Chicken Coop Ideas For Keeping Free Range Hens

Keeping free range hens in your backyard can be a lot of fun.  You can get a constant supply of fresh, tasty, free-range eggs. If you intend to raise your hens as pets you might not wish to think of them as a nutritious source of food, but it is an attractive option for some poultry keepers.

None of this can be done without looking after your chickens properly. Here, briefly, are the most important steps you must take to keep your free range hens healthy, safe and content.

Step 1, select the breed. It is vital to choose the right breed for your area and requirements.  Tolerance to hot or cold climates, good layers or for the pot, good pets or backyard scratchers – these are just a few of the aspects when choosing your flock.  You can get good advice from your local hen supplier and from poultry farmers in your area.  

Step 2, select the right number of birds. Hens need space in which to forage, exercise and nest comfortably. Plan on about 10 square feet or one square meter per bird as a minimum.  This will govern the maximum number of chickens you should plan on getting, based on the available space you have. You need at least three chickens, to stop them feeling lonely.

Step 3, decide how much time you will have available. You will need to allocate a period daily for feeding, watering, coop cleaning and general maintenance of their living area such as checking the security of perimeter fencing. Spend at least 15 minutes per day with your hens – they will love your company.

Step 4, build shelter and housing.  Your birds will need  safe places to roost and nest, particularly at night, and safety from predators. They also must have a place to shelter from too much sun and they need a supply of fresh water. The chicken house should be easy to clean and allow egg collection without too much disturbance for the hens.

Step 5, provide protection. Safety from predators is vital, and threats come from many creatures including rats, dogs, raccoons, weasels, birds of prey such as eagles and hawks, foxes, perhaps snakes.  Many of these are expert at getting through, under or over fences given time.  The chicken house must be properly secured and the fence around the hen run good enough to prevent your local predator types from getting through.  If there could be a threat from birds of prey you should provide a covering for the run as well – it also prevents the hens flying away!

Step 6, consider health hazards. Hens can get sick quite easily, so you should find out what diseases are likely in your neighborhood.  Speak to the vet, other chicken keepers and online forums – people involved with hens are all very helpful.  

Step 7, identify applicable rules.  Be sure to identify and follow all relevant rules and regulations about hen keeping in your area, although these are seldom very demanding.  Your local town hall or government offices should be able to give you all the guidance and information you need.  

Step 8, provide a good diet.  Poultry must have access to a mixed diet of proteins, greens and grain, as well as fresh water. Protein is particularly important – talk to your local feed supplier for advice on this.  Protein supplements and grit are sometimes needed, but most likely free range hens will get enough from their own foraging. Your hens must have fresh, clean water all the time.  If you are away during the day or on vacation, you should investigate automatic water dispensers for your hens. Your hens will probably get all the rest of their diet requirements from foraging.  

Step 9, consider weather and climate.  Most chicken varieties are fairly tolerant of harsh climactic conditions, provided that you give them access to shade when the sun is overhead. They do need to keep their feet dry, however.  

Step 10, consider your local environment. Keeping chickens is usually regarded favorably by most people, so you should not face any problems here.  Perhaps talk to any neighbors who might have concerns about possible noise or smells, to reassure them.  They might like the thought of a supply of free range eggs on their doorstep!

You will note that none of these vital steps is anything other than common sense.  Following them should ensure that you have happy and healthy chickens in your backyard. Oh, one more thing – a happy hen should lay 6 eggs a week during the spring and summer months!

We have a great deal of information about how to build a chicken coop and where to get the best chicken house plans on our website. Good luck and enjoy your chickens!

Comments are closed.