Let’s get serious about chickens for a second.
But really who can get serious about chickens when they’re your 24 hour entertainment?
I’ll tell you when — the morning after a raccoon, a possum, a weasel, or a mink arrives to slay every chicken you’ve ever owned and then some.
So, of course, nothing is full proof. Chickens can’t live in bomb proof shelters or shipping containers. There is no ventilation and they can get sick very easily. Not to mention, the smell is horrendous and I don’t recommend anyone build a chicken coop with no ventilation.
But there are two VERY IMPORTANT things I think you need to consider when building a chicken coop.
Chickens are practically helpless at night. If you’ve ever tried to corral them into their coop at dark, you’ll understand. I was amazed the first time we had to do this. I thought we would be chasing chickens around the run in nothing but moonlight. And chickens tend to be faster than your average farm lady (or maybe just me).
But they were just up on a ladder roosting and all we had to do was pick them up and put them in their coop. Seriously — there was no running, no fighting, no squawking.
So, I looked into this a little more because obviously if a predator comes to kill my poor girls at night — they would be breakfast, lunch, and dinner before we even got up in the morning.
Apparently, chickens are practically blind at night. They have no defense for themselves except roosting very high so most predators can’t reach them. No wonder we domesticated chickens so long ago! Those poor things — they really have no fighting chance. I swear they just sit there like, “TAKE ME NOW!”
You need to provide all the safety for your chickens because clearly they can’t do it for themselves.
A word of caution. If you have homesteaded for any length of time — no matter how locked down you have those hens at night — predators will come greet you just when you put your guard down.
Ventilation needs to have wiring, preferably hardware cloth, on every opening. Latches need to be very strong and secure (they will be pulled in every direction possible. Raccoons are extra savvy with their hands.) Floors need to be sealed up so no animals can burrow below and come up from the grave. And ventilation holes should not be very big for our predator foes are very good at ripping through it.
Honestly, take a LOT of time to think about safety before you just go building your own coop out of your graveyard junk pile. Otherwise, you’ll be spending way too much time repairing, replacing, and possibly completely rebuilding your coop because of fundamental mistakes or overlooks of their security.
Not to mention the lost lives you’ll of had in the process.
But this isn’t the only consideration when building a chicken coop.
So you think you only want two girls strutting their stuff around your yard. You swear by it and promise your significant other you will only ever have two hens. I’m laughing at you. I’m sorry. But that’s only because I was you.
I was like 4-6 hens. No more. That’s it. That will be perfect. Hell — we’re 90% vegan. Why do we need more than 4-6 hens. Who is going to eat these eggs?
Cue the entertainment. And the variety. Chickens are like your junk drawer. You clean it out, promising to always keep it clean and put things back where they belong. Only to find yourself, two weeks later with 6 junk drawers that keep getting stuck on loose pens and sticky notes. I’ve been there!
Trust me when I tell you — however many chickens you think you want — multiply it by 3-5 and that is how big your coop needs to be.
Because by the time you build your coop and you put your hens in there, you’ll already have bought more chicks from the spring catalog. You’ll quickly outgrow your coop.
Now, you’ll be investing more time, more money, and more resources into a new coop. Because you honestly thought you’d never grow out of it. By the first month you will want more and more and more.
Those eggs — how can you ever get enough. Keep ’em popping girls!
And those eggs are perfect for gifts (practically free when you don’t count their feed)!
But really BIGGER IS ALWAYS BETTER when it comes to chickens!
We built our first coop from the ground up. Using reclaimed barn siding and everything. I was going for that super rustic, super farm country feel. Only to realize that the coop was no where near secure enough and only housed 4-6 chickens.
When we brought home 30 chickens(we already had 9) — we knew we had a problem. And we needed a very fast solution.
So, we went to a big box store and bought a self assembly shed that we turned into a coop. Granted, not the cheapest route, and not all the charm that barn wood had but it is more about function over form at this point when coons and weasels are a real thing. They aren’t just cute videos on YouTube anymore.
Really think about size and security before you start putting hammer to nail and going full Bob the Builder in your backyard. I’m sure others will put ventilation as a must and it totally is, but these two are top on my list.
I’m trying to save you time and lots of heartache, like when 7 of our chickens were scalped by a raccoon or mink. I remember being so proud of that chicken coop because of course it was adorable and I treated the hens like queens in there. And to find out that my mistakes were what caused this slaughter. I’m only telling you this because I don’t want it to happen to you. I cried when I saw the horror. Predators are very determined to get a good meal. Don’t let it be on your accord.