Where Will The Birds Nest?
Last week, we discussed what to expect with chickens, how much space it takes to raise chickens, and what is so great about our fluffy and feathered friends. The next milestone to cover is housing! Do we need a stationary home or movable coops that allow for a free range experience? What predators might think our friends are their afternoon dinner? How much free space do you have to dedicate to the chickens? These things decide what style coop will best suit your needs while providing adequate and safe housing for your feathered friends!
Stationary versus movable coops are a big deal. Some people will have an “open” area, such as a fenced in backyard, with a stationary coop. This stationary coop will be equipped with roosting cubbies where the chickens feel safe enough to lay their precious eggs. Others will have coops with wheels that are able to be rolled across a field, allowing for fresh grass and bugs on a daily or weekly basis, these too may have cubbies but will only be for 2-4 chickens, due to the amount of room needed per bird plus the coop still needs to be mobile. Each style has some pros and cons, no single housing style is without its flaws. Local wildlife can be highly intelligent and diverse, so keep a keen eye on local predators.
Stationary or Moveable?
The stationary coop is great for areas with bigger predators who have some weight to them, stationary is better with foxes, coyotes, wild dogs, even raccoons because you can reinforce them. In the case of raccoons, you can actually put a complicated lock on them since they have been known to figure out simple latches. Stationary is also good in areas with owls, hawks, falcons, any bird of prey really, because you can add a strong roof that keeps critters out from above. Mobile coops are great for areas with minimal predators, this is because they are light weight, movable, and tend to fully enclose the chickens for safety while still allowing them free reign inside the coop. movable coops are good for areas where the main predator is just birds of prey. Birds of prey usually don’t have the strength necessary to move the coops or do much damage to them; they will usually opt for easier prey anyways.
DIY Chicken Coop
I recommend using the chicken wire with a tigher weave, as it seems to be thicker and more durable than the wire with the smaller chicken wire seems to be slightly thicker and more durable than the wide spaced wire. Personally I think, because the smaller wire has smaller holes it doesn’t allow predators to work the larger openings even larger. For the framing I have used 2X4’s personally but know of others who have used pallets, doors, fence posts, and other forms of recycled materials that are sturdy enough to take some screws, hinges, and hooks for a door. The nesting cubbies should be roughly a foot square to a foot and a half square depending on the size of the chickens; it provides the homey, secluded, ambiance the chickens prefer when laying eggs. If you’d like to add wheels to your mobile coop, I have seen people use the wheels and casters off of the front of trailers or the axle and tires from a wheelbarrow as well. Chicken coops provide many opportunities to recycle or upcycle materials back into something useful. Your imagination is the limit!
Manufactured Chicken Coops
If you’re not feeling terribly creative, or you’re on a time crunch, chicken “tractors” (mobile coops) and stationary coops can be purchased from farm supply or feed stores. Just do a quick web search for feed stores in your area and give them a call. Just be prepared that the cost may be $200-$300. Your gals will also need a waterer and food bowl or food dispenser, both available from the feed store where you will also purchase their food.
If you want chickens, NOW is the time to get started, as chicks are usually only available in the Spring.
Next week we will cover different breeds of birds as well as egg production per breed to help you make an informed decision about what kind of hens you’ll want! We’ll also tell you where to get your adorable baby chicks!