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How to Build a Chicken Coop


How to Build a Chicken Coop

Lots of people with no farming background have started raising chickens in the past few years, mainly to add a satisfying dose of self-reliance to their daily diet. You can raise chickens anywhere and just need to provide a solid chicken coop and check that zoning laws don't prohibit it, from a small yard in a rural township to the heart of many big cities—the project doesn't take much space. My first piece of advice is to start slow. "One of the most common mistakes made by novice chicken owners is getting too many birds too fast," says Gail Damerow, who has raised countless chickens and written several books on farm-animal care, including Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. A laying hen produces an egg a day, so it doesn't take more than a couple of birds to put breakfast on the table. That's your output. As for input, count on providing each bird with 2 pounds of feed per week and 1 to 2 cups of clean water a day. (But your chicken mileage may vary--as Damerow points out, "Chickens haven't read the books.")

The size of your flock determines the size of the coop you build. If anything, err on the side of making the structure a little larger than you think you'll need. Damerow advises 3 square feet of floor area per laying hen. "The coop size requirements I follow are often criticized as being too spacious," Damerow says, "yet my chickens rarely experience the health problems I hear about from other chicken keepers."

When it comes to building the structure, a chicken coop is much like any small outbuilding. It's wise to keep it simple and inexpensive, yet sturdy enough to safely house animals. The gold standard of coop construction is to pour a slab of concrete and erect the building on that. This design is suitable even to meet organic poultry standards. If you're not concerned about these stringent requirements, build the base and floor out of pressure-treated lumber.

Finally, check with your local agricultural extension office or other amateur poultry raisers to find out about carnivorous varmints that live in your area. They range from raccoons, skunks and weasels to coyotes. When I was a kid, local farmers dealt harshly with these critters, usually with a shotgun blast. I'm not embarrassed to say that as a young guy who hunted on those farms, I had no qualms about assisting them.

The times have changed, though. Before you pull the trigger on a pest, know what your responsibilities are. Laws regarding varmint control vary by state. The firearm method aside, take sensible precautions against animal intruders. Those Yankee farmers kept a tidy coop. They knew that local predators were stealthy and needed cover, so they removed piles of brush or rocks from anywhere near the coop, and they mowed nearby to keep grass short.

We haven't dealt with aesthetics here, not a topic normally associated with these buildings. Still, I don't see why a coop has to be ugly. The poultry plans offered by North Dakota State University Extension Service on its website (some going back to the 1930s) are particularly attractive examples. Even if the architectural niceties are lost on the birds themselves, they won't be overlooked by your neighbors. And if you decide some day to leave chicken-raising behind, at least you'll be left with an attractive structure. Sanitized and repainted, the coop could go on to a second life as a garden shed or to enclose firewood.

Chicken Input/Output

Published 25 Jan 2017 / Views -
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