Keeping chickens is relaxing and enjoyable, but before you get your fluffy little friends there are a few things you should have ready.
Just as we need some furniture, carpets and other goodies to make our homes complete, so do chickens.
They aren’t as demanding as most folks, but there are a few supplies they need.
We have put together a list of chicken supplies we think every coop should have or may need. Of course, you can tailor the list to suit your needs by adding of taking away things that are important to you, but here is the basic list for you.
If you are raising laying hens they will require a 16% protein feed. This will keep them in good health, and also keep them laying all those beautiful eggs.
Whether you use crumbles or pellets is a matter of choice. My bantams prefer crumbles but manage with pellets just as well.
You will find you have choices like ‘omega 3 enriched’, organic and conventional feed. You can read more about this here. Most people feed their hens’ free choice, meaning that allow the hens to take what they want, when they want.
If you prefer, you can do set feeding times, but this ties you into a set routine each day.
You can expect your chickens to eat about 1/4lb of feed each day, this equates to 1 cupful each. This number will vary of course; they eat less in summer and more in winter.
In addition to their feed they will also need access to some oyster shell to give them extra calcium for the eggshells and their own bodies.
Insoluble grit is also another item they should have available to take if they wish.
Please don’t add the oyster shell or grit to their feed; they need to be able to regulate their own intake of both. Set out separate feeders or bowls for the oyster shell and grit. If you allow your hens to free range or have a run that is natural dirt with some small grit like rocks and pebbles, you probably won’t have to give them any grit at all.
Automatic Coop Doors
This is another one of those items that you may or may not want to invest in. If you hate getting up early in the morning, this will solve that problem for you!
The advantages of an automatic door, apart from allowing you to stay in bed a bit longer, are:
- You don’t have to be home to lock them in for the evening.
- You can adjust the door open/close time to suit your needs.
- Most doors are very well made and stop predators breaking in.
The disadvantages are:
- Slow chickens may get left outside.
- You may shut a predator in.
There are several different types of automatic door available, for an in-depth guide, please see our article here.
The first thing to know about feeders is you need the appropriate size.
You can buy 10lb plastic hanging feeders inexpensively and that size will take care of a lot of chickens (flock of 24) for a day or two.
If you have 6 chickens or less, one feeder will be enough. If you have more hens than 6, a second feeder would be helpful. Your second feeder doesn’t have to be a chicken feeder as such.
A deep dog bowl will be sufficient. This will give everyone a chance to feed and if there is any food guarding going on, they have a second feeder to go to.
If you have a small area within the coop, a wall hanging hopper will take up minimal space although hanging feeders seem to be the most popular. If you have your feeder outside, make sure it is out of the rain and is not accessible to rodents. A feeder cover is much better; it will keep out the weather and prevent birds from roosting on the top and pooping in the feed.
|The Best Chicken Coop Heater|
|Cozy Products Safe Chicken Coop Pet Heater
A coop heater may not be necessary where you live, but it is worth thinking about for many people who live in the colder northern states.
Chickens will tolerate the cold better than heat and humidity, but there is a point when a little warmth is needed. If you keep some of the more heat tolerant breeds, you may find they need supplemental heat in winter.
They will huddle together to provide warmth – each chicken can put out the equivalent of a 10w light bulb (so ten of them huddled together produce a good amount of heat).
Winter time is the killing time for poorly or sick hens, also some of the older birds may not survive if it becomes too cold.
If you do use a heater, aim to keep the coop temperature between 34-40°F.
Why so low?
Chickens will be very comfortable at this temperature. Also if the power goes go out, you don’t want them to have to abruptly try to adjust to a very cold temperature – the stress will kill some of them.
|Horizontal Nipple Chicken Waterer|
|Horizontal Nipple Chicken Waterer
A good quality waterer will last you for years, whether or not you choose to use metal or plastic is entirely personal.
The type of watering system you design is up to you. You can use the fount ‘as is’ or use water nipples or cups for your birds in conjunction with the fount. The nipples and cups certainly do save water, but some birds just don’t get along with them so have a regular waterer on hand too.
If you live in the colder parts of the country a water heater may be in order to prevent the water freezing, unless you enjoy changing frozen water several times a day.
There are several types of heater out there – some for metal heaters and some for plastic heaters, so be careful what you buy.
Chicken Nesting Boxes
|The Best Chicken Coop Nesting Box|
|Little Giant Nesting Box
Some folks don’t use nesting boxes; this means their chickens will lay their eggs anywhere they please!
Hunting for eggs loses its novelty when it’s raining or snowing, so I encourage nest-boxes.
It is much better to have nesting boxes.
Once you train them to use nesting boxes they will happily lay warm, fresh eggs each day for you.
Ideally you should have one nest box for every 2-3 hens, although they will likely have a favorite box and all want to use the same one! Boxes for standard hens should be about 1 foot square and bantams will be slightly less. You can make your own or buy ready-made wood or metal boxes.
This is for you to read, not them!
A good book that gives you all the information you need to know at your fingertips is essential.
I have found Gail Damerow’s Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens absolutely invaluable.
Ms. Damerow is easy to read, straightforward and helpful. It’s a book that you can pick up and put down as needed – I would not be without mine.
It is very well written and easy to understand. The chapters are self-explanatory and contain lots of little pearls of wisdom. It contains all sorts of problem solving tips and ideas, charts and line drawings. If you are looking for even more must read chicken books, see here.
These are all the chicken supplies your hens should need.
We didn’t include a roosting perch here since it should be part of the coop itself, but if there are no perches to be had, you will need to put some in place.
Although hens will sleep on the floor, it is better for them to sleep on perches. This will keep their feet warm by snuggling down over the roosts and should you have any issues with rodents, the hens won’t get their toes nibbled! It also happens to be more hygienic.
We hope this cheat sheet will be a useful checklist for you when setting up the coop for your hens.
Let us know in the comments section below which chicken supply is your hen’s favorite…