Ask Danny | Ep. 27: Building & Maintaining a Backyard Chicken Coop

Today’s Homeowner TV host Danny Lipford and Today’s Homeowner Media Production Manager Corey Wilson. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Raising backyard chickens can be a fun and rewarding experience, providing fresh eggs and even a source of companionship. However, before you start your backyard chicken journey, it’s important to understand the basics of building and maintaining a chicken coop.

Today’s Homeowner Production Manager Corey Wilson is joining me to chat chicken.

A small backyard chicken coop
A chicken coop’s size depends on how many chickens you own, so one this size is perfect for a couple of chickens. (RandallJSylvia, Getty Images)

Coop Size

When it comes to building or buying a chicken coop, size is an important consideration. The amount of space needed for each bird will vary depending on the number of birds you plan to keep, but a general rule of thumb is to provide 2-3 square feet of coop space per bird and 5-10 square feet of run space per bird.

Remember —chickens sleep in the air, perched on a limb, so make sure to include enough space for them to sleep comfortably.

Chicken coop or hen house
Hay flooring absorbs moisture so the bottom of the chicken coop stays dry and smells fresh. (GarysFRP, Getty Images Signature)

Coop Components

A chicken coop typically includes several key parts: nesting boxes, roosts, runs, and an enclosed area for sleeping and protection.

Nesting boxes provide a safe and secure place for chickens to lay their eggs, while roosts give the birds a place to sleep.

Runs are essential for exercise and foraging. The enclosed area serves as a protected space for the birds to sleep, rest and take shelter.

When it comes to flooring, use materials like sand, hay or pine shavings. These materials are comfortable for the chickens and easy to clean. They also absorb moisture, which helps keep the coop dry and smelling fresh.

A well-built and maintained coop is crucial for the health and well-being of your chickens. Providing enough space, perches, and suitable materials for the birds, will ensure that they are comfortable and healthy and can produce eggs efficiently.

White hen laying eggs in a chicken coop
Egg-laying chickens lay up to one egg per day at their peak. (georgeclerk, Getty Images Signature)

Egg Production

A healthy hen will typically lay one egg per day, with her reproductive cycle lasting between 24-27 hours. However, the actual egg production can vary depending on a number of factors such as the amount of daylight, comfort, predators, and nutrition.

  • Daylight: Chickens need at least 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs. In the winter, when daylight hours are shorter, egg production will naturally decrease. You can use artificial light to supplement the daylight hours, but it’s important to use the right type of light and the right amount to avoid stressing the birds.
  • Comfort: Chickens need a clean, dry and safe place to lay their eggs. A well-maintained chicken coop with nest boxes will provide the comfort and security that chickens need to lay eggs.
  • Predators: Chickens that feel threatened by predators will not lay eggs. It’s important to protect your chickens from predators by securing the coop and the surrounding area.
  • Nutrition: Chickens need a balanced diet that provides the necessary nutrients for egg production. Feed specifically formulated for laying hens will provide the right balance of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients.

Interestingly enough, a rooster is not necessary for a hen to lay eggs. Hens will lay eggs whether or not there is a rooster present. However, if you want to breed chickens, you will need a rooster.

Chicken feed with many different sorts of grain, corn and seed
Chicken scratch is a type of feed that is made up of whole grains such as corn, barley, oats, wheat or other grains. (maerzkind, Getty Images)

Chicken Food

There are a variety of types of chicken food available on the market, each designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of chickens at different stages of their life.

  • Starter feed: This type of food is formulated for chicks during their first six weeks of life. It contains a high level of protein, around 20-24 percent, to help them grow and develop quickly.
  • Grower feed: As the chicks grow, they need different food. Designed for chickens between 6-20 weeks old, grower feed contains a lower protein level around 16-18 percent as they don’t need as much protein as when they were chicks but still need enough to support their growth.
  • Layer feed: Chickens are adults once they reach 20 weeks old, so they now need a different type of food. Layer feed is formulated for egg-laying hens, so it contains a higher level of calcium to support the formation of eggshells.
  • Pellets: These small, easy-to-eat pieces are convenient to use and store, and are often used as a complete feed for chickens.
  • Crumbles: Similar to pellets, crumbles are also compressed, but they are smaller in size and tend to be more palatable for chickens.
  • Mash: Mash is made by mixing together different grains and protein sources. It is usually moist and easy for chickens to eat.
  • Scratch: Scratch is a type of feed that is made up of whole grains such as corn and barley. Chickens are encouraged to forage, so this type of food is can used as a treat.

Chickens gathered along a fence outside their chicken coop
On average, a flock of 10 chickens will consume about one bag of feed every three weeks. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Cost to Feed Chickens

When it comes to feeding your chickens, a good rule of thumb is to plan for about one bag of food every three weeks for a flock of 10 hens.

On average, a bag of chicken feed can cost anywhere from $40 to $50. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider the fact that chickens will lay eggs almost every day, it’s a small price to pay for the delicious, fresh eggs they provide.

In addition to regular chicken feed, provide your birds with oyster shells for calcium. This is essential for maintaining the strength of their eggshells. You can purchase oyster shells in a bag and they usually cost around $10-15.

Further Reading


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