In a previous post, we determined how many hens we required to meet a set egg production goal in a week. A key to reaching any egg goal is to provide an environment conducive to egg laying. So this post is just a shotgun brainstorm on some of the critical parameters we’ll have to take into account for building the coop.
How many nest boxes?
As a rule of thumb, you should provide 1 nest box for every 4 hens. You’ll want them in a darker spot in the coop, that does not have a lot of traffic.
How much roosting bar space?
Generally, you can provide about 12″ of space per bird, although they can and do cuddle up closer than that. You’ll want to keep the space between the bars about 2 feet apart.
How large should the hen house be?
If you are in a warmer climate, you can get by with 2 SQ/FT per bird, because they will only be using the space to lay and roost. In colder climate, where the hens will spend part or all of the winter in the hen house, you should start at 4 SQ/FT and go up in space from there.
How big should I make the run?
The figure that gets thrown out a lot is 10 SQ/FT per hen. I’d prefer to think of it as about 3 feet by 3 feet of space per hen. I am not too worried about going down all the to 5 SQ/FT per bird if you are going to let them free range in the afternoon (more on why that is a good idea in a future post). If you are going to free range during all daylight hours, then you’re fine with just the hen house, but note that you will have to let them out every day and lock them up every day that the weather permits ranging.
Where do I put the water and food?
Both in the hen house and in the run. You never want your hens to run out of water.
Where do I put my coop?
You’ll want the morning sun to start the hens up, so have the entrance and/or a window facing east. Shade and trees are good for the hens (especially if you’re going to let them range at all). The area should not flood when it rains. Level ground will make construction easier, but it is not necessary. Follow your county’s codes, and you’ll be set.
These are some of the primary concerns to take into account when you’re planning a coop. You’ve now got an idea of the dimensions, and perhaps have started to think of shape and a spot on your land. Keep in mind, the further it is, the harder it will be to keep up. In all things farm related, the more you think the less you sweat.