So you think you want chickens? You are ready for fresh eggs, meat, and let’s face it, keeping chickens is highly entertaining. Many people get overwhelmed by everything they need to get started. What do I need for my first chicken coop? Well, stop what you’re doing right now and read this! We have compiled a list of all the things you will need when you bring your hens home.
Measure Your Space
By now, you probably already know what types of chickens you want. And you have a good idea of how many you need in your flock. So now it’s time to double-check that you have the room for them. Your chicken coop will need to have at least 3 sqft of space per chicken you have. And if you choose to use a run, you will need an additional 10 sqft per bird.
But don’t forget to cushion your chicken coop size for expansion. The size for 4, 8, or more is vastly different. It’s a waste of money to rebuild every time you grow your flock. Instead, plan on as big as you can go to save time later because this hobby is addicting. Once you have the area measured, you can look for a chicken coop or DIY plans.
Chickens don’t sleep in nests like the cartoons depict. Instead, they like to take refuge elevated on roosts inside the coop. A 2×4 or branch is perfect for most chickens. Just remember that your roost also needs to be long enough. Your chickens will need at least 10 inches of perch per bird to keep them comfy. Most coops will come with these, but it’s always a good idea to measure before buying.
What do I need for my first chicken coop? Whatever you do, don’t forget the nesting boxes. If you let your chickens free-range, they will lay their eggs wherever they see fit. Can you talk about an egg collection nightmare? To prevent this chaos, install at least one nest for every four hens.
Lighting inside the coop isn’t always necessary, but it does have a few purposes. In winter, when it gets dark outside early, the coop light will guide your hens back home. A light is also handy when cleaning out the coop. But it’s important to remember to keep the wattage low. A 25-watt bulb is sufficient for a small chicken coop.
You should know that chickens poop a lot. That chicken coop will get nasty without bedding in the bottom. Using wood shavings, sand, or another type of litter will make cleanup a breeze. And don’t forget to get hay for the nesting boxes to make a soft bottom for your eggs.
Your chicken coop might come with the standard wooden flooring. However, many chicken owners opt to use removable pans or mats to make cleaning up easier. There are even benefits of using wire flooring for smaller chickens. Just remember to choose a flooring that will work well with your preferred bedding.
You don’t want to go out to clean your coop that first time and realize that you don’t have the tools to do it. It would help if you had a variety of cleaning brushes, brooms, rakes, shovels, and an all-natural coop cleaner available at all times. And don’t forget to have a couple of buckets handy too. The simple mop bucket is a homesteader’s best tool.
If you weren’t aware of it already, that manure is like black gold. Don’t forget to get yourself a couple of composters to put all of that used bedding. Before too long, you can have rich compost for your vegetables. Or you can sell it to local gardeners for a little extra cash.
Another great point to consider is preditors. Hawks, raccoons, and snakes are all very common in all areas of the USA. You will need to inspect all areas of the coop and make it as impenetrable as possible. With tools like hardware wire, aviary netting, and motion-sensor floodlights are excellent to ward off preditors.
Ventilation is required for two things, letting out ammonia and keeping the coop cool. You will need to be sure that your chicken coop has plenty of ventilation for both summer and winter. Vents low to the ground let in a nice breeze in summer. Windows and screen front coops are also perfect for hot and humid summers.
But you will need different ventilation during the winter. In winter, your biggest battle will be ammonia and humidity buildup in the coop. So plenty of ventilation along the roof of the chicken coop prevents both of these. They are just high enough not to let a breeze in, and your chickens won’t suffer from frostbite.
Since we are on the topic of winter, now is an excellent time to remind you of insulation. We usually get our chickens in the spring and don’t overthink winter. Some might figure they will get there when they get there. But you should plan ahead on this one. It would be best to insulate the coop when you build it and check it every year after.
Feeders And Waterers
What do I need for my first chicken coop? Whatever you do, don’t forget feeders and waterers. These don’t have to be fancy or even meant for chickens. Many chickens do well with simple pans and bowls. But there is some benefit of having feeders made for chickens. Some of them lock up to prevent vermin, and others keep most of the feed in the feeder. Another essential thing to consider is how cold your winters are. Some of these waterers have attachable heaters.
Most new chicken owners don’t think about storing feed until it’s too late. Chicken feed attracts all types of bugs, rodents, and even stray animals. And when you leave the food out too long, the feed goes stale or molds quickly. To stop all of this from ruining your feed, you will want a food storage container. Something that locks up tight and stores everything well.
So you know to feed your chickens age-appropriate food. But don’t forget to give your hens a fine grit to eat at all times. Chickens don’t have teeth to grind up all of those grains that they eat all the time. Instead, they swallow small bits of rock that sit in their gizzard. Then the gizzard and grit grind the food until it is ready for digestion.
Crushed Oyster Shells
In addition to grit, crushed oyster shells should also be available all the time. Oyster shells are high in calcium, which all hens need to maintain egg production at top-notch. The added calcium helps keep the eggshells firm and well-shaped. It also helps prevent bone density problems and egg binding.
Plants And Herbs
If you live in an urban area, it’s not always possible to let your hens free-range. In those cases, you will need to build a run large enough for your chickens to stretch. But you don’t want to leave this run bare. Instead, you should make a chicken garden in there—lots of chicken-safe flowers, grasses, and herbs. You can even plant fruits and vegetables for your hens to eat. These garden runs give your chickens the freedom to forage and complete their dietary needs.
One handy thing chicken keepers should always have is D.E. You can use Diatomaceous Earth to prevent fleas and mites, repel bugs, and cure intestinal parasites. That’s right. This product is all-natural and perfectly safe for your chickens to eat. Just add a sprinkling of it to the feeders, and spread it around the coop. You won’t have any problems with pests with this stuff around.
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You don’t want to get caught in an emergency without being prepared. Every chicken owner should have a first aid kit at the ready in case of accidents or illness. Keeping a few supplies like:
- Cotton balls/Qtips
- Self-adhesive bandages
- Epsom salt
- Puppy Pads
- And an isolation crate
At the very least, these tools will help you clean up wounds and isolate a sick chicken until the vet can come.
What do I need for my first chicken coop? Well, whatever you do, don’t forget the funds. Start-up costs for chickens aren’t cheap. Some people spend thousands on everything they need. But there are always ways to reduce your costs by DIY projects, buying second-hand, and getting things for free. But even if you cut costs anywhere you can. There are still oddball costs, medical expenses, and repairs. So make sure that you absolutely can afford chickens before starting.
Don’t forget to talk with your neighbors and to check the laws before beginning. Some cities will limit your flock size or require special permits. So before you get started on anything else, you should research your local laws. Plus, it’s common courtesy to warn your neighbors before getting cackling hens.
Now you know everything you need for your first chicken coop. Good luck! And don’t forget to have fun!
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!