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Chicken House (Coop)

Photo by Brett Jordan: https://www.pexels.com/photo/herd-of-hen-840111/

On farmsteads, various types of chicken houses are used to provide shelter and protection for the chickens. Each type has its advantages and is designed to meet specific needs. Here are some common types of chicken houses:

  1. Traditional Coop: A traditional coop is a small, stationary structure with a raised floor and nesting boxes for chickens to lay eggs. It usually has a secure door to keep chickens safe at night.
  2. Chicken Tractor: A chicken tractor is a movable coop that allows chickens to graze on fresh grass and insects while also protecting them from predators. It is often built on wheels for easy mobility.
  3. A-Frame Coop: An A-frame coop is shaped like an ‘A,’ with sloping sides and a peaked roof. It is portable and provides ample space for chickens to move around.
  4. Converted Shed: Some farmsteads repurpose old sheds or outbuildings into chicken houses. This cost-effective approach provides a large and sturdy space for the chickens.
  5. Battery Cage System: In commercial settings, battery cage systems are used, where chickens are housed in stacked cages. However, this type of housing is considered controversial due to welfare concerns.
  6. Free-Range System: In a free-range system, chickens have access to a designated outdoor area during the day and return to a sheltered coop at night for protection.
  7. Deep Litter Coop: In a deep litter coop, a thick layer of straw or other bedding material is used. As the chickens scratch and peck, their waste mixes with the bedding, creating compost over time.
  8. Poultry House with Perches: This type of house includes elevated perches where chickens can roost at night, providing a natural resting place for them.
  9. Tube Coop: Tube coops are long, cylindrical structures that offer protection and space for chickens to roam. They are often used in large-scale commercial operations.
  10. Quonset Hut: A Quonset hut is a rounded, prefabricated structure made of metal or wood. It provides a spacious and easily accessible space for chickens.

Remember that the choice of chicken house depends on factors like the number of chickens, available space, climate, and budget. Providing a comfortable and safe environment is essential for the well-being and productivity of the chickens on the farmstead.

There are many different ways in how you can make your chicken feel at home. Mostly a chicken house is used. You can build it from bricks, iron sheets or pallets.

Here’s a nice video explaining the main things to consider when building a coop:

The key points are:

  • The coop (where chickens sleep) should be at least of:  1m 2 coop space per 3 chicken with 20 cm roost space per chicken (space to sleep on the poles)
    • So for 30 chicken your coop needs to be 10m2 or 3mx4m big.
  • The run (where chicken run around during the day) should be 2m 2 per chicken.
    • So for 100 egg laying chicken you need a space of 200m2 or 10x20m.
    • For broilers (chicken for slaughter) you need 60m2 or 10mx 6m (https://justagric.com/broiler-chicken-space-requirements/)Broilers should be on mulch…not caged.
  • Nest boxes should be 60cm high and you should reach them from outside
  • The poles where the chicken sleep on should be 60cm high, flat and wide on top (not thing and round) and should all be the same height so chicken don’t fight for higher space
  • Each chicken should have 30x30cm space to roost (sleep on the poles)
  • Lots of air should be able to move in and out so have lots of chicken wire windows/openings
    • you can close these with shadecloth in the winter nights
  • House inside should be high enough so humans can enter and clean easily
  • Mulch should be changed once a month
  • Fresh water every day
  • Feed every day

Also read this article on how to position a large chicken house in Southern Africa:

https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/animals/poultry/chicken-housing-get-basics-right/

If you can, make the structure movable:

Building a HOOP COOP

Here is a great guide to various mobile chicken pens:

https://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/free-range-poultry-housing

http://freerangechicken.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PlaasToe-Red-Barn-free-range.pdf

Simple, affordable housing for young chicks

One problem of raising free-range chickens is that young chicks can be taken by predators such as hawks or vermin such as rats.

A ‘nursery’, however, can be constructed for very young chicks from cheap materials such as chicken wire mesh, 2,4m-long wooden droppers (used in constructing game farm fences and available at most farmer supply stores), cheap timber slats (available at most sawmills or hardware shops) and the reinforcing mesh used in the foundations of buildings (available at building material supply companies).

Here is how to build such a structure:

Cut the 6m metal reinforcing mesh sheets in half lengthways; this gives a fence height of 1,2m (as the sheets are 2,4m wide) and a 12m-length of mesh to build an enclosure. Add more mesh sheets if you need to increase the size of the enclosure. The reinforcing mesh offers support to the structure at ground level and prevents predators from biting through.

Sink the droppers 600mm into the ground. This will ensure that you have secure, 1,8m-high supports.

Attach the timber slats to the droppers to build a frame, and secure the chicken mesh tightly against the steel reinforcing mesh and timber frame.

The droppers and slats can be treated with an oil-based product such as Waksol timber sealer (my preferred product, as it does not have a strong smell), linseed oil or creosote (all available from hardware stores). Alternatively, paint all timber and droppers with three coats of old motor oil annually at the start of summer.

I do this even if the timber slats and droppers are treated, as it protects the wood against the elements. Paint the reinforcing mesh with a rust protection paint (at most hardware stores).

Shelters

The enclosures can be fitted with simple individual shelters made from corrugated zinc. Under each, place an old car tyre filled with grass cuttings or oats straw. The hens, which forage throughout the day with the breeding roosters, can lay eggs in these enclosures.

Create openings in the fence to enable them to leave the enclosure to forage in the surrounding garden area or farmyard, and then return to the eggs.

These exit spaces should be roughly square in shape, about the size of two shoebox lids, and 10cm to 15cm off the ground. This prevents very young chicks from exiting the nursery enclosure.

When mother hens are out foraging, a little grower mash and even finely chopped greens such as lucerne can be fed to the chicks. This will continue for about a week at the most; after this, the chicks will join the adults in foraging.

Here’s an idea on how to build a chicken house from pallets:

The video below explains how to build a very large chicken house for thousands of chicken:

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