How to: set up a hen house
Thinking about keeping chooks? Good plan.
But before you put in an order for fluffy little chickens, get the hen house right.
Whether you are choosing a ready-made option, or building your own from new or recycled materials, here’s what you need to know to create a happy home for your hens.
Some very happy hens live in this pretty little house.
Poultry need to be protected from wind, rain, hail, and extreme heat and cold so think about placement of the coop. A position under a deciduous tree with winter sun and summer shade is perfect.
Predators include snakes, foxes, feral cats, goannas and local pets so the coop needs to keep them out. If the floor of the hen house is not solid (cement pavers, concrete, wood) wire should be dug 30cm into the ground around it to prevent anything digging its way in. Heavy gauge aviary wire is needed on the on the coop door and on any windows or ventilation gaps.
And speaking of ventilation, add windows or openings, or leave a gap around the ceiling to allow hot air to escape and draw cool air up from below.
If your birds are not free ranging all the time they’ll need a minimum of one square metre of space per bird in which to get their daily exercise. Check local council regulations. Also provide a roost, no higher than 1m off the ground, as chickens still think they are wild jungle fowl and need to be up off the ground away from danger.
Hens prefer to lay their daily eggs in a secluded cosy spot with ample bedding, so provide a cosy nesting box.
Water containers that cannot be tipped over, soiled or accessed by wild birds are important as fresh clean drinking water is a must. Likewise, a feeder prevents feed getting mixed up with droppings on the floor of the coop. There are many types of feeders available, from simple hanging plastic ones to automated metal versions, which require the chicken to stand on the step in front to open the lid, deterring vermin and wild birds.