Raising chickens can be relatively inexpensive, making it possible for almost anyone to put organically fresh eggs and meat on the table. And you can save even more money by constructing your own hen houses. Nice pre-built versions can run upwards of a thousand dollars or more, so it is well worth the effort to build your own. It is a very rewarding experience completing a hen house and then watching your chickens scurry about inside. Even if you have no previous experience building hen houses, you can do it. You just need a good set of instructions, and there are some nice inexpensive chicken house plans available.
Before cutting your first 2-by-4 or nailing two boards together, it is a good idea to come up with a plan. Chickens need a clean dry nesting area along with some room to roam. They will forage for a portion of their own food if you will let them, and this will keep your chickens happy and your feed expenses down. When you are making design decisions, you should be thinking about ways to accommodate the needs of your flock. In this case, you want the chicken coup to have an indoor area where their nests can remain clean and dry. You also want an outdoor area where they can free range for a portion of their food.
We can attach these two sections together to form one single hen house. The outer area will be an enclosed room with chicken wire as the ceiling and walls, while the inside area will be a small “A” frame wooden building where the nests, food and water are located. At this stage there is one final decision we need to make. Where do we build our coop? The biggest factor here is that hen houses should always be placed in areas where there is good drainage.
As far as materials and supplies go, only a few materials are required. Wood, chicken wire, nails and staples are the bulk of the ingredients. After framing both areas, some wood paneling will be nailed to the house and the chicken wire will be stapled to the backyard. The only requirement with regard to the chicken wire is the size of the spaces in the wire mesh. They must be less than 2 inches square. Spaces larger than this can allow small birds or predators to enter. Predators will make a meal out of the birds in the blink of an eye, while wild birds have a reputation for transmitting diseases. Also, it is vital that you treat the wood and the wire as a protection so that they will last for many years instead of rotting or rusting quickly. If you forget to treat the materials you will soon end up with wood rot and rusty wire. Decayed and rotting wood will end up being the home of insect infestations, and wire that has rusted will weaken and break, allowing chickens to escape or predators to enter.
No floor will be necessary in the outer area since the bare ground is what you want. This is where the birds will be allowed to free range. Keep in mind that you will need a large hinged door, so that you can get completely inside when you need to. This door will serve a lot of purposes. It makes it easy to collect eggs, add feed and water and remove or inspect any chickens if necessary. But the best use of the door is that it will make cleanup much faster and simpler.
Another thing you may want to consider is whether to make your hen houses stationary, in other words in a permanent location, or if you want the added benefit of making them portable. You can make your poultry housing using the same basic steps whether they are permanent or portable, you just do not want to make a portable chicken coop so heavy that you cannot move it when necessary.
Portable hen houses will help you in one big way; they will save you money. With permanent structures, once your chickens have eaten all the bugs and plants in their outdoor area, there will be nothing left for them to forage. With portable hen houses, all you have to do is periodically move them to new areas where there is a fresh supply of new undisturbed succulent plants ready for eating. Because of the fact that you will be periodically rotating your portable chicken coup to areas with existing plant growth, the recently grazed areas will have time to replenish and renew their plant life. Once your coop has come full circle and made it back around to a previously used area, it will be full of new wild plants that your birds can once again peck at while the circle of life continues circling.