Things to consider when building a DIY Backyard Chicken Coop
Having chickens is a great idea, and there are some benefits to owning chooks, including:
Freshly laid eggs
Great to teach kids responsibility and kindness to animals
They are great at turning over and fertilising garden beds ready for planting
Productive usage of kitchen scraps (not all scraps are suitable - read below)
Food security and urban sustainability
There are some things that you do need to keep in mind when considering owning chickens.
Are you allowed to keep chickens in a residential area?
Usually yes, but you do need to contact your local council. The main things the council will want for chicken coops in Australia is for the birds not to be a health risk or nuisance. There will be laws covering the distances from dwellings and the construction, so they don’t escape.
Planning your chicken coop / tractor / run
When you plan to build a chicken coop, it is crucial in your coop design to include a chicken house for roosting(sleeping), nesting boxes, a spot where they will eat and drink, a covered area like a verandah, and a chicken run where they can play and explore.
How many chickens can you put in a coop?
Chickens, like other animals, need their space at least 1m2 per bird. It is best to get at least three as they are social animals, and it takes a little while for a new chicken to be accepted. Overcrowding can lead to sickness, fighting, extra noise, and it just isn’t good.
Have different areas for them feeding, nesting, sleeping and play area. Put the coop somewhere that will get sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon.
What kitchen scraps can you feed chickens?
Kitchen scraps are a great way to add to supplement their diet but are not a balanced diet in themselves. Do not feed them the following:
Avacado - pips and peel
Raw potato skin
High fat and salt foods
White bread - sparingly as it will block them up
Coffee leftovers and tea bags
What do I feed my chickens?
To lay nice nutritious eggs, hens need to be happy and healthy. They need lots of protein and calcium. They enjoy:
Grains - scratching mix, sprouting grain, mixed grain or pellets
Leafy greens, zucchini, broccoli and brussel sprouts
Insects they find around
Fruit (not citrus)
Crushed up dried shells
After they have been fed, keep the pen clean so you aren’t inviting rats and mice. Put their pellets and grain in a hanging feeder and also, if you get them a lettuce, hang it; it also keeps them amused.
What do chickens drink water out of?
Chickens need lots of water as they are active during the day, helps keep their body temperature regulated, helps with their digestion and good for egg production. They require at least a litre of water a day each. You can have their water in a bucket but keep it filled up and clean. The better way is a hanging bell drinker or a cup or nipple feeder - gravity fed on a pipe.
Keep these things in mind.
Keep the water clean, not near poo, and so on.
Put the water in the shade to keep it cool and add some iceblocks to it in summer)
Have multiple options, so they aren’t all getting water from the same spot.
Chicken dust bath
A dust bath is essential for your chickens as it removes excess oils and parasites like mites and lice. Make sure there is an area that they have some dry soil in for their dust bath. They will also help clean each other.
How to keep predators away from chicken coops?
You need to keep your chickens safe from predators such as foxes, dogs, snakes and rodents. Below are some suggestions to assist you with this:
Use good netting or chicken wire (have a look at our stainless steel threaded heavy-duty netting.)
If you have foxes around, dig your mesh into the ground if a permanent structure or a movable tractor makes a skirt or apron around. It needs to be at least 30 cms wide as they can dig underground (see picture below)
Cover the top of the coop with netting or mesh - not just the sides
Use a net with small holes - foxes can get through a 10 cm gap and snakes even smaller. I have even heard where snakes have got in eaten something and cannot get out again. You don’t want this happening. Snake mesh
Keep your coop clean, so it does not attract predators
If free-range, lock them up at night
Build your coop on hard ground
Build it in sight of the house so you can see what is going on
How do chickens sleep?
Chickens sleep on a perch. Make the perch square so they can grip with their claws. They will typically put themselves to “bed” around dusk. Make the perch at least 30cms off the ground and give the 30cms across so they are comfortable. Don’t put their food or nesting boxes under the roost as they will poo, and it will be unclean for them and you if you eat the eggs.
Nesting boxes need to be:
Clean - keep poo free
Make sure they are dry
Filled with fresh straw or wood shavings
Add some fresh herbs like rosemary, rue or wormwood to repel insects and keep down odours ( plant some around the coop as well.
One box per 3 hens
Relatively dark - a nice calm area
Tip for cleaning the eggs when there are feces on them. Wipe the eggs with a dry, slightly abrasive material or sponge as the shells are porous, and washing them can lead to ingesting the bacteria and lead to food poisoning.
For the garden
If you are a gardener as well, chickens are great for your garden beds. Don’t let them in there when you have the bed established. They are more useful in-between seasons as they will aerate and fertilise the soil for you.
The chicken manure and bedding material are also excellent for the garden but be sure to compost it first as it’s very high in nitrogen and will burn your plants. Give it about four months to break down and cure.
If you are looking to build a small or large chicken coop, take a look at Photos of our customers DIY chicken coops/ tractors and runs that they have designed and built themselves. Very useful for chicken coop ideas.
We also have step by step backyard chicken coop plans for free.
Check out local council laws and regulations.
Install a good-sized coop that is secure from predators
Feed them a balanced healthy diet
Chooks need lots of water
Keep your chook pen clean and give them enough space for sleeping and nesting
Use chicken manure and bedding for your garden.
Chooks are social animals, and having some will enrich your life.
For more helpful blogs and our full range of connectors, PVC pipe and netting for building, come and visit our website www.klevercages.com.au