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How to get started on a chicken coop

Having freshly laid eggs every morning is easy with your very own chicken coop. Either purchase a ready-made coop or get your family together and build one from scratch.

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Before You Start

You don’t need a huge backyard to be able to keep chickens. Always check with your local council first, as councils have varying rules about keeping chickens and whether roosters are allowed in your area. 

You must make sure you secure your chicken coop so it’s safe from foxes, dogs and rats. And ensure that it’s weather proof so your chickens are protected from any bad weather.

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Size

Chicken coops vary between quite small ‘tent like’ triangular shapes to big multi-story constructions. If you plan to let your chooks run around the yard for most of the day, a smaller coop will suffice for them to sleep. However if they are going to be confined inside most of the time, you do need to make sure they have enough room. As a general rule, a structure measuring 1.5m x 2m should be adequate for six chickens. 

Different breeds of chicken require different amounts of space, so please check with the breeder when you buy the birds. And remember, all chickens should be let out for a little while each day to exercise and flap their wings.

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Materials

You can buy a ready-made chicken coop, or you can build one from scratch. Typically they are made from wood boards, plywood or particle board. And the roof is usually sheet metal, PVC or roof tiles. But you can use recycled materials, such as old pallets, corrugated iron, timber and chicken wire. You could even convert an un-used cubby house that the kids have grown out of. If you choose to build your own coop, try to design it so you have easy access to all areas to clean and include lots of flaps and doors that you can open but can be secured if needed.

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Position

Chickens are very vulnerable to environmental hazards. Ensure your coop is placed in a shaded, level part of the garden that’s dry and not in direct sunlight. Ideally the coop should be on grass (or dirt if grass is not available), as your chooks will love to peck the ground and search for insects. You will also need a paved area for night-time so predators can’t dig under and into the coop. You can bury bricks under the ground around your coop as an extra precaution.

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Happy chickens

Happy chickens lay the tastiest eggs. Water, food and bedding are the three key ingredients to a happy chook. The great thing about chickens is they will eat most of your kitchen scraps, excluding meat of course. In addition, course river sand is a good way to aid their digestion, so scatter it on the bottom of your coop, preferably on pavers. 

You’ll need to install a waterer that holds ample water and is held off the ground so it doesn’t get full of dirt and food. Make sure you change the water every day. Lastly, ensure your coop has nests for the chickens to lay eggs. Each nest box must be a minimum of 30 x 30cm and you’ll need one nest for every two to three chickens.

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