Coops (continued)

hen_blkforest_20090729_lah_7828Last week I wrote about the design and layout of chicken coops. Today we’ll talk about the inside.

Lighting

If your coop is large, you’ll need some light inside so that you and the hens can see. Also, chickens lay eggs when days are long, then stop and molt when fall arrives. If you want them to continue producing eggs into the darker months, you’ll need an artificial light source (and electricity).

Roosts

eggs-and-chickens-052Chickens prefer to sleep up off the ground. Simple 2 x 4s turned so that the 2-inch side is up work just fine. Arrange them about three feet off the ground, and at least 14 inches apart, if you have more than one.

Nest Box

chicken-coop_lah_9118Your hens will need a spot to lay their eggs. Being ladies, they prefer privacy. A nest box should be secluded, dark, roomy enough for the hen, and easy to reach for the egg-gatherer. Our box hangs outside the main coop. A hole in the wall allows the hens to hop in and out. The top is hinged, so we can just lift it up and reach in.

Some chicken coops have individual boxes; others (like ours) have a larger communal box. It mostly depends on how many hens you have, and your personal preference. Hens will all lay in the same nest, as long as there’s a vacancy when they’re ready.

lah_7890Food and Water

Many commercial dispensers are available. Our feed hopper hangs from the ceiling, out of reach of hungry mice. For water, I just use an open plastic dishpan that I clean and refill daily. A bird bath heater keeps the water from freezing during the winter—another reason to have access to electricity.

Heat?

Earlier this winter we had a spell of sub-zero weather, with a few days at -27°F! That’s a bit cold for this one-time beach bum. To make matters worse, the wind howled. I was worried about our chickens, out in their coop without a heater, but they came through just fine. One hen even laid an egg! (Sadly, it was frozen when I found it.) The essential point is to keep the hens dry and out of the wind. Cold doesn’t bother them.

Chickens do need shade on hot days, however. They get hot with all those feathers and with no way to sweat!

A quick online search will produce hundreds of different coop designs. Get creative! Maybe your coop will be featured on your city’s Coop Tour someday.

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