Before building a coop and run it is important to research the requirements needed, knowing the size of run and coop is as important as researching the breeds of chickens you wish to raise. And though you may think you will only be raising a few chickens, the statistics prove that chicken math is in full force, and what may start out as 3 or 4 laying hens, becomes a dozen or more where there are few restrictions on the number that are allowed, so when planning, also plan for either expansion or plan from the beginning and make the coop and run larger from the start.
The chicken run should be large enough to allow at least 4 square feet per bird; this is the absolute minimum size, and in the case of chickens, more space is better. We allow 10 square feet and more per chicken. Overcrowding leads to pecking issues, illness and disease, because the chickens have no room to groom, dust bathe or to exercise. The environment becomes difficult to keep clean, leading to an overload of pathogens and bacteria and becomes a haven to parasites, regardless of how clean you try to keep that environment.
There should be at least one nest per 3-4 hens. When there are not enough nests, eggs become soiled, and broken because of overuse of the nests. By not providing ample nest boxes, it can lead to other issues such as egg eating and excess bacteria on the eggs, even if you were to change the nesting material daily. Nesting boxes, should be at least 14 inches square, so there is room for the largest breed to enter and to be comfortable while laying the eggs. The nesting boxes can be larger, however the larger they are, the more chance that there will be several hens in them at the same time and that leads to broken eggs, and bickering.
One square foot per bird should be allowed on perches. Roosting space is not as critical as the floor space, but there should be ample room for the large fowl to spread their wings in summer to stay cool. In winter, they huddle together for shared warmth, so if you have very warm summers provide ample space to accommodate large fowl. Large fowl are Orpingtons, Brahma, and other typical laying hens. Bantams and small breeds do not require as much space, but plan those perches so that they will accommodate larger birds even if you only start out with Bantam breeds.
The distance requirement between perches is 18 inches for large breeds. And those perches should be staggered, to provide plenty of head room for even the largest breed. Those perches should be a distance from the nesting boxes, not directly over them, to prevent droppings from entering those nesting boxes. In addition, there should be no way for the hens to perch on top of the nesting boxes, nor should they be allowed to sleep in the nesting boxes rather than on the perches.
If you raise chicks, the very same rules apply. Overcrowding can cause injury, death and trampling in the brooders. Allow no less that 6 square inches per chick in the brooder, and as they grow they will require double and triple the amount of room to move around and try out their wings. In the first few days the chicks huddle together much of the time, but as they begin to grow they are more active and need space. Plan ahead so the chicks can be accommodated even as they grow. You don't need a fancy brooder, but you do need it to be easy to clean and large enough to give the chicks ample space to grow. Though chicks have minimum requirements, they do need fresh water daily, a good quality feed that is easy for them to reach, warmth and plenty of space. You can provide a small, low perch for them as they learn how to maneuver. You can also provide low objects that are not easily tipped so they can play and get much needed exercise that will keep them busy and help prevent pecking issues.
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