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Home / Chicken Housing - Coops, Pens, and Tractors

Chicken Housing - Coops, Pens, and Tractors

A chicken coop, also known as a chicken house, provides shelter for the chickens. A well-designed and well-built coop gives the chickens adequate protection from rain, sleet, and snow, provides shade and a windbreak, and protects them from predators, which include dogs, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, opossums, owls, and other creatures.

The chicken coop should be well-ventilated and easy to clean. If you plan to keep laying hens in the coop, it is a good idea to have a nest box to provide a dry, dark place for them to lay the eggs. This makes the eggs easier to gather, and results in cleaner eggs.

When considering a chicken coop, it is important to take into account the size of the flock and provide ample space for the chickens. 4 square foot per chicken for standard size breeds is a good recommendation. Bantam breeds, being smaller, don't need as much space.

There are a number of different types of chicken coops. Small, bottomless chicken coops allow chickens to be moved to fresh ground regularly. This provides a healthy environment and supplements the diet of the chickens, and it also allows the manure from the chickens to be put directly on a garden, yard, or pasture area that benefits from it with little effort from the owner other than moving the coop. Michael Roberts book Making Mobile Hen Houses includes a very well thought out design for a chicken tractor. We also have several ready-made chicken tractors available.

One limitation of chicken tractors is that, because of their need to be moved easily, there are practical upper limits to the size and as a result limits to the number of birds that they can house. A typical size for a chicken tractor is 3' x 8'. In a coop this size, you could comfortably house 6 adult chickens. A properly designed coop of this size is relatively easy to move if the design and choice of materials are well thought out.

If you have a large number of chickens, chicken tractors may not be the best approach to housing because of the time that it takes to feed and water and gather eggs from multiple chicken tractors. In that case, we recommend one of several approaches. One approach we have used and like for 40 or more chickens (and ducks or other poultry) is to use electric poultry netting to make a pen for chickens and close them up each night in a range shelter. A range shelter is a large poultry house that can contain many birds and is big enough that you wouldn't want to move it daily. This approach is described in more detail in Andy Lee's book Day Range Poultry. Variations of this approach are to use a hutch like the chick-n-hutch inside of either an electrified mesh netting or a permanent or semi-permanent non-electrified mesh fence. In either case, chickens need to be put away securely at night in the hutch or other shelter for protection against predators.

Another approach is to use a medium-sized or large chicken coop that has an attached run. These often have integral (built-in) nest boxes that are accessible from the outside. This makes gathering the eggs easy and pleasant. Some medium to large coops have wheels that enable them to be moved regularly, but many large coops are big enough and heavy enough that you would not want to move them very frequently and definitely not every day.

To see the selection of chicken housing that is available on our site, please visit our page on coops, pens, cages, and fencing.