You’ll want to consider how many chickens you want. If your goal is to raise chickens for egg production, laying hens will produce over 250 eggs a year. A flock of 4 chickens can supply a family with 1000 eggs a year. If you house more chickens than you need, it will cost more for feed and you will have more eggs than your family can use.
There are 100’s of chicken breeds. You’ll need to know if you want egg layers or meat birds/egg layers. You may choose to raised Bantams, which are small chickens that have smaller space requirements and require less food. They do however, produce smaller eggs and have a tendency to become broody. Depending on the chicken breed you choose, they will produce white, brown, or greenish colored eggs.
Setting Up the Small Chicken Coop
You can build your own coop or renovate an existing garden shed. The easiest and quickest type of chicken coop is one that comes pre-assembled.
The coop needs to be in an area that has shade and is not damp. It also needs to be cleaned often so easy access is a must.
Chickens, generally, will not stay in the coop during the day if the weather is good. They normally only go into the coop to lay eggs, drink and eat, and to roost at night. The outside run is a very important requirement to the coop. Chickens will eat almost any green vegetation. If you have a garden, a closed in pen area will be a must or your garden will attract them and they will destroy it.
Portable Coops on Wheels have become popular because it allows the chickens to have fresh grass when the coop is moved
Cleaning the Coop
Cleaning the coop is important and it is a job that most do not like to do but it is essential. The coop needs to be easily accessible to clean. This includes the nesting boxes, roosts, walls, floors and ceiling. Make sure the coop you buy or build is made so it is easy to clean. If not, you may loose your enthusiasm for raising chickens. Small coops are not made for humans to go inside so doors and trays accessible from the outside is very important.
Light is important for chicken health and also for egg production. Chickens lay based on the amount of daylight. During the winter chickens often slow down egg production or stop laying all together. By placing a light in the coop to extend daylight to about 14-16 hours will help keeping them producing eggs.
The coop needs access doors to provide food, water, and access to nesting boxes. A good access door is needed also for cleaning the coop. A clean coop is essential for healthy birds.