Chickens are great animals to have as pets and part of the family. But to bring them into your life, you’ll have to make sure that you have the proper habitat (coop and run) for your chickens first.
Size: One of the first things you want to consider will be the size of the coop and enclosure. How many chickens are you planning on adopting at first? Sometimes it’s best to start with only a few, and then move up after a couple of months after you know what you’re getting yourself into. If this is the case, make sure to build the enclosures large enough at first, so that you will not have to spend more money later on. A more cheap and convenient way about going this is keeping the habitats large enough in the first place, so that if you do decide to throw in more chickens later, the coop and run will already be big enough to accommodate the newcomers, and if you don’t decide to get new birds, then at least there is enough room for the first animals.
Starting with each bird, you’ll want to make sure that there is at least an area of four square feet within the coop between each individual. Enough space is a great precaution in case the chickens end up pecking at one another; these birds are usually gentle and social, but they have their own hierarchies and can get territorial as well.
As for the size of the chicken run, you’ll want to keep at least seven to eight square feet for each bird, this way all of them can forage nicely. It’s not recommended to make anything smaller than that, as chickens need enough space to run around and scratch at the earth.
Location: Once you have the size planned out and how many birds you will start with, then go ahead and choose an area in the yard to place the coop and run. Because chickens can get sick if they are continuously out in the sun, it’s best to choose an area that has some shade and cover; however, they will need at least some sunlight that is indirect, especially during the colder seasons. It’ll also be easier for yourself when building or putting up the enclosures if you choose a flat piece of land to start with. Keep in mind that the coop shouldn’t have any gaps or holes that could otherwise case nippy blasts of wind; chickens don’t do good when it comes to drafts, although you will want to make sure that there is also enough ventilation. If you choose an area with trees or some kind of cover, this will offer shade on sunny days, as well as protection during rainy days for the birds.
Once the coop is up, build the run right outside of, or enclosing the coop. There are many hungry predators who would love to have chicken for dinner (hawks, eagles, foxes, coyotes, etc.) so the run should have a fenced roof, and either make sure that the fence itself is staked several inches beneath the ground, or that you put the chickens away at night.
The Coop: The coop should have both shutting and locking doors, as this is safer putting the birds away at night and letting them out in the morning (unless like I said, you already have the run’s fences staked underground). It’s easiest for you to have at least two different doors, this way there are more ways to get into the coop when it comes to cleaning and collecting eggs.
Inside the coop there should be enough room not only for the birds themselves, but for water dishes and feeders. Spreading out hay and straw inside isn’t a bad idea to help soak up any scat, and to add to nesting boxes. Nesting boxes are yet another thing to keep in mind for the coop. There should be at least one box for every three chickens or so to lay eggs.
At night, the chickens will go into the coop to sleep, and this is why you’ll want to put in perches for the birds. These perches can be as simple as wooden boards (skinny enough for their claws to wrap around) that go across the innards of the coop. Just make sure that the perches are not over any of the water or food dishes.
Chickens are wonderful animals, and any experienced chicken owner (including myself) will claim that they are entertaining, funny, and just part of the family once you get to know them. Plus there are many other benefits when it comes to having chickens, like your own organic eggs. Of course, it all starts with the way you raise them, which includes the proper habitat.
My Pet Chicken