Your First Coop

Our First Coop

You have your chicks and they are under the warm lights in the laundry room.   Now the clock is ticking to get that first coop constructed.  They will be ready to move outside in about 6 weeks, possibly sooner if you live in a warmer climate.  You will be ready sooner I am sure.

The information out there on how much space your birds will need runs the spectrum, but my favorite based on experience is about three square feet per bird.  This suggestion is assuming that they will have some outside access most days.   You might need more if you plan to keep them inside for days on end in the middle of winter, but experience in Montana tells me that is NOT necessary if you choose your breeds right.

A coop for 2 or 3 birds can easily be made or purchased.  A coop if purchased or made should have several critical things besides floor space, ventilation, a window for light, and easy cleaning.

Ventilation:  This is critical to let the ammonia from poop out. Ask anyone who has been around a big coop and they can attest to the importance of  that. The other reason is that chickens breathe a lot and with each exhale there is moisture.   This moisture is what can you biggest enemy if you fight frost bite.  Moisture can also allow fungus, molds and other nasties that like a dark damp environment to grow.

Windows: Chickens lay eggs based on daylight hours.   You want the maximum amount of light in the coop, when the weather turns cold and they spend less time outside.  Some people will put lights in their coops to keep their hens laying all winter and supplement the heat.

Easy of cleaning: Like everything, easy cleaning is best.   I lined the coop with inexpensive sheet vinyl flooring.  I also built it high enough off the ground to allow me to slip a muck bucket under the coop and use a kiddie rake to clean it out.

A couple of other things that depending on your location you may want to consider is electricity and insulation.   A properly vented and insulated coop can run without electricity  in a cold, windy Montana winter (I speak from experience).   Electricity is nice if you can’t swap out frozen water dishes.   I have graduated to heated water dishes in the winter.  I still rely on insulation and body heat to keep my birds warm.

In reality no one person, book, or website can answer all your questions.  One of your best resources for coop ideas is the forum at www.backyardchickens.com If you are not handy or adventuresome to try your hand at building something, you might check Craig’s list, and freecycle for people getting rid of old sheds and storage buildings.  If you have the financial resources you might even consider  purchasing a outbuilding from your local lumber supply.   My only advice is build a little bigger than you think you will need as odds are you want more than you start with, unless you live somewhere that limits your flock size legally. Time is ticking away.

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