Raising Chickens Part 3: A Beginner’s Guide to Providing 3 Basic Needs for Your Flock
Providing Shelter: The Chicken Coop
The perfect coop for your chickens can be made out of anything that provides secure, enclosed protection. You may upcycle something you have around the house that you no longer use, such as a child’s play house. We used an existing outdoor shed, painted it red with white trim and it looks like a miniature barn. Our chickens love it!
If you are converting an existing shed, toy or other structure into a coop, be sure to board up existing openings or cover them with screen. Openings will let chickens escape, obviously, but more importantly and unfortunately, allows predators a way in. Do not use chicken wire (how ironically named!) as the holes are large enough for the paws of some predators to reach through.
Plus, think about protection from the extremes – from super hot summers to harsh winters. Air needs to circulate in the summer and sufficient shelter from freezing temperatures is necessary in the winter.
In my opinion, though, protection from predators is your number one concern. Some, like hawks, can fly down and carry a chicken away. Others, reach into openings. We had a raccoon open the small coop door and kill several of our chickens. (We now have it clasped shut at night with a lock.) To be safe, first think like a predator — how could you get in? — then secure all openings and doors as best as you can.
In the end, know that you are bound to lose a chicken or a few. It’s just a fact of life. If you have room and a big enough coop, allow for some loss and get more chickens than you think you’ll need. There’s a learning curve, too, and we made a few unfortunate mistakes which led to a decreased flock in our first year. We went from hatching and purchasing around 40 chickens our first spring down to a flock of 13 exactly one year later.
Now, so not to end on a discouraging note I’ll add chickens are a blast! In the whole scheme of things, they are pretty easy to take care of and there’s nothing like fresh eggs to add to your favorite batter or whip up a delightful omelette. At the end of the day, rest easy knowing you are providing a nice life for a fun flock. They will thank you in return with many of those delicious eggs and hours of entertaining Chicken TV.