Raising backyard chickens can be a fun and rewarding experience for families. If you’re interested in trying your hand at owning chickens, there are a few essential tools and items you’ll need to get started.
Though your list of essentials will vary depending on the age of your birds, here are a few must-have supplies to prepare your space before bringing your chickens home.
Heat Lamps (For Chicks)
Because they don’t have feathers to help regulate their temperature, newly hatched chicks need their mothers to keep them warm. So, if you’re bringing home chicks without a mother hen, it’s imperative to have a heat lamp that will mimic their mother’s warmth for the first few weeks after they hatch. The ideal temperature for chicks 7 days old or younger is 95 degrees. Each week, the recommended temperature for your chicks will decrease by 5 degrees until your chicks are fully feathered and able to live outside.
A Safe Home
A safe chicken coop is imperative to protecting your backyard chickens from the harsh elements and dangerous predators. While some people choose to purchase their coops from a store, others build or adapt them from backyard sheds or similar structures.
Chicken coops are typically made of wood and wire, but any sturdy material can be used. Most chicken coops will include nesting boxes, where hens will lay their eggs; a roosting bar, where your chickens will instinctively seek higher ground while they sleep; and, if space permits, a run—or enclosed area for your chickens to roam during the day. Your chickens will naturally return to the coop before nightfall, so it’s imperative to have a secure door that closes behind them at dusk to keep predators at bay.
If you’re bringing home chicks, you’ll need a brooder or small enclosure to house them before they reach maturity and can live outside in the coop. You can use a structure as simple as a box or as fancy as a special brooding house you purchase from a pet store. Just be sure you have a space that will keep drafts out and keep your chicks protected for the first six to eight weeks after they’ve hatched.
A nesting box is where your hens will go to lay their eggs when they’ve reached maturity. You can purchase nesting boxes or construct them yourself to save on cost and add character to your coop. The ideal nesting box should have enough room for the laying hens to fit comfortably, yet small enough to feel secure. The boxes can be built from wood, metal or plastic and should be lined with bedding. The number of nesting boxes needed will depend on the size of your flock. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a ratio of one nesting box for every four chickens.
Adding bedding to the floor of your coop and in your nesting boxes is a great way to improve the cleanliness of your chickens’ living space and help keep your birds healthy. There are many different options for bedding that people can choose from, but some popular materials include straw, hay, grass clippings and pine shavings. Add a little bit of your preferred bedding to the coop each day to help soak up moisture from droppings and eliminate odor.
Feeders and Waterers
From open buckets, trays and troughs to complex automatic treadle feeders, there are a variety of styles of feeders and waterers to choose from. Deciding what’s best for you will depend on the size of your flock and space in your coop, how much time you’re willing to spend on filling the feeder and cleaning up, and of course, your budget.
The placement of your feeders and waterers is an important component in keeping your coop sanitary and protected from predators. If your coop is large enough to allow it, it’s recommended that you keep feeders and waterers inside to protect them from getting rained on, which can lead to molding, and attracting predators.
A convenient tool that will help ensure your coop is secure whether you’re home or away is an easy-to-install automatic door opener from Coop Controls. These automated coop door openers use a built-in photosensor to automatically open the coop door at dawn by measuring the available light and then close the door at dusk, protecting them from predators – and giving you peace of mind.
To learn more about Coop Controls Door Opener Kits and see pricing information, visit our product page.