If you are thinking about building a chicken house and you are just not sure what you should incorporate, there are certain must-have features of any good chicken pen plans which you should look out for before you start. Below are 4 important considerations to take into account.
1. The Size Of The Chicken Pen
This is particularly important. Happy hens produce a higher quantity of good quality eggs and it has been proven that hens which are kept in cramped conditions will not lay as well as those who have space and possibly some freedom. You should allow 3-5 square feet of space inside the enclosed sleeping/nesting area and ideally 15 square feet of space per bird inside the run area. However, this can be reduced if the hens are to be allowed to free-range a little for a few times a week. In terms of height, there should be enough room for them to jump as although hens do not fly, they do like to flap. A minimum of 3 feet should be allowed-but the more the better.
As hens are outdoor animals and will be outside in the most extremes of weather, this is an important factor to take into account. Good chicken pen plans will incorporate various forms of weatherproofing. It is important when building a chicken house that you ensure that waterproof materials are used for the roof of the sleeping/nesting area. In addition, you will want to ensure that this area has doors/pop holes which can be closed night time or during particularly bad periods of harsh weather. Some people also like to provide a temporary cover for the run (such as heavy duty polythene sheeting) as some hens will insist on being outside despite heavy rain. This is a characteristic of ex-battery hens in particular who are not familiar with normal hen habits!
3. Protection From Predators
Many hen-keepers have been devastated by the loss of their hens to a fox or raccoon and keeping your pen animal-proof should be a major consideration. You should therefore ensure that any plans you are considering specifically state what features are incorporated to combat this problem. Predators are very cunning and will sometimes go to extreme lengths to get to your hens. It is vital, therefore, to ensure that any materials used are strong enough to withstand determined biting-and this includes any mesh for the runs. In addition, foxes are well-known for burrowing into a chicken pen, so you should look for plans which give you options for protecting this aspect. For example, you may be able to line the base with mesh, or consider driving stakes into the ground around the pen.
4. Ease Of Cleaning
Although you are likely to be amazed by the amount of waste just a few small hens can produce, there is no reason why the pen cannot be kept hygienic! Look for features in the chicken pen plans such as multiple access points like rear and front doors into the sleeping quarters, so you can easily scoop out the waste. In addition, there should be advice on sealing cracks and crevices to prevent infestation from red mite. Another useful feature is top handles, to enable the coop to be moved around the garden as this give the opportunity not only to allow your land to recover, but to scrape up the waste which can, when rotted, be used as garden fertilizer.