For us, learning how to care for chickens came from lots of research, persistence, plus trial and error. Safe housing came from caring enough to go the extra mile to ensure they have a safe haven. Because of it all, we now consider chickens to be the easiest livestock to raise here on the homestead. Knowledge is power and peace of mind.
There is one thing you must always remember; everything is the chicken’s predator. Everything wants to eat your chickens. Dogs love to chase chickens. And while the dogs are just having fun, their rough play can kill a chicken in a hurry. Raccoons have nimbly little fingers that can unlatch doors and will rip a chicken apart. I know that sounds horrible and trust me it is. They are the worst in my opinion because it’s almost like they just do it for fun. They leave a torn up bird and barely eat any of it. There are possum, fox, and coyote that can climb fences and dig under runs. Hawks, owls, and eagles can swoop down from above and steal away your precious little birds. Why do I tell you all of this? Because the chickens have to be protected. They are a yummy meal for far too many animals and it’s our job to protect them.
How to Pick the Right Chicken Coop
We have had several different types of coops, and when choosing each one the security and the available openings that would allow us to clean the coop easily was a priority. We have never bought a pre-made coop because the security or the space we wanted them to have just wasn’t there.
Our Chicken Keeping Beginning
It all began with 3 little Buff Orpingtons; Honey, Rosie, and Daisy. I felt that these 3 little hens were perfect for just the two of us. So, while they were growing in their brooder, I began searching for the perfect little hen house for us to build. I found just the one after lots of Google and Pinterests searches and it was perfect! Plenty of space for our girls, automatic door, on stilts so we could place their food underneath so it wouldn’t get wet. The run surrounded the hen house. It was 6 feet tall so we could easily walk under it, with 19 gauge hardware cloth 1/2″ for the sides of the run. The cloth ran 2 feet out on the ground to keep those digging critters away. Landscape fabric stakes held it down and eventually the grass grew over it and we could no longer see the hardware cloth. Stretched bird netting over the top of the run and we were good to go.
Note: You never want to put food and water in the hen house because it attracts rodents and such that you really don’t want in there. Rodents will chew on a chicken while they sleep. Doesn’t seem possible does it, but it happens.
How Much Space Do Chickens Need
Per the experts, chickens need one square foot per chicken inside the hen house and three square feet per chicken in the run (outside area). We have always given our chickens much more space than recommended and they have always seemed happy for it. Chickens love to stretch their legs and explore. Even with the extra space we provide them, we alternate our pens and let them free range whenever we’re going to be around to watch out for them.
Time for an Upgrade
The problem with keeping chickens is that there are too many breed/colored eggs to choose from. And some of us have little resistance to the adorable little things. So we needed more space and we’d moved onto an acre of land from a subdivision lot. Perfectly good reason to get more chickens, right?
With this hen house, I was looking for something much more grand with storage space to boot. So we built a 12′ x 12′ hen house with two separate sections inside for the chickens and the floor was covered in linoleum which made it super easy to clean. There were automatic doors which lead out to two 16′ x 24′ runs. Each run had the 19 gauge hardware cloth 1/2″ on the sides and ran out two feet from the side of the run. They were partially covered with a tin roof and the rest of the area was again, covered with bird netting. It was wonderful and beautiful, but it was also expensive to build.
The Danger of Having Chickens
For me, there is only one danger in having chickens; they lead to other animals. While once upon a time I dreamt of a few chickens and a little garden, that dream turned into 45 chickens, 50 quail, 4 goats, and 10 ducks. The garden had stretched across on end of our acre homestead with a little vineyard and several fruit trees had emerged. Plus a cranky neighbor that apparently didn’t have anything better to do than to try and make our lives miserable. Everyone else around there loved our little farm. But we chose to move AGAIN rather than deal with the “neighbor”.
I Can’t Believe We’re Doing This!
This time we moved to 5 acres with everyone around us owning 5 to 20 acres. Just what we needed. But one thing we didn’t need was the expense of a big ole hen house. Plus, we wanted our chickens to have a more natural setting. We wanted them to have fresh grass and bugs and new places to wander. So we got 3 more large dogs to help keep the coyotes and other critters away, put the chickens in a hoop house and surrounded it with 200′ of electric poultry netting. It has worked out beautifully! Every couple of weeks we can pick up the netting and in 10 to 15 minutes we have them moved them to a brand new spot. It gives the grass time to grow back, which it does even better, and the birds move on to newer ground to fertilize. Now we are going to talk about this some more in future posts so be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss it.
If You Have Chickens, You Need a Hoop House
Above, you’ll see a video on how to “build a hoop house”. This is, by far, the easiest and cheapest way to house your birds. It has truly served us well. We originally built it to raise Cornish Cross meat birds, but they’re only around for 8 weeks before heading to freezer camp. Later then it houses extra roosters from our hatches here on the homestead. It has even served as a chicken hospital because when one gets sick, you want it away from the rest of the flock ASAP. Dog crates work well for this too. Our Pekin ducks have a hoop house of their own as well to keep them safe from predators at night. We consider it a blessing and one that everyone needs when raising chickens or ducks.
NOTE: You can have too many roosters. If they grow up together and live in a setting away from the girls, they typically get along.
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Shop this Post:
- 19 Gauge Hardware Cloth 1/2″
- Landscape Fabric Stakes
- Bird Netting
- Linoleum Flooring
- Dog Crate
- Electric Poultry Netting
Find More Helpful Homesteading Links Below:
- How to Create a Garden & Happy Chickens
- How to Know Incubator Reads True
- The Best Meat Chicken to Raise
- How to Homestead an Acre of Land
- Rich, Delicious, & Easy Chicken Stock
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