There are a lot of things to consider when setting up your first chicken coop. Between trying to choose a material, finding a chicken coop plan, and making sure it is well-suited for the flock you plan to have, it can be easy to forget that where you place your coop can be just as important as all the rest.
A good coop location will be convenient for you and safe and healthy for your hens. It will also enable your coop to last a long time. Fortunately, all of these concerns can be broken down into a few key questions to keep in mind when placing your coop.
- Distance to your house – It may seem obvious, but placing your chicken coop as far as possible from your house, especially depending on how large your yard is, is probably not the best idea. That makes for a long walk with eggs, feed, cleaning supplies, and anything else that might need to get out to the coop. (If you are able to have a shed or other storage space right by your coop, this math becomes different.) However, it can also be a problem if you place your coop too close to the house. Chickens, after all, can sometimes be loud and are always smelly. Even when you are making a conscious choice to have them in your backyard, you may come to regret having them in your immediate backyard. Finding a balance between these two things is important in placing your chicken coop.
- Level ground – There are two different things to consider when thinking about placing your coop on level ground. The first, potentially more obvious one is that it should be on fairly flat, sturdy ground. A crooked coop is clearly no good for anyone, and you also do not want to come out one morning and find your coop has started sinking into quicksand. The second is water drainage; placing your coop on low ground could potentially be placing in a swamp, especially if you live in a particularly rainy area. Finding higher ground, if possible, or adding drainage to your yard, if necessary, will help keep your hens high and dry and healthy.
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- Foraging areas – No matter how much you feed them, hens love to forage, and placing their coop near good foraging areas will help keep them entertained, exercising, and well-fed. Good foraging areas have lots of plants, but none that might be toxic to your chickens – bracken ferns, azaleas, foxglove, and bulb flowers like tulips and irises are all common culprits. They also have a wide variety of plants that will be flourishing throughout the year; a foraging area is no good if it explodes with flowers in the spring, but leaves nothing for your hens to munch on in the winter.
- Sun and shade – Finding the right balance of sun and shade for your chicken coop can be tricky. Too much sun, and your girls spend the high summer months roasting and potentially developing heat stroke. Too much shade, and they can develop unhealthy sleep patterns and fail to produce the necessary hormones for egg production. Ideally, your coop and run will have a balance of sun and shade that will allow your chickens to switch between the two and regulate their own temperatures. Failing this, err on the side of too much shade, as warming up a coop is easier and healthier than letting your flock suffer in the heat.
- Availability to predators – No matter how sturdy your chicken coop is and how much hardware cloth you string around it, there is still the possibility of a hungry predator trying to turn your girls into dinner. You can reduce this possibility, though, by placing your coop away from anywhere that might make for an appealing hiding or resting place for predators. Low shrubs, woodpiles, and other ground-level hiding places will be attractive to snakes and rodents, while overhanging branches can harbor owls and hawks. Avoiding both of these will help keep your hens as safe as possible.
Placing a chicken coop is not always the first thing on a first-time chicken keeper’s mind when they start setting up for a flock, but it is an important decision that will affect your chickens’ health and wellness for years to come.
Choosing the right place for your coop is crucial in allowing you to raise happy, healthy hens.