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25/08/2010 The more space and freedom you can give your birds the better, be it free range or in a moveable run and coop. These should be moved onto fresh grass every 2-3 days otherwise a build up of feaces could sour the ground leaving birds open to parasites. If this cannot be achieved in the space you have runs can be placed on wood chippings, not bark as sometimes this is coloured in garden centres and can be poisonous to your pets. They will need to be topped up with fresh chippings on a regular basis. If you only have room for a 6ft by 4ft house and similar sized run then maybe bantams would suit you better than large fowl.

As well as being vermin proof your coop needs to be constructed to prevent other predators such as foxes, stoats or mink. Your hen house will also need to be damp-free and well ventilated, vital for preventing respiratory diseases.

Next there will need to be space for your birds to perch comfortably without fighting.  We recommend 8 inches per bird and although this doesn’t sound much they like to be close enough to keep warm on winter nights when shut into their housing. Perches need to be positioned away from drafts and correct height for the birds using them.

Also to be thought about is nest boxes. There should be one nest box to every 4-5 hens using the coop. They don’t need one each as they will be laying at different times and are happy to share them between the birds. For large fowl nest boxes will need to be 30x30x30cm and smaller than this for bantams.

Your chicken coop needs to be large enough so on a wet rainy day all your birds can shelter in comfort inside it. If accommodation is too small for the number of birds you have then those at the bottom of the pecking order may well be left out in the rain.

Bare in mind when purchasing your chicken coop that overcrowding is a common cause of respiratory disease and coccidiosis. Overcrowding your coop can also lead to bullying which means that those on the receiving end of it may go short of food and suffer with stress which means they are more susceptible to disease. The situation will be worse if age groups differ and birds of different sizes are mixed.

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