chicken nesting pads. Providing enough nesting boxes for your flock is important—a general rule is to have one box per five hens, but you should keep an eye on the flock to make sure everyone has enough room. Overcrowding and squabbling can lead to issues with laying, which means fewer healthy eggs and an unhappy flock.
Many chicken breeds like to sleep up high. This instinct helps protect them from predators, and it makes them less prone to diseases than if they were to sleep on the floor with their litter and dirty bedding. Get a roosting bar or other perch for your chickens to keep them comfortable at night. Make sure you provide enough perching spots for everyone in the flock—roosts are another thing that chickens will squabble over, and you want all your birds to have a safe place to sleep. Once again, you want to keep the roosting bars clean. It’s also a good idea to smooth the top of the bars so that your chickens have a more comfortable spot to rest.
Chickens are extremely hardy creatures, and they have good natural temperature control. However, you should still keep an eye on the temperature in your coop. A well-insulated coop is vital for keeping out bitter winter winds and other extreme elements. Additionally, if you have or plan to have chicks, you’ll want to have some sort of heating element. Chicks can’t regulate their own temperatures, so placing a heat lamp and a thermometer in their brooder is essential for proper care.
Chickens are clever birds, and they love to play as much as we do. Toys might not seem like necessities for chicken coops, but they’re great ways to entertain your birds throughout the day. Chicken swings are popular options, since they satisfy the chickens’ playful nature as well as their desire to be up high. Another idea is to give them balls or plastic kids’ toys, which give your birds something to peck at. Treats are also great for entertaining your birds. You can hang a head of cabbage or lettuce in the coop to act as a piñata.
A run isn’t technically essential equipment for a chicken coop, but if your birds can’t free range, having one is a good idea. A run gives your chickens a place to move around, scratch, and play, even when you’re not around to keep an eye on them. Make sure your run is large enough for all your chickens to spend time there without getting into fights. You should also ensure that the run is predator-proof. Your fence should be sturdy enough to keep out dogs and other large predators. It’s also a good idea to bury the fence posts at least a few inches into the ground so that predators can’t dig underneath and get to your chickens. As an added precaution, you can put up mesh or fencing overhead to keep out hawks and other aviary predators.
What kind of equipment have you found to work best for your coop? Let us know in the comments!