There's a few things you'll need to think about before you sort out housing for your chicken. First of all, decide how many chickens you would like, and then be sure you have enough space in your garden for the housing that you're going to need. Don't forget, a chicken will really thrive if it has about one square metre per bird. Can your garden accommodate the size of house and run that you require?
Will you let your chickens run free in your garden or will you keep them in a large run? You will need to secure your garden if they're going to be free range, this will keep them safe and stop any foxes, cats or neighbouring dogs harming you chickens.
What do I need to buy for my chickens?
Once you know that you can happily accommodate the correct size housing for your chickens you will need to get everything ready, so here's a few things you're going to need:
- Chicken coop & run
- Feeder & drinker
- Bedding – soft straw and dust extracted shavings
- Food – growers or pellets
- Scratch foods – mixture of corn
- Grit (essential for your birds digestive system)
- Mite and louse killer
- Treats (in moderation)
- Pet friendly disinfectant
- Nesting baskets.
Inside the chicken coop you will need to add nesting boxes, perches, feeders and drinkers. The floor of the house should be covered in dust extracted shavings or straw. Nesting baskets will need to be provided as your chicken will want to lay her eggs in a safe and secluded area. They are usually about 1ft square, and should be filled with soft straw. Nesting baskets or boxes can have lids on them and this provides easy access when you collect your eggs. You don't need to have a nesting basket for every hen.
Perches will need to be put into the house. Chickens will use the perches to rest on during the day and roost at night. The perches are best to be positioned above the nesting boxes, and any feeders / drinkers kept further away from the perches as they could risk being covered in droppings. People often use a 'droppings board' which sits directly underneath the perches — this makes for easy cleaning and avoids bird droppings messing up anything that would normally be directly below it. The space between the perches needs to be just right so your chickens can access them easily.
Your chickens should be able to get in and out of their coop with ease, so make sure the door is big enough for them to fit through without having to duck their heads. Make sure they are all back in their coop at night-time with the door closed.
It is important that the chicken coop kept is warm, dry, well ventilated and that it provides proper shelter for your chickens when they need to get away from the outdoor weather. Make sure that there's enough space for your chicken to move around and stretch their wings whilst they are in their coop.
Outdoor chicken run or free-range roaming?
When your chickens are allowed access to their run or an area outdoors, ensure that there's plenty of grass for them to roam on, and that they have areas of shade and shelter to protect them from the weather and other animals. Chickens also like to have an area where there's dry soil so they can dust bathe, and food and water must also be provided whilst they are outside.
It is always best to have the biggest run you can accommodate, and keep it safe and strong, with a roof on it so that no predators can reach in and harm your chickens. It is recommended that your chicken run is moved around the garden if possible, so that the chickens have access to good pasture, and this gives time for the old grass to recover from the constant scratching and scraping from the chickens. Your garden will also need to be made safe and secure if you will allow your chickens to move around freely.
Most pet stores will sell chicken coops and enclosed runs, and any with a sturdy wooden frame and strong wiring should do the job of keeping the chickens in and the predators and pests out