If you’re keeping chickens, you need to have a chicken coop. There’s no way around it. Chicken coops lead to happier chickens and better results. As in, more eggs or higher quality meat. But you can’t use a poorly constructed coop. You need one that is outfitted with essentials, such as food, water, roosts, lighting, and ventilation.
When you know what should be inside a chicken coop, you won’t have any problems with your chickens not laying eggs or getting sick, because they will be taken care of. So, let’s take a look at all the things that your chicken coop should have.
The Importance of a Chicken Coop
The most important choice you will make when building a healthy flock of chickens is that kind of coop you get — and what’s inside. The main purpose of a coop is to keep your chickens safe from predators, but it’s also their home.
The coop is where chickens eat, sleep, lay their eggs, and stay warm on cold days. Therefore, everything that belongs in a chicken coop adds to its functionality. You want a coop that has enough space for the essentials, as well as a few added comforts for your flock.
Looking for some ideas about how to design a coop? Check out this video that shows you the most basic setup for a chicken coop:
What Should Be Inside a Chicken Coop
Want to build a healthy, happy home for your chickens? One that they won’t mind returning to every night? Then you are going to need to add some essential features, as well as a couple of comforts. The following nine things that should be inside a chicken coop are important, because they help keep your chickens safe and healthy throughout the year.
Chickens, like humans, crave a good night’s rest. It’s also instinctive for chickens to seek higher ground away from predators. Since chickens sleep best when perched above the ground, you should provide them with plenty of roosting perches. Although perches aren’t necessary for a closed coop, chickens that sleep on the floor are often exposed to dangerous bacteria and illness. This is because they poo even while sleeping and may end up laying in a mess.
Roosts are best constructed from natural materials, like wood, instead of plastic. Place some roosts above the nesting boxes and at varying heights. If you have a flock with a variety of chicken breeds, having several tiers of roosts will give every chicken space to sleep at their preferred height.
If you have egg-laying hens in your flock, you’re going to need nesting boxes. A nesting box is a quiet, safe place for hens to lay eggs. Furthermore, nesting boxes make it easier for you to gather those eggs.
The ideal nesting box is dark and installed closer to the floor, usually lower than your roosting perches. Depending on the number of chickens in your flock and their size, it is recommended that you make nesting boxes large enough for 4-5 chickens each.
Line the nesting boxes with a soft bedding material, like wood shavings. Change the bedding often, as bacteria can grow rapidly.
In order for your chickens to be healthy and happy, they need sunlight. Not only does light improve their mood, it also regulates a hen’s reproductive cycle. This means that less light equals less eggs. Some chickens will stop laying eggs completely if they don’t get enough sun.
Windows are the best way to let natural light into the coop. Your chickens should also be free to roam during daylight hours. However, during the months where sunlight is less abundant, you’re going to need artificial lighting.
Add some overhead lights and put them on a timer, so your chickens can enjoy the ideal ratio of dark and light.
Anyone who has spent some time observing chickens knows just how much a good dust bath means to them. While it might sound a bit strange, chickens use dust to clean. This is because their oil glands are overactive. The dust helps remove some of the oil, as well as fights parasites.
Make sure you put a few bath boxes in the coop to help your chickens fend off mites and lice. Otherwise, your chickens could lose feathers and develop anemia.
Chicken coops won’t function without insulation. Make sure you fill small cracks and openings with insulation to keep pesky invaders and predators out. Also, don’t forget about ceiling insulation. While you need ventilation for air quality, insulation is necessary for temperature control.
For instance, if the roof on your chicken coop is metal, you should have insulation between the metal and the coop’s frame. Asphalt shingle roofs should have some kind of barrier to keep heat from entering the coop during the summer months.
Chickens poo a lot, and few — if any — people enjoy cleaning up the mess. While litter trays aren’t a necessity, they will begin to feel like one once you see how much poo a well-placed pan catches. By situating litter trays beneath the roosting perches, you can eliminate some daily cleanup. Plus, having the feces drop straight into litter prevents ammonia from getting released into the air as the poo dries.
Ventilation and Airflow
Without ventilation, chicken coops would smell atrocious and be downright lethal to the inhabitants. Ammonia, which occurs naturally in chicken poop, is the culprit behind the stink. As you know, inhaling ammonia is detrimental to your health, and it’s even worse for chickens. So, when you first purchase or build your coop, make sure it has enough ventilation and a means for airflow.
For most coops, ventilation is found at the top, along the ceiling, but you can increase ventilation with screen doors and windows.
Food and Water Supply
Another important feature in a functional chicken coop is food and water. Gauge the amount you need based on the number of chickens using the coop. Don’t place the feeders and water anywhere near the roosts or nesting boxes. They should also be placed where dirt, bedding, and poo can’t contaminate the feed and water.
Be sure to clean out the containers a few times a week to keep bacteria and mold from growing. If you live somewhere humid, be sure to refill the water once or twice a day.
This implies that the coop is not flush against the ground but raised on stilts. A raised floor is great for a few reasons. One, having a coop that is higher up gives you easier access to the nesting boxes, especially if the coop is too small for you to get inside. Second, the bedding and floor stays drier and warmer. Lastly, raising the coop off the ground eliminates a point of entry for rodents and snakes.
What Kind of Flooring Does a Chicken Coop Need?
Having considered what goes into a chicken coop, the last thing you need to pay attention to is the floor. Most chicken coop floors are made of either concrete, packed earth, or plywood. While all these options are great, you have to consider that your chickens are going to be dirtying it with their poop.
Birds don’t pee. The reason why their feces is so watery is because it’s mixed with urine. As the moisture from the poop evaporates, the inside of a coop gets more and more humid. So you need something to absorb that moisture and keep the coop from getting dangerously damp.
You have a few options:
- Shredded paper
- Pine shavings
- Rubber mats
Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, so let’s consider each one.
Do you have a coop that is flush to the ground or has a permanent floor? Consider sand. Not only can chickens enjoy a dust bath, but a sandy floor soaks up waste. The best sand for chicken coops is construction sand, an all-natural but lightweight material.
While straw isn’t the first choice for absorbing moisture, it’s lightweight and doesn’t rot easily. Plus, straw is a great insulator. You can use straw around the litter pans and on the floor to act as a barrier, keeping the excrement for reading the bottom layer.
This option has great absorption capabilities, but it is not as durable or long-lasting as straw or sand. However, you can find shredded paper almost anywhere, including pet stores, or for free, if you feel like shredding newspaper and junk mail. One bonus is that shredded paper can be added to compost, even after use.
Want to reduce the smell in the coop? Use pine shavings (not cedar, as that can be dangerous for chickens). Pine shavings insulate, absorb moisture, and are easy to sweep out of the coop once used.
Absorb moisture and protect the floor at the same time. Rubber mats can also be mixed with the other materials mentioned above to add insulation. Cut the mats to suit the size of the floor. For raised coops, lightweight options are available, too.
Owning chickens means you’re going to need a chicken coop. It is one investment you shouldn’t skimp on. Now that you know what belongs in a chicken coop, you can start designing a great chicken coop or renovating the one you currently have. Hopefully, you also have a greater understanding of the materials best suited for your coop and chickens as well.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.