- Guide to Designing the Perfect Chicken Coop –
une série de vidéos sur les poules ici par Joe Salantin et al.
Guide to Designing the Perfect Chicken Coop –
- Shade – Extreme heat is a bigger problem than extreme cold (except for birds that are not cold hardy), and a shady spot for the birds is absolutely essential. Our chicken coop is under a large deciduous tree, which I consider ideal for our Massachusetts climate of moderately hot summers and cold winters. It’s shaded in summer and exposed to sunlight in winter.
- Drainage – Mud is not a healthy substrate for chickens, so be sure that they will never be forced to stand in it. Choose your site accordingly.
- Space – Chickens do best with plenty of indoor space and outdoor space, so choose a site where you can fit a spacious coop and run. More on that below.
- Convenience – You will have to tend to your birds all year round, no matter how rainy, cold, windy, or snowy. You won’t want to shovel a 100 foot path to the coop. With the coop conveniently located, the daily care can be a pleasure rather than a chore.
- Most chickens don’t enjoy snow, ice, high winds, or extreme heat, and often choose to stay indoors in such conditions. Plan their indoor space accordingly. They may have to endure several months of confinement, and that can be a set up for boredom related problems like feather picking.
- Some sources advise a tighter coop, to hold body heat when chickens huddle together to keep warm during winter. That’s a poor strategy. As long as your coop is not drafty, and you keep winter hardy breeds with small, thick combs, they will have no trouble keeping warm and will be at minimal risk for frostbite. It’s not a good idea to keep less hardy breeds and rely on huddling for warmth. Read here about how much space wild jungle fowl, the chicken’s wild relative, prefer.
- Factor in space for a feeder, waterer, dust bath, and nest boxes.
- The coop should be tall enough to not become buried in snow.
- I highly recommend a coop that is tall enough for YOU to enter. That way, you can experience the conditions as the chickens experience them. Is the coop so dusty that it’s hard to breathe? Does it smell of ammonia? Is it drafty? If you can stand inside the coop, you will know what can be done to make their home more healthful.
- Make it large enough for flock expansion if there is any chance of that. Egg production gradually diminishes with the hen’s age, so you may want a few new hens every few years.
Be sure that whatever you buy or build can stand up to severe storms. Those cheap little chicken coop kits are awfully cute, but rather flimsy. Let’s put it this way: The corrugated plastic roof of our first coop blew off in a storm.
Think about where you might store the feed, the bucket and poop scooper, etc. The little storage room off our coop is a tremendous convenience.
to heat the drinking water during cold spells and run a lamp to extend the daylight
Best is a deep litter: the roosts, nests are like 1-1|2′ higher off the ground, so you can just put more leafs or straw as the litter gets saturated; empty it 2x during winter
- Length – A minimum of 8 inches per full sized chicken (less for bantams) is often recommended. However, it’s wise to be much more generous with roosting space, so bottom of peck order chickens can avoid bullies. Further, chickens like to spread themselves out on hot summer nights. Once again, more space is always better.
- Width – An oft quoted rule of thumb is that roosting bars should be no less than 2 inches wide for full-sized chickens. Tree branches make a beautiful roost, but when fresh, the rough edges can predispose to bumblefoot and provide hiding spots for mites. When smooth and worn, chickens may have difficult gripping branches. Flat boards reduce the chances of all of those problems, as long as they’re sanded to eliminate sharp edges.
- Location – Make the lowest roosting bar no more than 18 inches off the ground for heavy breeds which cannot fly well. They will hop-fly up to the higher bars. Make sure there is plenty of horizontal space between the bars, so chickens won’t be pooping on the birds beneath them.
Many people keep a droppings board or poop hammock under the roost, for easy clean up. We don’t have one, but it’s on our to-do list.
Hens will lay their eggs on the floor if you do not provide nesting boxes, but the eggs may become soiled, buried in the litter, or trampled (which can lead to egg eating). Hens prefer properly placed, comfortable nest boxes to the floor. Here are some considerations:
- Number – Many sources suggest 1 nest box for every 4-5 hens, but I suggest at least one for every 3 hens. It’s nice if the bottom of peck order birds can avoid aggressive individuals.
- Location – Place the nest boxes in the darkest part of the coop, for hens instinctively seek a quiet location with good cover for laying.
- Size – This will depend on the breeds you keep. For full sized, dual purpose breeds like Wyandottes, a typical size would be 12-14 x 12-14 x 12-14 inches. Smaller is okay for bantams, and larger is necessary for huge breeds, like brahmas. Smaller birds will use nesting boxes designed for larger birds as long as they are in dark area. Mine are sized for full sized birds, but my bantams use them.
- Roof – This should have a steep pitch, to discourage birds from resting and pooping on top.
- Lip – A lip on the lower part of the nest box entry will keep the eggs and litter from falling out. Ours have a 4 inch lip, as you can see in the photo.
- Perch – It’s nice if there’s an easy landing/grabbing spot for hens.
- Curtains – Some people place burlap (or fancier) curtains in front of the nesting boxes to create a sense of safety for the hens. But if your boxes are well designed and well placed, the hens will use them without curtains. Another use for a curtain is to close off the nestboxes just before the hens go to roost. That way, they won’t sleep and poop inside the boxes. But I let them sleep there if and when they want to. Bottom of peck order birds sometimes sleep in the box to avoid bullies. To keep boxes clean, I scoop poop from the boxes once a day. The minute it takes is time well spent, I believe, to allow the birds the choice.
Chicken runs, pens, and yards
Chickens are curious, active creatures which enjoy a varied diet of plants, insects, and small animals. They just love to find their own food, even if commercial feed is always available (as it should be). But on the other hand, true free ranging is a set up for predator problems. A safer approach is to compromise and provide an enclosed run or fenced yard.
- Enclosed runs should be predator proofed with, for example, 1/2-inch hardware cloth. To exclude digging predators, extend fencing 18-24 inches underground, or place an 18-24 inch skirt of hardware cloth on the ground all around the run. To exclude climbing and aerial predators, the run needs hardware cloth (or other protection) on the top, as well. You might also consider a roof that keeps out rain and snow. If you have bears in the area, run electric wires around the runs to deter them. We have electric wires around the entire set-up. I have two runs, and the chickens get much more use out of the one covered with corrugated plastic, because they can use it during rainy or snowy conditions. For details on predator proofing your coop and run, read here.
- Fenced yards large enough to provide a diversity of plant life make for happy chickens (read here about creating an excellent chicken habitat). Choose fencing based on your needs. Our 4 ft fence contains our chickens, but they have plenty of space. Birds kept at higher density may fly a 4 ft fence for greener pastures, so a height of 5 ft is recommended. Chickens in a fenced yard will be particularly vulnerable to birds of prey, so you should provide trees or shrubs for cover, and some sort of deterrence. A guard dog may help. Our chicken yard is near the vegetable garden where we work, and it’s visible from the house. So, we almost always see predators and call the chickens to safety before its too late.
Chickens will create dust bathing areas wherever they have access to the ground, but it’s a good idea to provide a box of sandy soil for dust bathing inside the coop. They will appreciate it when they cannot go outdoors, and when the ground is covered with snow.
- Damerow, G. 1995. A Guide to Raising Chickens. Storey Communications, Inc. Pownal, VT.
- How to Design Your Chicken Run
- Rossier, J. 2002. Living with Chickens. The Lyons Press. Guilford, CT.
Wild Birds and Chickens Don’t Mix
The solution is CDs and baling twine. It looks bizarre, but it works! Within 24 hours of me hanging my CD/twine contraptions, the sparrows were gone. And they didn’t come back.
Put your chicken to work
Put them in the garden.
Let your girls scratch and peck their way through your planting areas before you plant your crops. They’ll help eliminate pests in the soil and quickly knock down the weeds, making garden prep easier on your back. And if you’re planning to add any natural amendments to the soil—manure, compost, blood meal—sprinkle it on the ground before you move the girls in and they’ll distribute it for you.
Let them work your compost.
If you’ve had a compost pile for any amount of time, you know how it teems with bugs and grubs (and here in Hawaii, cockroaches — ick). It’s a veritable chicken buffet! Those creepy crawlers are a great natural source of protein for the girls. And in their efforts to find those delicious little nibbles, they’ll scratch through your pile, helping to break it down even faster.
Have them shred for you.
Chickens confined to one area can still be a big help in your gardening system. When the garden generates lots of leaves and small trimmings, instead of putting them in the compost pile, toss some into the chicken pen and let your girls go to town.
Let them tackle tough yard areas.
This is something we’re working on right now. We have an area of very aggressive grass with lots of clumping roots that we need to eliminate.
Turn kitchen waste into eggs.
It’s good to be reminded once in awhile that through the miracle of Mother Nature, they’re transforming waste into something edible in a single step. You could compost those scraps, but by feeding them to the chickens, you save on feed and get an egg for the breakfast table the next morning.
1$ DIY chicken feeder and waterer
When you ferment the chicken food, the feed becomes more nutritious and consequently chicks eat less!
Here is how: The good news is that lacto-fermentation will just happen if you just add water.
If you are the anxious type and really want to get the probiotics marching about the feed sooner, you can add a starter culture such as:
· 1+ Tbsp. juice from raw lacto-fermented pickles or sauerkraut
· 1+ Tbsp. cultured buttermilk (the cultured stuff will have nice shoes and an expensive haircut)
· Whey from cheese made with a mesophillic culture
· A mesophillic starter culture for cheese-making
You need a non-metal container. Acids from fermentation can react with metal and leave bad things in your chickens’ dinner, so use plastic, glass or lead-free ceramic crocks. Be sure to get a BIGGER container than you think you will need (Bucket).
- Put 2-3 days worth of feed in your container of choice
- Cover the feed with water (you should have a few centimeters (at least an inch) of water above the level of the feed); If you want to use a starter, go ahead and toss it in there right away. Expect the feed to expand (water retention will do that to the best of us… just ask my favorite jeans) so check the feed about an hour later and add more water if necessary. That extra few inches of water above the level of the feed will prevent mold from growing on the feed and will allow the lacto-fermentation process to start… processing…
- Cover your container with a towel or a loosely-fitted cover to allow for the off-gassing that happens with the fermentation process.
That’s it! You can start feeding the wet feed right away. Just add more water and dry feed each time you take some out and be sure to stir the mixture well each time. In about 3 days the feed will start to smell a bit tangy like sourdough, sauerkraut or pickles.
Sprouting chicken feed
A « sprout » consists of a seed that is just beginning to grow a small root. This is what I call the « short tail stage ». Fodder is continuing to allow the sprouts to grow until they reach the « grass stage. »
- Put as many seeds you want to sprout into the strainer(s)
- Put the strainer(s) in the large bowl(s) and cover with water. Let soak overnight.
- Drain off the water in the morning by lifting the strainer out of the bowl. Dump out the water left in the bowl, then rinse the seeds by running water over them from the faucet and shake out the excess water into the sink.
- Put a canning jar ring in the bottom of the empty bowl and set the strainer with the seeds on top of it. This lifts up the strainer and allows room for any moisture to drain from the strainer while keeping the seeds from sitting in the water below. (If you don’t have a jar ring, get creative and find something to use that you DO have! The goal is to allow the strainer to drain without having the seeds sitting in water in the bottom of the bowl.) Keep the bowl in an area where it won’t receive direct sunlight. Sometimes I just put a paper towel over the top to keep out excessive light.
- One or 2 times daily, lift the strainer out of the bowl and rinse under cold water from the faucet. Then either toss the seeds around a bit in the strainer (like tossing a pizza dough) or give them a little stir with your hand and replace the strainer back in the bowl on the ring. (The rinsing and tossing or stirring with your hand is important. This will keep any molds from growing in your seeds.)
- Repeat step 5 for 2-3 days (until short root tails appear on the seeds).
- Feed by tossing on the ground. Chickens are designed to peck and scratch for their food on the ground. They love the treasure hunt!
- 2 cups scratch grains, or any mix of whole grains that you have hanging around
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries
- 1/2 cup crushed eggshells or oyster shell
- 4 eggs + shells, crushed
- 3/4 molasses
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, tallow, or lard
- Prenez deux sauts (Tim Hortons).
- Collez du fil pour chauffer des tuyaux autour du fond du saut intérieur. Appliquez un isolant à bulles (chez Rona: Isolant pour chauffe-eau).
- Percez des trous et installez des poultry-nipples (ebay)
Vous pouvez aussi juste isoler un seau bas (ou autre contentant en plastique), le brancher et remplir d’eau.
Soigner et protéger vos poules
infusion de mélisse et de thym; vous pouvez également introduire
une gousse d’ail hachée dans la nourriture de vos poules.
Gale des pattes
vous pouvez utiliser de l’huile de cade ou de la vaseline à tamponner sur la patte affectée
l’huile essentielle de thym est efficace et agit rapidement. Vous pouvez également macérer dans un seau de 1L d’eau 200g oignons et 1 gousse d’ail. Couvrez hermétiquement le seau pour que le mélange fermente. Au bout de 15 jours, prenez 2 à 3 cuillerées à soupe de la préparation. Diluez-les dans un litre d’eau et
donnez la préparation à vos poules. Cette astuce naturelle évite la contagion de l’affection.
vous pouvez également essayer le mélange d’ail, de thym et de romarin. Celui-ci empêche l’implantation des coccidies.
Identify chicken who do not lay eggs
- Feathers. The feathers of a productive laying hen should be dirty, worn, and ragged looking, since this hens is concentrating her energy on producing eggs and not on preening and replacing her dirty feathers.
- Combs and wattles. A non-producing hen will have a scaly, pale, and shriveled comb and wattle, while a good layer will have waxy, full, bright red ones.
- Carriage. A good layer will be alert to her surroundings and not be listless and lazy. Her eyes will be bright and she should be relatively active (such as scratching in the litter, running around with her companions, etc.).
- Skin. Depending on when you check, and what breed of chicken you are looking at, a hen’s skin on the feet should be bleached, while non-layers will have dark-pigmented skin (yellow).
- Vent. Her vent (where the egg comes out, and also her droppings) is large and moist; her abdomen is large and soft, and the pubic bones are wide apart (at least 3 fingers wide). Space between the vent and the keel (4 fingers).