How to Start a Chicken Coop for Laying Hens
Maybe you’ve thought about building a chicken coop in the back yard and ordering a few hens from the local farming co-op for a constant fresh organic egg supply. Well, I can tell you its kinda cool having hens if you’re the outdoors type.
There are a few things to consider before you get started though like how to house them, what they need as far as protection from predators, temperature requirements, food and water supply, maintenance and that sort of thing. I’ve had some experience with keeping laying hens as well as meat chickens, and turkeys. Let me point out a few things to consider
You usually have to order laying hens in advance from a farm supply outlet or Co-op. They may have a catalog with different breeds of hens and the staff should be able to recommend a hardy breed. The hens are relatively cheap – around 10 bucks a bird. Remember, each bird may supply 1-2 eggs a day so don’t get too many birds for the demand of eggs you want.
You will want to provide shelter for the birds. The type of coop you build is something you want to plan ahead as there are many considerations depending on your quantity of birds, your climate, etc. A helpful resource is a book available on the web about building a chicken coop, click here if you’re interested in finding out more on the book. It costs around 20 bucks and I found it very helpful.
When I built my first chicken house I did make a solid base around the outdoor pen, and you know I never seen a fox around for 5 years until I got a few chickens and sure enough, it dug under the base rail and was off with a bird. The sad thing was I didn’t notice the hole for a few days and it returned daily for a fresh hen. I re-thought how to design the base using ideas found in the book. It eventually found other places to hunt.
Another consideration is overcrowding, chickens eat constantly and are easily overheated. If they are too crowded inside the coop, they will suffocate and die. Make sure the house is well ventilated to remove the off-gassing of their poop. Make sure they have a constant supply of fresh water. An auto water unit is a handy way to keep fresh water supply if you have a pressured water supply close by such as a hose rig from the main house.
You will keep a constant supply of feed during the day to keep them from getting bored and pecking each other. Here is a simple feeder option or you can make your own hopper style feeder using things around the yard. Keep the feeder suspended off the ground so it doesn’t get contaminated with feces. Chickens also like grass, but be careful, if you let them out to graze you could have some watchful eyes. Even a neighboring dog could get curious enough to grab one and run.