6 Tips for Inside a Chicken Coop
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Setting up the best chicken coop means building a solid predator-proof structure, appropriate-sized run, and a good internal setup. The following tips for inside a chicken coop and how to efficiently set it up will benefit not only the chickens but also the keeper.
Over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit about keeping poultry, chickens in particular. With many chicken-related items on the market, new chicken keepers would inevitably become confused about what is needed. Especially when setting up inside a chicken coop.
Chickens do not spend much time inside of a chicken coop but instead outside of it. Place boredom-busting items in your run, such as multiple perches, suet block, dust bath spot, salad pinata, and if it tickles your fancy, a chicken swing for your flock.
With that said, here are six tips for inside a chicken coop that will benefit your flock, as well as you.
With keeping chicken comes the risk of cracked eggs, dirty nests, and potentially, lice and mites. Many nesting boxes are made of wood and are a traditional item for many coops. However, they are not quite practical for cleaning and sanitizing. And if you know anything about chickens and nesting boxes, you know how important it is to clean and sanitize the boxes regularly.
Plastic nesting boxes make a great substitute for wood boxes. The plastic can be washed and sanitized as needed. Anything can be used as a nesting box, as long as it will hold your largest hen.
- five-gallon paint buckets
- large wash buckets
- soda pop carriers
Finding the material for nesting boxes should not cost an arm and leg. Many thrift stores will have what you need whereas. Many bakeries will give away five-gallon buckets.
The type of material to use for roosting bars is just as important as installing them, especially for those who reside in cooler climates. Many who are new to chicken keeping opt to use branches as roosting bars, and though the idea is cute, it is not quite practical.
Roosting bars are meant to allow the chicken to sit on its feet, toes included, as they roost. This is quite important during the winter months, especially for those who reside in the northern hemisphere. When the body and feathers do not cover the toes of chickens and other roosting poultry in the cold of winter, the chance of frostbite can occur. Instead of branches, use 2X4s; this allows the bird to fully sit on top of its feet, covering the toes. Larger poultry such as turkeys use 2x6s as a roosting bar.
To minimize bumblefoot and foot injuries, make sure the roosting bars are smooth to prevent splinters. Eliminate foot injuries as they fly or jump from the roost by placing roosting bars in tiers, with the lowest tier being 18 inches from the coop floor. This allows the poultry to jump gracefully from the roosting bars.
To protect the plywood floor of the coop and your birds’ feet, bedding will need to be laid down. This can be straw, sand, or even shredded cardboard. In researching the options, we opted to utilize straw inside the coop. Straw is compostable and ideal for the garden, not to mention, it costs much less than sand or shredded cardboard. In addition to this, straw retains heat better than the other material, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, this is necessary.
Straw also softens the landing for chickens and poultry as they leave the roost.
The use of straw must be overseen, especially during the Winter and Spring months. The waste can cause the straw to become damp, which leads to moisture and potential mold issues. In addition to this, ammonia build-up can occur quickly in straw bedding. To minimize respiratory issues, straw bedding must be checked regularly and discarded immediately if mold or ammonia build-up occurs.
Installing drop pans under the roosting bars is a lifesaver for those who keep poultry. The drop pans not only save in the cost of straw but also serve an important purpose. The pans allow for health checks through the waste.
You can tell a lot about the droppings of an animal, and drop pans allow just that. Utilizing a drop pan under the roost not only shows early signs of illness it also captures the first sign of molting, egg-laying issues, and worms.
The best drop pan material is white corrugated plastic panels. These can be purchased at most hardware locations, costing around $10 a sheet. To clean, hose the pans or empty them into the compost bins.
Feed Bowls and Waterers
Minimize rodent issues within the coop by keeping food outside of this space. Place feed bowls in the run and avoid using feeders such as PVC pipes or gutter as they draw rodents.
Waterers should be kept in the run, especially if you keep waterfowl. Spilled water runs the risk of causing bedding such as straw or shredded cardboard to mold.
Pick up feed bowls and kitchen scraps nightly. Store any uneaten feed in a galvanized container to minimize rodents.
The final tip, place free choice calcium containers in the coop. Poultry has been known to consume calcium after they have laid and before they roost each evening.
Calcium is necessary for laying hens; without it, the body will begin supplementing the body through the bones. Make sure to have free-choice calcium available at all times for your poultry hens. Calcium containers can be made out of anything; however, a dual mineral feeder which is generally used for goats and horses holds more calcium than a small DIY dispenser.
Tips for Inside a Chicken Coop
These six items will ensure that your chickens and other poultry have exactly what they need inside the coop. Additional items such as nesting box curtains and wall art are for the chicken keeper’s enjoyment, so why not add them? You are in the coop as much as your birds are!
For additional DIY chicken keeping tips, take a look at Janet Garman’s book, 50 DIY Projects for Keeping Chickens. This book is packed full of easy-to-construct chicken projects for the coop, run, and barnyard.
Originally published in the August/September 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.
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