All hens need a secure shelter for nesting, roosting at night, and escaping predators and bad weather. Check out our tips for creating a successful hen house.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Free-Range or Confined?
Based on your surroundings, deciding whether you want your chickens to be free-range or confined can be tough—let us help you weight out the options.
- "Liberty and varied abundance are the two greatest essentials for poultry, old, and young, to promote health, growth, beauty, and fertility," stated a poultry man in 1850.
- In confinement, contagious diseases such as coccidiosis can decimate a flock.
- Outdoors, predators such as raccoons, weasels, foxes, coyotes, hawks, and eagles can be problematic.
- Rats and snakes can threaten chicks or eggs.
- Some small farmers find a dog (or donkey) useful, others depend on the shotgun, while still others use fencing of various sorts.
- Most coop guides suggest about 3 square feet of space per adult bird.
- At a minimum, the coop should be easy to clean, be well ventilated but draft-free, include clean watering and feeding stations, and offer adequate roosts.
- Good, natural light is a plus, both for human and bird, and this together with standing headroom promotes more-frequent cleaning.
- Dirt floors can work where the soil is sandy and the drainage reasonable, but a wooden floor is vastly easier to clean and protect.
- Cement floors work well also.
- Good bedding, such as sawdust (untreated wood only), wood shavings, or chopped straw over a wooden or concrete floor is ideal.
Rules of the Roost
- Hens perch on roosts about two feet off the ground and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
- Simple 2 by 4s placed on the edge and rounded off make find roosts for the standard-size hen.
- Bantams will want a smaller pole, closer to an inch in width.
- As for the nest boxes, you'll know whether they're right by whether or not the hens use them.
- A 14 by 14-inch box, up to a foot deep and lined with clean hay will accommodate even the larger breeds.
- Raised nests will require an outside perch to facilitate the hen's movement in and out.
- Since hens prefer a darkened nest, boxes can easily be stacked one above the other.
Read more about hens. Click here for our Raising Chickens 101 articles.