5 Essentials for your Backyard Chicken Coop

5 Essentials for your Backyard Chicken Coop

So you’ve decided to start keeping chickens, one of the most important things you need to do is create a suitable home for your new feathery friends. There will be a lot of decisions you will need to make in terms of size, design and location of your coop to make it safe and engaging for your chickens, and easy to maintain and clean for you.  In addition to the coop itself you will need to put some thought toward the equipment needed and used within your coop.  Making the right decisions about the type of equipment used in your coop will go a long way in making your coop experience more enjoyable and productive

 

1) NESTING BOX

Laying hens need a safe and secluded place to lay their eggs. It’s important to accommodate them with enough nest boxes. These boxes encourage your hens to lay in designated places, making it easier for you to collect your eggs in the morning. There are traditional nest boxes, many times built into a coop.  These are wooden enclosures and a bedding such as wood shavings or hay is used. While a traditional box is what most people would associate with a chicken coop there are some problems to consider.

Unfortunately with this type of nest box, the eggs quickly become dirty with bird poop, dust, and bedding material.  So be prepared to spend some time each day or every few days washing off your eggs before using. 

Additionally it is pretty common for eggs to get broken or even eaten by the hens meaning your total egg collection can be substantially reduced.

Lastly, mites and other insects are attracted to and can infest this type of nest box resulting in a lot more time cleaning and sanitizing of the nest boxes.

 

A newer type of nest box to consider is a roll away or roll out nest box.  These boxes are made of metal, do not need any bedding material and best of all once an egg is laid it rolls into a collection box that keeps it protected until you are able to collect it.

*Plastic nest insert / no bedding needed

The roll out nest box is a big time saver and you will collect more eggs.  Easy to clean and sanitize and comes in different sizes from a "1 Hole" to a "10 Hole".  A general rule of thumb is one hole can support about 5 layers.  The 2 hole roll away is a great size for the backyard coop

 

2) WATERER

Water is an essential resource for all living things. Be sure to outfit your coop with a suitable waterer. You want a waterer that’s both durable and secure. If you have an open pan or trough, keep it elevated on a stand so that your chickens can’t accidentally knock bedding in it. You can also use a fount or an automatic waterer to ensure your birds always have access to fresh water. No matter what kind of waterer you use, the most important thing is to always keep it clean. You might also want to invest in multiple waterers so that your chickens have a backup in the event of a spill or malfunction. Additionally, if your coop isn’t heated, you can purchase heated waterers so that the water supply doesn’t freeze during cold weather.

 If using manual or siphon drinkers it is recommended to elevate the water level off of the ground by at least a few inches.  This help to keep the water cleaner for longer.

* Automatic waterer with horizontal nipple drinkers provides a constant supply of fresh water.

 

3)  FEEDERS

As with waterers, there are many different types of feeders you can purchase for your coop. It’s important to keep your chickens’ feed free of contamination, so placing an open feeder on bricks or some other type of stand is a good idea. You can also get hanging feeders, which keep the food safe and prevent your birds from roosting on the feeder. If the feeder is close to the ground, make sure your birds can’t accidentally spill their food onto the ground. You should also make sure your chickens don’t get their water into the feeder. Excess moisture can lead to mold and other issues with the feed. Finally, make sure all your chickens have equal access to the food. A flock’s pecking order means a lot of squabbling can occur around the feeder. Avoid bullying and potential injury by always having enough food available for everyone.

Feed is a big portion of your Coop budget.  Investing in feeders that substantially reduce or eliminate feed waste, theft by pests, and keeping the feed dry will save a lot of money every month!

 

*Treadle Feeder - Chickens learn to step on the platform to open an access door to the feed

 

 *Compacta feeder with integral anti-waste fins and rain shield

 

 

 

4) ROOSTING BARS

Most chicken breeds like to sleep up high. This instinct helps protect them from predators, and it makes them less prone to diseases than if they were to sleep on the floor with their litter and dirty bedding. Get a roosting bar or other perch for your chickens to keep them comfortable at night. Make sure if possible to place your nesting boxes lower than the perch dissuade the chickens from sleeping in the boxes.  Chickens do 40% of their pooping at night so anything you can do to keep it out of your nest boxes will certainly make your life easier. Make sure you provide enough perching spots for everyone in the flock—roosts are another thing that chickens will squabble over, and you want all your birds to have a safe place to sleep. Once again, you want to keep the roosting bars clean. It’s also a good idea to smooth the top of the bars so that your chickens have a more comfortable spot to rest.

 

5) TEMPERATURE CONTROL

Chickens are extremely hardy creatures, and they have good natural temperature control. However, you should still keep an eye on the temperature in your coop. A well-insulated coop is vital for keeping out bitter winter winds and other extreme elements.If you do live in a colder climate you might also want to look at ways to keep your waterers from freezing.  There are different heating options that work well.   Additionally, if you have or plan to have chicks, you’ll want to have some sort of heating element. Chicks can’t regulate their own temperatures, so placing a heat lamp and a thermometer in their brooder is essential for proper care.

* Heat Plate for new chicks

*Heated drinker bottom