Building a henhouse

I have a friend whose henhouse started out as a homemade playhouse for her daughter. When the girl got too old for the playhouse, she got chickens. Morgan Farnell, an extension poultry specialist at Texas A&M University, says that’s a pretty good match for the needs of poultry.

"They do have free-range and “pasture poultry,” but usually they like to have some kind of building to at least get them out of the elements," says Farnell. "Especially a brood of chicks, they need a place to kind of bed down and keep them warm, because baby chicks actually need external heat to survive that first week of life, have to be kept pretty toasty there."

The playhouse conversion included nest boxes and divided the house into two rooms. One small room holds the feed bags and supplies. The larger room has roosts and nest boxes.  About two square feet of space per laying hen is plenty of room.

Chickens need a perch in the coop to sleep on. You should position them in the upper part of the hen house because the chickens like sitting high. Have a waterproof board installed below the perches to collect the excrement. This also prevents the straw from getting dirty and makes cleaning the hen house easier.

If you don’t have a playhouse to begin with, Farnell says you could build a small, moveable out-building fairly cheaply.

"I’ve even seen folks use PVC pipe and a little bit of poultry netting and plastic sheeting to make kind of a portable, well they call it a “chicken tractor,” which is kinda cool," he says. "Basically you can move the pen around like your garden or your pasture or what have you, and that way as the litter accumulates, you can move it to a fresh area of grass."

A coop like this also prevents a buildup of waste that could harbor germs.