Chicken Coop Basics
So You are interested in raising your first flock of chickens? Well before you go out and buy your first chicks, there are a few things you will need to know so you can raise a happy and healthy flock.
Building a safe place for your young chicks to grow into adults is a must as chicks are at higher risk to illness, predators and adverse weather conditions. My family built our chick coops from recycled wooden crates and placed a lid made of chicken wire over the top of it to prevent the birds from hopping out as they age. This also prevents predators from getting inside. To help keep our chicks warm at night we installed a red heat lamp over the top of the wire. You can check to see if your heat lamp is in the right spot by watching the chicks. Are they hugging the wall? Then it is too hot, and the light should be moved up or turned off. Are they all huddled together under the lamp? Then it is too cold, and the bulb should be moved closer. If the chicks are all over the place, then you got the lamp in just the right spot. Here a picture of what that looks like below.
The red heat lamp not only keeps the chickens warm and cozy but it helps to prevent them from pecking each other. Often times, when a chicken is bleeding the other flock members, will peck the wounded bird to death unless it is separated from the main flock. Make sure to check on your chicks often and keep their food and water feeders topped off.
As your chicks get bigger, they are going to need more space to run than their small chick coop. Chickens need at least a 10 square feet area per bird to run around in unless you are choosing to let them be free ranged. I recommend building a medium around 16 square feet coop for sleeping, feeding, and egg laying.
For my coop shown below, I have a large run for my chickens with a water feeder in the middle. The run has a door on the front for access to the run. Whenever my family is working in the yard, we let our chickens out to run around and look for extra food usually bugs and seeds. However, we do not leave they outside without our supervision for the area I live in is populated by hawks and other birds of prey. As for the coop itself, we have a water feeder and feeder just inside the door. Alongside the door is a sleeping rake up off the ground and three nesting boxes. Also to help keep them warm during the winter months, we have a red heat lamp installed. The red light also helps to encourage our birds to lay more eggs. Before I put the lamp in my family was collecting eight eggs a day from our 17 birds. After the lamp was put in, we started getting around a dozen or more every day.
The Daily List
If you are going to be raising chickens, then you need to make sure to check on them every day. Make sure to have their feeders topped off with food and water. Collect any eggs from the nests as a reward for your efforts. Chickens just like us humans poop too and can get sick so keeping the coop as clean as possible is a must. I clean out my coop every week and place down fresh woodchips to keep it nice and clean for my chickens. Chickens spend most of their time outside hunting for food, so it is unnecessary to be cleaning out the coop every day.