In addition to gardening, our family also raises chickens. They are so fun for the kids and we love having a constant supply of fresh and delicious eggs! I won’t go into all of the reasons we decided to keep chickens in my post today, but if you are interested in starting your own coop for the new year, I will give you the low-down on the basic things you’ll need to get started! And FYI: chicks are usually only available in feed stores in the spring time, so if you want chickens in 2015, build your coop now!
Essential Chicken Needs: water, food, nesting area, roosting area, space.
There are a number of different ways to supply your chickens with water. Some people swear by chicken nipples but we had heard mixed reviews on them from various friends, so we opted for an automatic watering bowl. We purchased ours at our local feed store and we couldn’t be happier with it. Here is a similar one available on-line. You simply hook it up to a nearby hose bib, turn the water on low, and the bowl stays full. We have to rinse it out and clean it about once a week, but that is so much easier than filling it up two to three times every day. Also, we keep our water away from the food so that the chickens do not get their food in the bowl. So far, so good!
In addition to an automatic water-er, we also have an automatic feeder. My super handy husband made ours out of PVC pipe! A quick trip to the hardware store for supplies and we had a feeder in no time! For instructions on how to make your own, click here. To fill up the feeder, you simply remove the top cap, pour in the feed, and your chickens will have food available to them for quite some time!
In addition to our chickens’ normal feed (we currently feed them Layer Crumble), we also occasionally give them chicken scratch as well as all table scraps we have in the house. They LOVE table scraps. I simply collect our discarded or leftover food in an old butter tub throughout the day and then take it out for the chickens in the morning. It is so satisfying knowing that no food is being thrown into the trash can any more.
When we first built our coop, all of our chicken feed was being stored in our garage which is quite a distance from our coop. To make things easier for us, we picked up a metal trash can from Home Depot and now keep all of our chicken supplies in there. No more running back and forth and we don’t have to worry about other animals getting into it.
Hens need somewhere to make a nest and lay their eggs. From what we have read, each nesting box can handle between 3-5 laying hens. We have plenty of room so we went ahead and got 6 nesting boxes. We purchased ours from a local man who makes and sells them on Craigslist. He is close and he is cheap. We figured we probably couldn’t build them for as little as he was charging. Score!
You can make nesting boxes out of many things, but definitely check Craigslist to see if you can find someone nearby who is selling them for cheap. If you are a West-sider, chances are you will find my guy on there!
Besides a place to nest, chickens also need a place to sleep. They like to sleep as high as possible, so an elevated area provides them a great place to settle down at night. Jake built our roost out of scrap materials that a friend gave us when he was done with a shed-building project. The chickens all knew right where to go on their first night in the coop and settled in nicely.
Jake also cut out a flap in the wall right behind the upper deck of the roost to provide a breeze for the chickens on hot nights. And in Arizona, we have plenty of hot nights. It’s super simple, with two hinges on the bottom and a rectangular piece of wood at the top that swivels to lock it in place when it is closed.
Chicken coops vary widely in size and design, but if you have these essential needs, you will be ready to go! As far as space is concerned, you just don’t want to have too many chickens in too tight of a space. Give them room to have personal space and if you are able, let them free range sometimes! Good luck and enjoy the fun!