One of the first things prospective chicken owners need to know is where- and how – they should house their hens. The good news is there’s certainly no shortage of options to choose from, with hen coops and houses to fit a variety of aesthetic preferences and budgets available.
However, with a seemingly endless array of choices on the market today, it can be tricky to know which one is right for you and your feathery friends.
But don’t worry! Here at ChickenGuard we’re here to help. Read on for our roundup of the best chicken houses and coops on the market, as well as some top tips for making your girls’ new home as safe and comfy as possible.
How to fox proof a chicken coop
Foxes can appear in urban or rural areas so wherever you live, it’s really important to make sure your girls’ home can withstand a potential attack.
Be aware that a fully-grown adult fox can easily scale walls and fences of up to six-foot-tall and fit through holes of up to 10cm in diameter. Even more worryingly, they can also chew through thin wire with their teeth, or tunnel underneath thicker varieties.
Given the variety of ways a crafty fox can sneak up on your flock, is it even possible to protect your feathered friends? The answer is yes! So, how can you guarantee a fox proof chicken run?
Firstly, it’s important to reinforce the wire mesh that comes with your coop with a thicker, sturdier alternative that a fox will not be able to bite through. You should be able to find a thicker wire mesh at your local home improvement store and easily attach it to the existing wire with industrial staples or metal ties.
There are also several ways you can prevent foxes from burrowing underneath the wire. Firstly, you could attach a permanent wire mesh bottom to the coop, which will make it impossible for foxes to dig up and through to your chickens. You simply need to leave large enough holes (roughly 15cm x 15cm) so your girls can reach the ground underneath.
Alternatively, you could install a mesh skirt, which will help prevent foxes from digging nearby the coop.
Install an automatic door
The idea for ChickenGuard was actually hatched after our founder, Ben, fell foul of a crafty fox, losing his very first flock to the sneaky predator.
Determined to make sure his chickens were never attacked again, Ben designed the very first automated chicken coop door. Today, as well as our automated doors, we also sell self-locking door kits, with anti-claw protection, adding an eggstra layer of security to your hens’ home.
How far should a chicken coop be from the house?
There’s no hard and fast rule for how far your hen house should be from your own house. In fact, the answer will depend on a variety of factors.
So, what do you need to consider before deciding where to locate your coop? The RSPCA recommends that chickens’ outdoor area gives protection from the sun, bad weather and wild animals, so consider setting up your coop near any areas of natural shelter in your garden, if possible. It also recommends your girls have access to dry soil, so they can forage and dustbathe.
Practically speaking, the size of your garden and the amount of space you have available will also play a huge role in determining where to put your coop.
And although there are no specific laws in the UK about keeping chickens in your back garden, you do need to make sure you stay the right side of UK nuisance laws! Local councils are obliged to investigate any complaints made about noise, odour and the attraction of vermin so it is absolutely vital that you practice good hen hygiene!
Can I keep chickens on an allotment?
Yes! Under the 1950 Allotment Act, you’re allowed to keep chickens on an allotment – as long as they’re not used for business or profit. Do bear in mind though that if they’re considered a nuisance, or their welfare is called into question, they can be removed.
What size chicken coop do you need?
You’ll find that most poultry houses come with a recommendation about how many hens they’re suitable for, but, as a rough guide, the minimum rule of thumb is approximately two to three square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop, and eight to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run. However, more space is better, and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) recommends buying a house that’ll fit more hens than you’re planning on getting – e.g. if you’d like four hens, buy a house big enough for six.
There are a whole host of issues that can arise if your flock is squashed into too tight a space, including pecking and aggressive behaviour, a build-up of ammonia or decreased egg production- so it’s really important you choose a coop that is big enough to house your flock!
The best chicken coops
Deciding which chicken coop is best depends on the needs of you and your feathered friends.
As long as your hen house is warm, dry, comfortable, secure against predators and has enough space for your flock, the rest is up to you.
If you want some serious inspiration, home and garden blog Inspirations Deco has put together a roundup of some of the most weird and wonderful examples out there, where you can see that the hen lovers have really gone to town! Harry Potter-themed hen house anyone?
Plastic chicken coops
Plastic chicken coops are relatively new on the scene and have quickly eggstablished a loyal fanbase.
One characteristic that elevates plastic coops above their wooden counterparts is that they are eggstremely easy to clean- in fact, many can be cleaned out, washed and dried within half an hour! They also require next to no maintenance.
However, unlike wood, plastic is not a breathable material, so adequate ventilation is a must! Inadequately ventilated chicken houses can lead to condensation, which can cause all sorts of nasty illnesses, including respiratory disorders, for your girls.
Wooden chicken coops
Wooden coops’ main selling point is that they offer far more choice when it comes to design, which is great if you feel like housing your girls somewhere fancy (and there are some very fancy options out there, trust us!) But it also means they give you way more flexibility for modification and you’ll definitely be able to find a wooden hen house to fit the precise needs of your garden and your girls.
When it comes to deciding between the two, poultry expert Andy Cawthray offers the following advice: “The plastic v wooden debate has been going on in the poultry world for a few years now. I use both and they each have their pros and cons: in the end it can be down to personal preference. As long as the house is designed with both the keeper and the poultry in mind, and preferably designed by somebody whose experience of poultry extends beyond a visit to the butcher, then they both wooden and plastic housing serve their purpose in equal measure.”
Also known as chicken tractors, the main selling point for chicken arks is that they can be moved around. In theory, this gives your girls the opportunity to move to a different roaming spot every day – depending on the size of your garden of course!
Although not practical for everyone, chicken arks can come with a whole range of benefits for you and your girls. Firstly, moving your coop around means that your chickens will get a more diverse diet-which is brilliant for their overall health. It can also be good news for your garden, as your girls’ pecking, scratching and droppings will keep your plants in tip top condition. Finally, a chicken ark can be moved to a safer location when the bad weather arrives, keeping your girls in the shade when it gets too sunny and safely sheltered in the (more likely!) event of torrential rain.
Thinking about eggstablishing your very own flock of hens and looking for advice? Or maybe you’re a veteran chicken keeper with wisdom to share. Head on over to our Facebook page to join the conversation today. We’d love to hear from you!