What’s the ideal chicken shed?
- The indoor space needs good insulation and ventilation to cope with the highs and lows of the weather.
- Chickens require perching space, and you will need 10-12" of perch per bird.
- If space is an issue, a chicken shed raised from the ground will give you extra space for the birds underneath.
- If you plan moving your chickens around on the plot to prevent them destroying the ground, you could use mobile housing. A shed on wheels, in other words. An alternative is to have the house resting on poles, which can then be lifted to move it to another location. This will only work for relatively small, light sheds, however.
- Wooden sheds will attract parasites at some point – usually Red mites, which hide by day and are therefore difficult to spot, though they will sneakily suck your hens’ blood by night like miniature Draculas! A modern design such as Omlet’s Eglu (for 2-4 birds) has many advantages – smooth plastic surfaces for easy cleaning, no corners for the mites to hide in, and portability.
Hand-feeding hens in a chicken run
What equipment do I need in a chicken coop?
- A food dispenser. Rather than a simple tray, buy a feeder that keeps the food dry in a top container and drip-feeds the grain, corn or pellets as and when the chickens eat. Note: this type of feeder is not suitable for chicken mash, which clumps.
- A water dispenser. This can be a simple pan or bowl; but to keep the water clean and fresh, it’s better to invest in a purpose-made drinker that delivers the water as the birds need it.
- A grit tray. Chickens swallow small pieces of grit to assist their digestion of food.
- A plastic bin for storing food while keeping out dampness and vermin.
- Shade: the birds will appreciate a break from the sun. A screen for a south-facing chicken shed is a good idea in hotter climates too.
- Tools for cleaning out the coop and shed. The basics are a broom, a stiff brush for scrubbing, a shovel for removing soiled bedding/floor covering/droppings, a bucket for water, along with a hen-friendly detergent (he best ones also disinfect against Red mite and other parasites).
- A dust-bath. Rather than relying on a dry patch in the run, provide a plastic box filled with dusty soil or fine sand.
- You do not need external roosting poles. Chickens only need to perch when they sleep. During the day they are happy to snuggle down on the ground to rest; although most birds are constantly on the move and save the resting for night time!
- A layer of absorbent bedding such as dust-extracted wood shavings or straw on the chicken shed floor will help keep things clean, and adds essential insulation. The former will last longer, whereas straw – or shredded paper, which is also used – will need changing more regularly. A soft bedding material is also needed inside the egg-laying/nest boxes.
- Each bird will need 10-12 inches of perching space. Hens are happy to snuggle up at night, but you still need to make sure each bird has somewhere to perch. If you don’t provide the space, the hens at the bottom of the pecking order will be chased off their roosting spaces and will become stressed and unwell as a result.