The chickens are coming Pt II – the coop site.

Chickens, Summer

February 13, 2011

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The site for the chicken coop.

The site for the chicken coop.

Preparations for the chickens have begun apace. During the summertime I have some extra time off as some of the work I do corresponds with the academic year. As a result I usually like to undertake some kind of project around the house and yard. This year it is the chickens. I started of course with their coop.

I started with selecting the spot. In many respects the spot had been chosen for me – I don’t have many free areas left in the garden large enough to accommodate the coop. But it also turned out that this spot was suited to siting a coop. Big enough, dry, far enough from neighbour’s bedrooms, level enough and not ground that lent itself easily to other uses.

If you are a backyard gardener like myself, you will know that the modern suburban plot presents challenges in its small size. When setting out your plot (or making it up as you go along) there is a constant battle around what to put where. The particular spot where the coop was going had been a problem for years. The soil was too poor to plant much, and making it fertile was too much of a challenge for me. It was also very dry. Our block is sloping and in this area any moisture drains away quickly. So by default it got left.

Now when it came to putting chickens on the area many of the negatives became positives. Dry soil is a good idea for a coop. Too much moisture can lead to foot diseases in chickens. I can’t see that being a problem here. That excessive drainage suddenly became desirable.

The lack of fertility will also improve with chickens in the area. Chicken poo is obviously a good fertilizer, and the straw that I plan to use to line the coop will, especially in winter, break down and add to the soil. Sorted.

Lastly the area was big enough. I don’t like the idea of cramping your chickens up. Even in organic circles some say that chickens don’t need too much space in their enclosure. And they may be right, if you are able to let your chickens roam freely during the day. However not being home during the day, and having a dog means that the chickens will often be in the coop quite a bit. I’ll do my best to get them out of weekends, but space in the coop is necessary. So I have set aside an area of about 2.4 by 1.5 metres for two chickens. Hopefully it will be enough.

So for those planning to get chickens themselves I have put together my checklist for siting the coop. I don’t pretend that it is exhaustive or even complete, but hopefully it will help you get started.

  1. Do you have an area large enough for a coop? (Especially for a permanent coop, less of an issue with mobile coops.)
  2. Are there other more productive uses the area could be put too?
  3. Is the site dry enough? Is the drainage adequate?
  4. Is the site far enough away from bedrooms etc.? (Only really a problem if you have roosters – hens are supposed to be fairly quiet.)
  5. Can the area be made fox, cat, dog, etc. proof?
  6. Is the soil likely to be contaminated? (Contaminants will likely end up in the eggs – and then in you.)

So let me know. What were your experiences with siting coops? Any other tips? Cheers!

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