When you are first starting out, a small purpose-built wooden house or coop is best, these can be bought ready-made and will usually be movable. Planning laws mean that any structure which is fixed or relies on a concrete pad as a base will be seen as a permanent building and may need planning permission. It may also be worth checking that there is no convenant on your property that forbids keeping poultry.
Many different types of poultry housing are available, but whichever you choose there are certain considerations that should be born in mind:
- Housing that is to be moved regularly must be solid enough to withstand the move, but light enough to make the move a physical possibility.
- It must be waterproof, rat-proof and fox-proof yet still be well ventilated.
- It must be possible and practical for you to reach all parts of the house for cleaning. If places are difficult or impossible to clean, dirt, parasites and diseases are likely to build up.
- It must be big enough for the number of birds concerned. A general rule is to allow a minimum of 1m2 of outside floor area per bird.
- Perches should be removable for easy cleaning and you should provide at least 15cm of perch space per bird. Make sure that feed and nest boxes are not placed under perches or they will soon become soiled. Water should be placed outside the house.
- Nest boxes should be about 40cm2 and at least the same in height. They should be lined with soft, dry litter. Placing the nest box somewhere dark and secluded will give the gen some privacy to lay. The box and the eggs will also stay cleaner if the box is only use for laying and not for sleeping or social behaviour. Putting the boxes lower than the roosts will also top young birds developing the habit of sleeping in them.
Nest boxes which are easy to open (preferably from outside the hen house) will make life easier for you and will avoid frightening the birds.