The Green Acre Homestead got very lucky in that we didn’t have to build our henhouse because it was there when we bought our house. It was such a relief! But of course, what works for one may not work for another. I sure do wish I had pictures of our henhouse before I made changes but hindsight really is 20/20. There was a backward feeding trough right in front of the roosts, weird half boxes above their nesting boxes and no hanging hooks for the water containers. Another thing I would change if I were to start from scratch is the shape. Our henhouse is a curved “A-Frame” shape and after having this style, I would prefer a boxier style simply because it would be easier to modify and provide more space to manipulate. I’m all about the spacial relations. Here are the things you have to have in a henhouse, and then some that are just nice to have.
SHELTER AND ROOSTS
You want to make sure your chickens have a clean, dry space to go in order to get out of the elements if they need to. There’s been a fair amount of rain here lately and, although they sometimes love playing in it, it’s nice to know I have a great space for my chickens to go if they need/want. Inside the house, I’ve since added more roosting space for my chooks. I have more than enough roosting space but, for some reason, they prefer to all roost at the top bar. I suspect that if I kick the roosting area out a bit more so it isn’t as steep, they may disperse. But until then, I’ve added some more roosting spots on the other side. Here’s the main roosting area (At the bottom of the roost is where the trough was; the opening of the trough was facing the roost…how does that work? It had to go!):
You want to aim for a 1:4 ratio. One box to every four hens. If you already own chickens you know that often they just choose a couple boxes and lay every egg they can in it! I have 8 nesting boxes and about 20 hens. I rarely have eggs in more than 4 different boxes, and it’s often 3 boxes. Here’s my nesting area. Off to the right, you can see the small roosting spot I added:
The white grids in front of the boxes are to keep the ladies and gents out at night, compliments of the previous owner. I do this for two reasons: One, it’s healthy for your chickens to roost and two my chickens will sleep and poop in their boxes and I got tired scooping poop every morning and wasting bedding. I use pine bedding in their boxes because it’s the only material they don’t immediately scratch the ground. Straw is hopeless in my henhouse. Remember those odd little half boxes I mentioned? They were above the nesting boxes…I could never figure out what they were for so out they went.
WATER AND FOOD
Another characteristic I added to our henhouse was hanging waterers. This took me about two years to do and I’m not quite sure why. Honestly, besides the space issue, hanging waterers are probably the best Pinterest project I’ve done to date. This is one example of how the “A-Frame” design works against me, but we make it work. The biggest pro to hanging your waterers is that it’s much more difficult for your chickens to kick dirt into them. The only con to hanging waterers is that my chickens sometimes chase each other and slosh the water out. This is easy to get around by just making sure the waters aren’t able to swing as much. We also have nipple waterers under the nesting boxes and I plan to add more of them eventually. I also plan to add feeding troughs back into the henhouse…once I figure out the most space efficient way to do it. I currently use metal feeding bowls but those get tipped over far too easy.
FLOORING AND BEDDING
Since we didn’t build our henhouse we didn’t get to choose the floor and ours is dirt. Luckily for us, we don’t have problems with predators digging in and that might be because we have a big dog that barks all night, who knows. If you live in an area where predators are a problem, you’ll want a sturdier floor. Wood and concrete are both acceptable flooring options because you’ll be putting bedding on top of it. Even though the base of our henhouse is dirt, I still add bedding for a few reasons.
- We live in Florida and the heat and humidity are real. Things start to smell real weird in the henhouse if there’s nothing to soak up all the chook poop and thick air. I used to switch back and forth from hay and straw and now I strictly use pine shavings, as I do in their nesting boxes. The pine shavings suck all the moisture up and also smell wonderful. I immediately noticed a difference when I switched to pine.
- Three words: Deep litter compost. You can practice deep litter composting with any type of floor and here’s a really great article on how. It’s especially good for you folks that have heavy winters.
You want to stay away from sawdust, cedar, oak, and black walnut when it comes to your henhouse because they can be dangerous for your feathered friends. You can read more about bedding here.
If you do live in an area where predators are a threat, you’ll want to make sure your floor isn’t penetrable and also lay wire below the surface on the outside of the coop/run. I have less experience in predator-proofing chicken space, but I love using Backyard Chickens.com for information on “How-To’s”. If you’re new to raising chickens, this forum is a really great tool to utilize.
THE EXTRAS AND ADD-ONS
There are a few aspects of our current henhouse that I do love, and suggest.
- There’s a door at each end of the henhouse which aids in really wonderful air circulation and keeps it nice and cool on those hot Florida days.
- We also have multiple power outlets. This is especially nice because we raise our chicks in the henhouse from chicks, so we can plug our heat lamp in. Here’s our brooder:
- We have fluorescent ceiling lights down the middle of the ceiling equipped with a light switch.
- There are two water lines in the house and the third right outside one of the doors. The third water source has a little concrete square beneath it and it’s one of those little things in life that I just love. In the mornings while filling up the water containers it’s so nice to have the lid flipped onto a clean, even surface. It really is the little things.
- There’s a middle door (pictured below) that, when closed, closes in the part of the henhouse where the water buckets and brooder is. One day I’ll move the waters and that will be the room our teenage chicks are raised in order to easily integrate them into the flock. We currently move them to a small henhouse in a different part of the yard. This area could also potentially be used as a sort of “quarantine” spot in some situations.
I’ll be adding a few dust bathing boxes this summer, too, along with the nipple water systems. Some folks add drop pans with sand below their roosts for easy clean-up. We have a complete dirt floor and great air circulation, so it isn’t crucial for me to scoop poop every week. I’ve even seen some people add chicken swings!
As long as you have a dry, clean, well-ventilated, safe space, nesting boxes, roosts, the proper bedding, food and water then you’re good to go. If you’re looking for a good DIY chicken project, including dust box ideas, check out my Homestead Chickens board on Pinterest!