There’s no rulebook that will tell you the perfect chookpen design for your home or farm. While the ultimate aim is the have healthy chickens that lay a generous supply of eggs, there’s a lot that goes on in the interim to achieve this final goal. If you’re new to the world of farming and are wondering how to choose the best chook pen design, fret not. Here’s a list of the basic design considerations you must keep in mind to zero down on your ideal chookpen.
Space & Size
Each chicken in a coop requires roughly around 4 square feet of space at the bare minimum. That’s not to say you can’t provide them more than that if your backyard allows you. The more space to run, the happier your flock! Most commercial establishments stuff chickens a plenty in cages. But that’s not going to make a happy bunch of chickens. Space is needed for pasturing, strutting about and more importantly, roosting. Keeping in mind that there is enough place in the chookpen for all these roosting, resting and pasturing ensures you have a happy bunch of chickens. Do keep in mind that their Nesting boxes, roosting space and feeds/water also occupying space. Hence, factor in these areas to give them moving freedom over and above the same.
Plan your chookpen floorspace to include an open-air area covered with a thick mesh sheet to let sunlight in but keep hazards at bay. This space will be the chickens’ favourite area to run around and soak in the sun.
What’s more, chickens multiply quickly. So, if you have a certain number of chickens, factor another half to join the tribe in the coming months. It’s always advisable to go for a slightly larger chookpen than what you think should suffice. That’s primarily because sometimes chickens lay eggs in areas you don’t anticipate, and those may eventually hatch to increase their tribe. So always have space for more than how many are at hand.
Water & Sunlight
Chickens enjoy drinking plenty of water all through the day. Rather than placing a water source in pasture areas or stepping in every now and then with water for them, it would be wise to have a chicken drinker in the coop. Replace the water in it with fresh water every day, especially in summer months as it tends to heat up.
If your chookpen has an outdoor area covered with mesh, that’s one tick off the box. In case it doesn’t, your flock of chickens are going to need plenty of sunlight to maintain good health. It is essential for their body clock and also physical vitality. Open them up to an backyard or a field for few hours in a day for much-needed sunlight.
Protection From Ground-Up Predators
While enclosing your chickens in a safe chookpen is half the job done, there’s more than what meets the eye. Ensure that the windows are always covered with a mesh, even when open. Predators for your chickens don’t just come along by land or by air. There are those that can come from the earth including snakes, rodents and other poisonous reptiles that are a threat to your livestock. There are two ways you can counter this problem. One, opt for an elevated chookpen that stands on stilts few inches about ground level. If that’s not practical, place multiple layers of thick rubber mats along the entire floor of the chookpen over which you can lay a generous bedding of sand or straw. This design tweak ensures your flock is safe from threats that surface from underground tunnels.
You do need to step into the coop to manage water and chicken feeds and even conduct an overall sanctity check at least once a day. Create a doorway at the back that lets you slip in and out without disturbing your flock. Close to this entryway you may have a small slotting place to store their dietary essentials that you can just grab and fill every day.
You should also be able to access their roosting spot, as that’s where you will find the most amount of droppings. It is going to demand a lot of your attention from cleaning perspective. Ideally, you can place some sheets of paper or straw at the floor of the rooster that will need replacing every few days. Make enough room for yourself to manoeuvre this rotation comfortably.
Dedicated Nesting Area
Give your chickens a comfortable nook to lay their eggs and nest. Ideally, some nesting boxes that have external access would be ideal, as it makes egg collection on a daily basis a lot easier. Know that your chickens may fight each other for their favourite spots, which may well be a far reach from the Nesting boxes you invest in. Nonetheless, Nesting boxes make egg collection easier and are a wise addition to your chookpen design.
It is in the nature of birds to roost at a height from ground level. This gives them a sense of security about being away from predators. So if you’re buying a coop, setting a roosting area around 12 to 18 inches above ground level should be a safe bet. Also, we’re looking at least a foot of space on the roosting platform per chicken. Ideally a square or rectangular board is a safe bet as a roosting platform.
While ventilation in the chookpen is critical to the health of your chickens lungs, they also need warmth when they are roosting. The warmer the roosting area is, the better they’re rested. A sure-shot way to ensure this is not placing any windows at the roosting level in your chookpen. Let the windows be at eye level, as a good means of monitoring your chickens will giving them the ventilation they need.
Choosing a chookpen is no rocket science, yet there are many considerations to be taken into account to get those fascinating little creations comfortable and in the pink of health. We have filled you in on everything you need to know. Happy farming!