A chicken house, aka chicken coop, is very important for a healthy, happy flock. Chickens need a place to sleep, to have clean food and water, to lay eggs, and to be sheltered from any harsh elements. Although we are located in Central California, there are many chickens who live in the driest desert landscapes and who also survive foraging for little leftovers in the snow. Chickens are highly adaptable to their environments and can live long lives in a clean and comfortable living space.
The size of a coop is best determined by the number of chickens, or visa versa. If you have a coop in place, it is best to measure the dimensions before determining how many chickens your coop should house. Not all chickens are the same size. With Bantam breeds, you may be able to consider two Bantams for every one Standard sized.
It is suggested that each chicken have four square feet inside the coop itself, to maintain a positive environment for the chickens to get along. As you may know, with every flock, chickens tend to have friend or foes and with a proper amount of space for each chicken, you will allow them each to have an ample amount of space to feel content.
For coops with an outdoor run, it is suggested to provide 10 square feet per chicken. This allows room for each hen to rummage through the dirt, sand, and grasses that are inside the run for them. This will also allow for your chickens to find the right place for a dust bath to lay and bathe in. If you have ample room outside in a run or free ranging, you may be able to make up for having a slightly smaller coop, though it is still important to have as much space as possible for the coop.
Chickens who will live happily in a coop and run with be more likely to lay their healthy amount of eggs and also be less likely to acquire illnesses.
In addition to the space within a coop, it is important to have enough nesting boxes for egg laying, roosts for chickens to sleep on, and windows, doors and vents for air circulation within the coop. Four chickens can share one nesting box! You may always supply more, but with a smaller number, your hens are going to be less likely to use their nesting boxes as a place to sleep.
Roosts supplied need to be eight inches long per chicken. This gives each chicken room to stand and sleep throughout the night. This is the most common way chickens sleep.
For windows and vents, it is important to make sure you can close them if you end up with some rough weather. It is also recommended to cover any holes greater than 1/2 inch with hardware cloth to keep rodents out and keep chickens in.
Make sure you are not using hay or straw in your coop, because these things can house bugs such as lice and mites, which can infest in your chickens feathers and cause problems. Dirt or pine shavings are great ground covering and bedding for your chickens! They will be happy and healthy for years long.
Written by: Kelsie Crane