There are two main types of chicken housing:
1. Stationary chicken coops
2. Chicken Tractors
I prefer chicken tractors because you can actually move them! There are so many benefits to them which you can read about below, but stationary coops are definitely great too for the right situation! Click the links above to skip to that section or keep reading on.
Because these little chicken houses stay in one spot and are very customizable, they make the perfect choice for the average urban homesteader.
There are endless options when it comes to customizing your chickens home. But, the main things you need to keep in mind are the following:
• Temperature Control
Your backyard chickens, will be most happy at a temperature somewhere between 21 and 24 degrees Celsius (70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.) This means proper shade for the chicken coop in the summer and proper insulation and possibly added heat in the winter.
Chicken coops NEED ventilation, even when it is cold. The vents keep moisture out which could be detrimental in a cold snap. For this reason, it’s good to have vents on all sides, near the ceiling. This way, if there is blowing wind, rain, snow etc., you can close off the vents that are getting hit while leaving some of the other vents open. When it’s hot out, keep them all open for nice cooling cross ventilation. Since your backyard chickens will inevitably breathe, move around and poop a lot, MAKE SURE you have proper ventilation to remove dust, airborne bacteria, co2 and ammonia.
Wood chips are the best type of bedding. Bedding provides your backyard chickens with:
1. An absorbant layer for their droppings
2. A comfortable area to sleep
3. Ground insulation during the winter and a cool place to burrow in the summer
4. A source to have “dust baths” to keep the feathers clean and in good shape.
Dropping boards are a great option for flooring. This is a slightly raised flooring (high enough to discourage rodents)made from tightly woven (and welded) wire or wooden slats that are fairly close together. Both these options allow droppings to fall through. You can have a bin underneath that can be easily emptied and cleaned. Some people prefer to place dropping boards underneath roosts and then have a more solid flooring for the remaining coop area such as dirt or concrete.
Chickens naturally like to roost. Your roosts should be made from wood (not plastic or metal), should be free from splinters, flat with rounded edges, about 2 feet off the ground and be roughly 2″ thick. They must be 18″ away from parallel walls and from other roosts. Allow 8″ of space for each chicken.
• Nest boxes
Nest boxes should be dark, clean, have bedding, and be out of the way. One nest box will be perfect for four or five hens. For regular size hens, the boxes should be roughly 12″ wide x 14″ high x 12″ deep. Make sure to have a little landing rod outside the nests for them to land on before entering and make sure it is far enough away that they wont sit on it and fill the nests with poop. This picture shows an easy way to keep your nests dark. Simply cut some rubber or durable cloth strips and staple them to the top like a little chicken car wash 🙂 Check out these nest boxes to get some ideas for your coop or decide to buy some of the cool pre-made ones!
If you have very limited space, you can get creative with your backyard chicken coop. This video is really cool. Take the time to watch it and see what this man has done with such a small space! He explains what works for him and what doesn’t work for him which really benefits you.
If you have a little more space, especially lawn or overgrown space, a chicken tractor is for you!
What is a chicken tractor? A chicken tractor is basically a mobile chicken coop. It does not have a bottom to it. It also has wheels so it can move.
Benefits of a chicken tractor:
• A chicken tractor allows you to have your backyard chickens sort of free range, foraging for more of there food. This makes healthier chickens and more nutritional eggs all while keeping the chickens safe from predators.
• Nest boxes can be added for your laying chickens so they get the nutritional benefits of foraging and you don’t have to hunt for eggs like you would have to with true free rangers!
• Smells are a thing of the past. Every couple days, you move the tractor, providing fresh wild cuisine (worms,bugs,greens) and leaving behind nothing but fertilized soil, ready to grow more chicken feed!
• There is virtually no cleaning to do. Instead of cleaning, you just move the tractor to the next patch of fresh grass. Once a week, give the small area that is left a little clean/disinfect.
• This particular chicken tractor would be too cold for your backyard chickens in the winter, but perfectly breezy in the summer. The solution for the winter, is to just staple some clear plastic (poly) around the bottom wire area! You can also add some wood chips on the ground to insulate a little better as well.
• You can get some great ideas for chicken tractors and chicken coops here , with the option to purchase if you don’t have the time to make one!
• So the choice is yours! What will it be? Chicken coop or chicken tractor? Let us know what you prefer in the comments below, or click for more insight in the following areas:
• What to feed your backyard chickens
• Choosing a chicken breed
• Do you have backyard chickens? Show us your coop! and check out more inspiring chicken coops and chicken tractors posted by awesome chicken owners like you!