Chickens are one of the most rewarding animals to raise on the farm. They are also, in my opinion, the easiest animal to care for. All they need is a good shelter, clean water, and nutritious food. Well maybe they need a little more than that but if you can care for a cat, you can care for a chicken. To help you in your farm journey I thought I would share some of my chicken coop essentials with y'all.
First thing you need is a good, predator-proof coop. The coop is their home, so make sure you have enough room for you flock. You should have about 4 square feet/bird in the coop. The more room you can have, the better. The coop will also need roosting bars. These are elevated areas where the chickens can sleep at night, or nap during the day. The roosting bars can be made of anything really. We created ours using branches from around the farm. We want to allow plenty of room for our girls and Snowy to rest.
Predator-proofing is an absolute essential. For our coop, we dug a small trench around the perimeter and put down some hardwire cloth. This helps deter any predators from digging a hole into the coop. The hardwire cloth is buried in the ground but also extends about 1-2 feet above ground to create a safe barrier for those unwanted pests. Chicken wire is great, but many critters can push their way through or just reach through and cause devastating damage to your flock.
Your coop will also need doors and latches. This may sound elementary but trust me. A small door for your chickens to go into the run and a large door for you to enter the coop. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to clean a coop that you can't enter. So if you are building a coop, make sure you can easily access the interior. Latches are important so the doors can be securely shut and keep your chickens safe. Fair warning... make sure you can open the latches from the inside of the coop too. Calling your neighbor to let you out of your coop is always a fun time.
Nesting boxes. You must have nesting boxes otherwise your girls will find creative places to lay eggs. The rule of thumb is 1 nesting box for every 4-5 hens. I have seen some very innovative nesting boxes. Repurposed dressers, 5- gallon buckets, tires, totes, and almost anything else. You can be very experimental with this and it doesn't have to cost you anything. The size is not standard, they just need to be big enough for a chicken to fit, so about 1 square foot.
Having a secure run is also essential. I love free-ranging our chickens, but there are times when I don't want them out in the yard. This is where the run comes in. Think of the run like a playground. This is where they can hang out, eat, play, or dust-bathe. The run should be about 6-8 square feet/bird. This area should be fenced in and, if desired, can have a roof. Our run has a swing, a few branches for them to climb on, and a small covered area for shade. You want your birds to feel safe but not be bored. And yes, chickens do get bored. Providing some fun obstacles or swings is a great way to entertain them in the run.
Now that you have your coop and run, all you need is clean water and food. Chickens can get messy and their water bowls get dirty quick. We have changed out the chicken waterers a few times, and may change them again in the future. Finding what works for you and your chickens can be a trial and error process. Our chickens didn't like the nipple waterers. The cup waterers were better, but the valves would break or leak. We eventually switched to a gravity fed waterer and it has been much better. We do deal with some algae build up and they can be a little difficult to clean, but overall they are better. We are still researching a better watering system but for now the gravity fed waterer is the best for us.
Just like the watering system, we have gone through a few different feeding methods. We finally settled on the PVC pipe feeders. It keeps the feed off the ground, decreased waste, and is so much cleaner. Jordan assembled our feeder system in just a few hours and it has been the best decision ever. The type of feed you choose for your flock is totally up to you, just do your research. Your local hometown farm stores are also a great place to ask questions about feed.
The most essential thing of all is an emergency kit. Chickens can get injured or sick and you have to be there to help them. Our emergency kit includes Blu Kote wound spray, Vetericyn poultry spray, vitamins & electrolytes, liquid dropper, epsom salt, gauze pads, self-adhesive bandages, and disposable gloves. This is not an exhaustive list but it is a good start.
If you have all this, then you are ready to be an awesome chicken mama, or daddy. If you have any specific questions about chickens, I am happy to help. You can either leave a comment below or contact me here.
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