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Seven characteristics of a great chicken coop

When raising chickens, one of the most important decisions that must be made -- besides the choice to actually raise chickens, of course -- is how the chickens will be housed. Most chicken breeds are hardy, but care must be taken if you want a thriving and healthy flock of happy chickens. While individual coop designs will vary according to your whim and fancy, every great chicken coop shares seven common characteristics.

1. Calculate the size. Make sure your chicken coop is big enough for your chickens. Layer chickens should have 1.5 to 2 square feet of coop space. Meat birds and bantam breeds require slightly more and less, respectively. Various chicken health issues, including egg-eating and cannibalism, have been linked to space issues. Save yourself time in the future by making sure your flock has enough room to spread their wings and move around.

2. Install proper ventilation. A chicken coop without proper ventilation may experience a build-up of toxic fumes, to say nothing about the smell. Your chickens will enjoy some fresh air.

3. Keep it cozy. Insulate your chicken coop from Mother Nature's fluctuating moods. Insulation is especially important in climates that experience cold winters and very hot summers. Properly insulating your chicken coop will not only keep your chickens comfortable, but it will also cut back on heating costs when the temperatures drop.

4. Proactively prevent pest problems. Rats and mice won't only eat into your feed costs, but can also carry diseases. Consider using flooring material that is rodent-resistant (e.g. concrete), and make sure your walls and fencing are secure.

5. Give your chickens roosts. All chickens like to sleep off of the ground. Make sure your roosts are the right circumference so that your chickens can comfortably perch on them, and place the roosts at a height of approximately 1.5 feet off of the ground.

6. Keep them hydrated. Provide enough waterers and feeders in the chicken coop, and keep them full. Observe your chickens after installing the feeders and water troughs. Make sure all of the chickens, including those low in the pecking order, are able to access their food and water.

7. Consider adding a chicken run. A run is a wire enclosure that allows your chickens to leave their coop while still being contained and protected from predators. You may need to install a simple lean-to to give your chickens some shade during the warmer season.

Raising chickens is a fun hobby that can provide tangible rewards . Building the right chicken coop can make the entire experience more enjoyable, both for the chickens and for you!

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