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If you’re not careful when building your chicken coop, your chickens could be harmed by predators. In order to not lose even one member of the flock, you need to build a formidable chicken coop that not only prevents them from becoming prey but also provides for all their needs.
Predators come from the ground as well as the sky when it comes to chickens. Ground enemies include opossums, weasels and raccoons. But skunks, fox, coyotes, and bobcats are also common predators.
Some predators that many people don’t consider when it comes to chickens are snakes and rats. Snakes love to eat chicken eggs and young chicks. So it’s important that your coop be as snake-proof as possible.
If you’re using regular chicken coop wire, this isn’t enough to keep snakes out. These predators can easily get in through and over ineffective fencing as well as go under a chicken coop that’s not well-grounded.
Use things like mesh, also known as a coop apron, on the ground to prevent snakes and rodents from being able to dig under to get into the coop. Rats will eat chicken eggs, but they’ve also been known to even attack adult chickens.
In addition to that, they carry diseases and are known to ruin chicken feed. Besides worrying about predators that can dig under your coop, you also have to be prepared to protect your flock from birds like hawks, eagles, and owls from overhead swoops as well as outside the coop from the side.
Some birds are able to get through ineffective coop wiring to get to the chickens simply by reaching in. Use hardware cloth to keep the chickens safe from birds. Your chicken run should be covered with a roof or hardware cloth to prevent flying predators from swooping down and snatching a chicken.
Even your own pets will sometimes try to get to chickens. Cats and dogs can be kept out of a coop and away from chickens in the same way wild animals are. Make sure that you have a rooster in your flock, because roosters will protect the flock and alert the chickens when a predator is nearby.
The size of your chicken coop should take into consideration the size of your flock. You would measure it per chicken. You need approximately 3 square feet for every chicken for the building.
The run should be figured around 8 to 9 square feet per chicken, but it’s okay to have it larger than that. For the materials, you can buy a kit or build it yourself. If you build it yourself, you need to buy the lumber, the hardware and hardware cloth.
It’s important that if you build the coop yourself that you make sure the coop doesn’t sit on the ground. It should be above ground to help keep predators out. You may also want to install motion activated lights because predators prefer to attempt to get to chickens in the dark.
Inside the coop, you’ll need nesting boxes with bedding. These boxes are just simple cubes made of wood, and the sizing should be determined by the size of your chickens since some breeds are larger than others.
The most common breeds are 12 x 12 x 12, but larger hens may need a 14. The bedding can be pine needles or straw. You’ll also need a roosting bar. These should be at least 18 inches off the floor, and these can be made from boards or ladders.
You can also use branches cut from trees. You’ll need a dropping pan underneath where the chickens roost. This is to prevent fecal matter from getting into the place where the bedding is.
A way to feed and water the chickens is a must, and one of the best items to use for this is a hanging feeder and water dish. You can buy a hanging chicken canteen as well as a feeder for less than $15, but you can also make these yourself using a five gallon bucket and an aluminum pan.
A run outside your coop is a necessity for chickens. This fenced-in area allows chickens to be able to scratch for insects as well as be able to move about freely. They’ll use the outdoors as part of their dust bath routine. A chicken takes a dust bath because it can get rid of parasites that bother them.