Setting up for my new chickens

How much space do I need for my chickens?

The minimum area recommended is 1.5 square feet or .13 square metres per bird (0.1 square metres for bantams) in their coop and 8 square feet or .75 square metres per bird (around 0.5 square metres for bantams) in their yard/run.

Allow between 6″ – 10″ (or 150mm to 250mm) of perch space per bird for them to be comfortable and one nesting box for 4 – 5 laying hens is fine.

Suburban Chooks recommends that you free range your chickens whenever possible to provide a varied diet, exercise, alleviate boredom (and any associated behavioural problems), ‘yellower’ (is there such a word?) egg yolks… and have a generally happier chook.

Do I need a ‘perch’ for my chickens in their coop?

A majority of chicken owners (and chickens) would say yes as it is preferred. Chickens have a natural instinct to roost, and in the past (or not so past dependant on your chosen breed of chicken) they would do so in trees. Allow between 6″ – 10″ (or 150mm to 250mm) per bird for them to be comfortable. When building or buying a coop, a perch should be at least 2 inches wide, preferably with rounded corners (not a broom handle or thin tree branch). 

Chickens sit on their perch with their breast bone resting on the perch also (unlike other birds), so wider is better than thinner. A too thin perch can cause breastbone deformities and is painful for the chicken. Chickens also produce approx. 40% of their poo whilst they are sleeping, so it’s best that they are on a perch so they aren’t sleeping in their own mess.

What should we use/put on the floor of the coop/run? I’m worried about it getting wet in the rain…

We use straw or rice hulls in the nest and inside the coop (easy to clean out) but prefer to use chucky/large mulch in the runs where it mainly gets wet. We think mulch is fantastic because (when you have a nice thick layer) you can walk on it without having it turn into a poo-ey bog (the rain drains through the mulch, which also washes away the chicken poo). This just needs an annual clean out and replacement…

Also, chickens are natural foragers, and are happy kicking around anything to get to the goodies underneath…

I want chickens but still want to go away for the weekend or go on holidays. How do other people with chickens do it?

A good setup is priceless, as it will mean that you have time to enjoy your girls as well as other aspects of your life including the odd weekend away/holiday.

A large feeder will mean more time in between refills and a gravity fed waterer (automatic or one you refill) both hung at the back height of the chooks means you won’t have to be constantly cleaning their food and water containers. As long as your coop/run area has adequate shelter from the ever changing Melbourne weather, is foxproof, has ample food and water and your girls aren’t overcrowded there is no reason why you can’t leave them to enjoy your own change of scenery.

If you are especially worried, you will quickly realise (and be happy to show others) how easy it is to check on and maintain your chickens whilst you go away for a while. You can always sweeten the deal by offering the eggs to the person who collects them while you are away…