Chickens are very inquisitive birds and often have their own quirky characters, with many owners regarding them as a part of the family. Here are some tips on how to get your garden or small-holding ready for chickens.
Creating the right environment for your chickens
Your chickens will need a generous outdoor space to allow them to express their natural behaviours. These include digging, scratching, running, stretching up, bathing in dust, roosting and preening. Make sure their environment helps them feel safe and secure, adapts to the seasons and is easy to clean.
Give your chickens a predator-proof run or free-range space in the daytime – but shut them away in a secure coop at night to protect them from predators such as foxes, stoats and rats. Ideally, connect the run and coop or position the coop inside the run.
Coops and runs for chickens
Runs and coops can be purchased or homemade. Either way, it’s important they’re sturdy, safe and secure for your chickens all year round.
Make sure all doors, lids and nest boxes have sturdy bolts on them rather than easy- to-open latches that a predator or young child could open.
Often, low-cost pet shop or internet coops are made with thin, flimsy wood and usually fall apart within a year or so. When choosing your shed or coop, make sure it’s well built, and well ventilated, without allowing the area to become damp.
If your coop and run are wooden, paint them with pet-friendly paint or a safe creosote substitute to deter red mite infestation. These blood-feeding critters live in cracks and crevices in chicken houses.
What size coop do I need for chickens?
The ideal sizes we recommend for a group of three chickens to sleep and move around comfortably are:
- Coop: Four feet by three feet for three hens
Run: Ideally, chickens should be free-range, but if they need to be in a run, we recommend no less than 10 feet by 5 feet for three birds.
You will need one nest box per hen and enough perches for them all to roost on. These can be long enough for several chickens to be on at once, so you may only need a few.
If your chickens won’t have access to their coop in the day, provide some shade and shelter in their open areas or runs to protect them from the weather. Nest boxes, parasols and garden chairs all provide good shade and shelter.