New to the idea of keeping poultry, it’s natural to wonder what should be inside a chicken coop. After all, unless you have friends or family that keep chickens, you don’t get to see what’s inside. All chickens need to be happy and comfy in their home if you want them to lay regularly and maintain their health. If you’re setting up a chicken coop for the first time, this article is written for you.
8 Things That Should Be Inside A Chicken Coop Before You Get Laying Chickens
1. A Roosting Perch For the Chickens
Chickens rest and sleep better in the air and providing them with a roost is important. In the wild, a chicken would sleep off the floor to protect themselves against predators. Of course, this is not necessary in a secure coop, but they prefer to sleep in this manner and it does help to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease.
The ideal chicken roosting perch construction material is wood rather than PVC or metal. The roost should be installed at a higher point than the nesting box because a chicken will always seek the highest perch when they want to sleep. Building a sturdy roost that can accommodate all your chickens should be the top priority in your chicken coop.
2. Chicken Coop Nesting Boxes
The nesting boxes need to be a comfortable and quiet place for the chickens to lay their eggs. These boxes should be kept as dark as possible and they should be installed at a lower point than the roosting perch discussed earlier. This prevents the chickens from pooping in them. The number of boxes that you need will vary, but as a general rule you need 4-5 chickens for each nesting box.
The boxes should be lined with dry bedding, such as: chopped straw or wood shavings. Regular bedding changes are essential to prevent the buildup and spread of harmful bacteria. Chickens prefer to nest and lay their eggs in softer bedding, but they don’t stay in the boxes for too long. The sole purpose of a nesting box is to provide a secure location for a chicken to lay eggs.
3. Air Quality in the Coop
The air quality in the coop is important to keep the birds healthy, happy and productive. The primary cause of poor air quality is ammonia released from the birds feces and this can degrade the birds health if it reaches high levels. The best way to improve the air quality is to provide adequate ventilation to remove the contaminated air. The vents need to be positioned to vent the air at the top of the coop without making the coop cold and drafty.
4. Litter Trays under Chicken Perch
All chickens poop as they sleep and a litter tray placed under the roost is a great way to make the clean up easier. The feces should be removed frequently to control the ammonia levels and to promote a healthier environment. Daily chicken poop removal is a breeze if you’ve installed litter trays and they need to be cleaned on a weekly basis. Pull out the tray, scrape the feces on your compost pipe, replace it and you’re done. This takes a few minutes and it can be incorporated into your morning egg gathering.
5. Lighting in the Chicken Coop
If your chickens are going to spend a lot of time in the coop, it’s important to provide adequate lighting. The reproductive cycle of a chicken is regulated by natural light changes and they may stop laying if there is insufficient light. The best way to let natural light into the coop is to add some windows. During the colder months, using a yellow artificial light during the day can help to compensate for fewer daylight hours. Keeping a light on at all times is a bad idea because this will also interfere with a normal reproductive cycle.
6. Food and Water Feeders for the Coop
Providing sufficient food and water to keep your chickens healthy in the coop is extremely important. The feeders and drinkers need to be kept apart from the roost to prevent contamination from poops when the chickens are roosting. They can be kept off the ground by a few inches to prevent bedding gathering around them when the chickens scratch the ground.
The feeders and drinkers need to be kept clean, they should be accessible at all times and well-stocked with healthy food and clean water. If a chicken is underfed or partially dehydrated it will be more prone to disease. This will threaten the health of the entire brood and you will notice that they are less productive too.
7. Supply of the Correct Chicken Feed
Before Bringing your chickens home you will need a supply of the right feed. For Laying hens you will need a good quality layer feed. You can choose from organic and non organic layer feed depending on your preference. Feeding your laying hens that correct feed will supply them with the nutrients to keep them healthy and laying flavor filled eggs.
Also, you will need to have a grit which they need to help their digestion. The Grit will need to be in its own feeder so the hens will peck at it when needed.
8. Dust Bath Area
A dust bath is an area of loose soil, that the chickens use to cover themselves and roll around in the soil. As the word implies a dust bath keeps your chickens clean and free of parasites. It also keeps your chickens cool in summer and is a social activity for the flock.
A Shopping List for Things You Need To Get For Your Chickens
Now that you have a better understanding on what should be inside a chicken coop here’s a helpful shopping list for all the things you need to get started:
- A roosting perch.
- Nesting boxes and liners.
- Wood shavings or chopped straw bedding.
- A chicken waterer filled with clean water.
- A chicken feeder filled with healthy food.
- A dust bath box.
- A yellow artificial light for winter (northern hemisphere).
- A lighting timer.
- A bird bath water deicer for winter.
Conclusion-Inside A Chicken Coop
Now you know what should be inside a chicken coop, it’s a good idea to know what you shouldn’t put in there. Placing cedar and pine shavings in a coop is a widespread practice, but there is some evidence that they are toxic for chickens. Pine shavings contain abietic acid, which causes damage to the respiratory system of chickens. Pine dust is a known carcinogenic, short-term exposure isn’t much of a problem, but long-term exposure can cause: mild illness, severe illness, and even fatalities. If you’re setting up a chicken coop, stick to the advice in this article, and your birds will be happier, healthier, and more productive.