Chicken Guide: All things Chicken Coop and Chicken Care Related
An entire guide devoted to all things chicken coop, chicken house and chicken care related. Find inspiring chicken coop ideas and also learn proper chicken care all in one place.
Becoming Self Sufficient
We live in a time where being self-sufficient and self sustainable is a bit more on everyone’s radars. If you have stepped foot into a grocery store, chances are you’ve probably noticed a shortage on some of the products.
If you are wanting to start the journey of becoming more self-sufficient, I would suggest getting a chicken coop and chickens!
It’s an easy way to jump into your homesteading journey and can bring a lot of joy (and delicious eggs) to your family.
We have had chickens for over four years now. When we moved to our little farm we immediately purchased chicks.
Below you’ll find a detailed Q+A list that will walk you through the basics of getting started raising chickens for farm fresh eggs.
Here are a few of my favorite books on raising chickens and becoming self-sufficient:
- The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
- A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens. My kids love this book!
Where do you find chicken coops for sale?
When it comes to getting started with chickens, you’ll want to figure out where your chickens will live. Even if you are planning on having your chickens free range, you’ll want a safe home for them to roost in each night.
There are a few things to consider when figuring out what type of chicken coop you want.
How many chickens are you planning on having? If you are planning on having just a handful of chickens, you can find some pretty cute smaller coops for a relatively low price.
Are you wanting a mobile coop? Mobile coops allow you to keep your chickens put up, but also gives you the benefits of free range chickens (they’re able to eat the green grass and bugs which make nutrient rich eggs).
Are you handy and have the capability of building something? If so- there are amazing chicken coop plans all over the internet.
Do you have access to an area that you could convert into a chicken coop? Maybe an old barn or old play house. We converted our old play house into our first chicken coop!
One you’re ready to get started, google will be your best friend! I have also listed a few chicken coops below that are a perfect place to start for new chicken owners.
- Chicken coop with a smaller run below and a garden box to the side. A cute option if you’re tight on space!
- A larger chicken coop for up to 15 chickens. You would need to add a run if you’re planning on them not being free range birds. This one is steep on the price, but definitely worth looking at to get ideas.
- Chicken coop with a larger run. I loved the look of this one if you’re needing to keep your chickens up the majority of the time.
How big of a chicken coop do I need?
When it comes to the size of a chicken coop, you first need to take Into account whether or not your chickens will be able to free-range.
If your chickens are able to free range during the day, you’ll be able to give them a smaller coop to sleep in at night.
Our free range chickens use their chicken coop as a secure place to rest at night from predators and also give them a spot to lay their eggs (in the nesting boxes).
We typically let our chickens out to free range around 10 in the morning and they’ll go back up each night when the sun sets.
If you are planning on keeping your chickens up all the time, then you’ll want to consider adding an outdoor chicken run which will allow your chickens to get fresh air and sunshine.
A typical rule of thumb is to give each chicken a 3 square foot of interior space if they’re going to be in the coop 24/7.
When you’re purchasing coop plans or buying a coop, they’ll typically specify how many chickens it was built for.
What are the nesting boxes for?
Nesting boxes are the cozy area where your chickens will be able to go to lay their eggs.
A nesting box is important to have, otherwise your chickens will end up finding other random place to lay their eggs.
If you are purchasing a chicken coop or building one from plans, they will typically all come with nesting boxes factored in.
If you are turning an area into a chicken coop, there are several options that you can do to create nesting boxes.
- Make a nesting box out of pieces of wood. A simple box works well nailed to the wall.
- Purchase them pre-made from your local feed store (or somewhere like Tractor Supply).
- Find old metal ones at a flea market. This is the route that we chose when our chickens were living down at the barn for awhile. We nailed antique nesting boxes to the stall walls and it worked great.
Below are a few nesting boxes I found that would work wonderfully as well.
- Wooden nesting box. Simply attach it to the wall of where you are going to keep your chickens.
- Larger metal nesting box. If you are wanting quite a few birds, this is an excellent option!
If you are trying to figure out how many nesting boxes you need, a great rule of thumb is that you have one nesting box for five chickens.
I love adding these mats to the bottom of my nesting boxes. It makes for easy clean up if they poop in the nesting box.
What is a chicken run?
When you hear the term chicken run, it’s referring to an outdoor enclosure that is attached to your chicken coop. This area allows your chickens the outside space they need to get fresh air and exercise.
It also helps to protect them from predators while being outside.
If you’re wanting to move a chicken run around your yard, something like this is always a great option as well.
Cleaning your chicken coop
Chickens can be extra germs, which means keeping your chicken coop clean is a necessity! Cleaning your chicken coop regularly will help to keep your flock healthy and reduces the chance of spreading germs.
To clean out your chicken coop you will:
- Take the chickens out of the area while you’re deep cleaning.
- Shovel out any shavings and poop that have fallen to the floor.
- Spray it down with equal parts water and vinegar. Do NOT use cleaning products inside your chicken coop.
- Once your coop is dry, add fresh bedding into the floor of your coop. We use cedar wood chips for our bedding.
- For the nesting boxes, I’ll add these mats for easy clean up.
If you suspect any sort of mites or bugs in your coop, a sprinkle of diatamecous earth always does the trick. Make sure to put some in your nesting boxes as well.
This is the diatomaceous earth that I use. Make sure that you’re using food grade diatomaceous earth and that you also don’t inhale it while sprinkling it down.
We typically deep clean our coop once a month and give it a good clean out every other week. If your chickens do not free range at all, then you’ll probably want to clean out your chicken coop more.
When does a chicken begin laying eggs
Chickens will typically start laying eggs between 18-24 weeks. In my experience the 6 month mark is when they all begin laying eggs.
If you get your first chicks later in the fall or winter, they may wait to start laying their first eggs until spring. Reduced daylight in the winter time causes chickens to take a break from their natural laying schedule.
They use the energy and nutrients that they would have used to produce eggs, to survive through a cold winter. So- if you find yourself not getting any eggs in the winter- that’s why!
What do chickens eat
Making sure to feed your chickens nutrient dense food is important for egg production. This blog post will cover what you’re feeding your pullets (hens that haven’t started laying eggs yet- around 18 weeks of age) and laying hens.
I will cover raising chicks in another blog post.
When it comes to feeding your chickens, it’s not rocket science.
For my younger chickens that haven’t started laying eggs yet, we give them grower pellets (or chicken scratch) that you can find at any feed store.
For my laying birds, we switch them over to a laying pellet which has a higher amount of protein and additional calcium.
Calcium is essential for laying birds. This is what helps to keep their egg shells nice and hard while laying their eggs.
You can also supplement with crushed up egg shells for calcium. Here is a blog post on how to do that.
At our house, we also give our chickens our table scraps. They love eating our leftovers!
Where can you purchase chicks from?
We have purchased some of our chicks from a website called My Pet Chicken. They mail the chicks right to your house and it’s a fun experience for the kids!
Once we added more chickens and a few roosters, we also began incubating a few rounds of eggs each year.
Here is the incubator that we use and love.
How to store farm fresh eggs
When storing your farm fresh eggs, it’s not necessary that you wash them. If they’re relatively clean (not covered in poop), then you can store them on your kitchen counter for several weeks (2-3 weeks).
If you wash off your farm fresh eggs, they must be stored in the refrigerator. Unwashed fresh eggs can be
During the process of laying an egg, a hen’s body covers each egg shell in a protective coating called a “bloom”. It’s a layer of protein that covers the porous egg and keeps bacteria from entering into the egg itself.
When you wash the egg, you’re washing off that protective covering.
In general, we store our farm fresh eggs on the counter in this little spiral egg rack (it keeps the freshest eggs on the bottom). When I am ready to use them, I’ll give them a quick rinse before cracking them.
Being able to store them directly on your counter without washing them is exactly why we want to make sure our chicken coop stays clean and fresh. It’s also important to check for eggs daily so the chickens don’t have time to make a mess of them.
Testing your eggs for freshness
The easiest way to tell if an egg is still fresh enough to eat is by performing a float test.
- Fill a cup with water.
- Carefully place your egg into the water.
- If it floats, then your egg is rotten and needs to go.
- If the egg sinks, then it’s still fresh enough to eat.
Helpful items for raising chickens
- Chicken nesting pads: perfect for laying in your nesting boxes. They make clean up easy!
- Spiral storage rack: this rack keeps your freshest eggs at the bottom for easy grabbing.
- Metal poultry drinker: we just switched over to this style of drinker this year and love it.
- Individual nesting boxes: if you are making your own coop and have just a few chickens, these are a great option.