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Chickens are one of the best and most fun homestead animals you can raise in almost any backyard. Even people in apartments can have fresh eggs with a chicken or two! Building suburban backyard chicken coops doesn’t have to cost a lot of money; it just has to meet some basic requirements that provide your chicken with safety, support, and comfort. Your chicken coop needs to have a few basic things in it. It needs a way for your birds to roost, a place for them to lay their eggs (called a nesting box); it should be ventilated while still protected from moisture and protected from predators and pests.
Designing Suburban Backyard Chicken Coop
The first step to building or establishing a backyard chicken coop is determining how many birds you want or are allowed to have. While many towns and cities allow home-owners to have chickens, they limit the number to one or two; thankfully, you don’t need to worry about getting a rooster because hens will lay eggs without one.
You want to establish a space of at least four square feet per chicken. This minimum of four feet gives each bird the space to move around and get comfortable. However, the space requirement is determined most by how much time out of the coop your chickens will be spending. Ideally, you want your chickens out of their coop unless they’re escaping the heat, laying an egg, or sleeping!
- If you’re living in an apartment, you can fit two chickens in a large dog crate.
- You can invest in or build a dog-house with a removable roof.
- Chain-link outdoor dog runs are excellent options – you will want to create a roof, however.
You’ll want to provide a roost for your birds next, and you can easily accomplish that with a 2-3 inch diameter dowel or closet pole. You want to make sure that it’s wide enough for them to perch on comfortably without their feet cramping up or sliding off. You can also use 2×4 or 4×4 beams. Your roosting beams or pole need to be large enough to give each hen about ten inches of space. In many chicken coops, there are two roosts at different heights – one lower and one higher.
You’ll want to try and provide each of your hens with a nesting box of their own. This is a place where they will go to lay their eggs. Ideally, it should be about 12 x 12 inches and a few inches off the ground. If you have a larger flock, up to four hens can share a single box. The box needs to have one low side, so it’s easy for the hens to climb in and out. Each nesting box will also need to be lined with bedding material to make a nest in the nesting box and be comfortable.
Protection from the Elements and Predators
Your chicken coop needs to be able to protect your hens from the rain and the wind, as well as give them a cool place to escape from the hot summer sun. Chickens like to be kept between 65 degrees and 75 degrees. This means that you may need to provide them with a fan in the summer, and in the winter, they may need a heating lamp. Don’t forget ventilation if you’re using a structure outdoors – this helps regulate temperature and keep flies down.
At the same time, however, it needs to be safe and secure from predators. A good rule of thumb is to consider if a three or four-year-old child can get into your chicken coop without help. If the answer is yes, then there is a genuine concern that a raccoon could get in as well. If you’re using a playhouse, pre-made coop, or other structure, one great way to get good cross ventilation that still protects from predators is to use chicken wire on the windows.
In our coop, we got around this by making each of the nesting boxes a pet kennel with a removable litter tray for bedding. They’re safe from predators and they have a place they’re comfortable laying their eggs!