We’ll go into more detail in future articles, but for now, there are four broad things you should consider when designing or buying or building housing for your chickens.
- The Birds. Consider your poultry. What size are they? How flighty or docile are they? How much space do they need? How many are there? How much manure will they produce? Are you raising layers? Meat birds? Will the coop be used for different uses at different times? Are you raising calmer but larger dual-purpose chickens? Turkeys? What are your birds natural tendencies? What are the things that they need? Chickens, left to their own, seem to prefer edges of wooded areas, pastures, orchards, gardens and the like. These areas supply food, shade and some protection against aerial predators. And chickens instinctively choose these areas. Chickens naturally move around a lot, from one area to the next. What’s a way you can allow for that with your housing? Chickens need fresh ground on which to forage.
- Your Land. Consider the rest of your land. How can you raise your chickens in such away as to benefit your land? Again, as mentioned in a previous article, we’re looking for a good fit. We’ve all seen dead, defoliated chicken yards where chickens are kept in one place perpetually and nothing is left but dirt. We want to avoid that. So how and where to chickens best fit in such a way as to benefit our land, our farm or homestead? Chickens scratch, peck, forage, eat small bugs and weed seeds. They also produce lots of manure, about 1/4 pound per bird per day once they’re mature. Where are the places on your farm where those behaviors and tendencies will be of benefit?
- The Person Taking Care of the Birds. Consider the person who will be taking care of the birds — you. Make your coops easy to get into. Easy to gather eggs. Easy to keep clean. Easy to catch chickens in, etc. If it’s pleasant to go out to your coop and work with your coop, you’ll likely do it more often, and your poultry will benefit from the extra care.
- Consider all the Seasons. In Texas, the seasons include hot and cold, wet and dry, windy and still, sunny and overcast. And our seasons change from one day to the next. The key in building chicken housing is adaptability. Make it easy to adjust your coop to match changes in the weather. Also, much of Texas is a lot more hot than it is cold. The most challenging weather for the Texas poultryman is the heat of summer. So be sure to provide ample shade and airflow.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
There are many different styles, sizes and types of chicken housing. I firmly believe that one size doesn’t fit all. You’ll need to choose a coop that fits your management style, your availability, the lay of your land, your weather conditions, and your flock. The better the fit, the better the results.