University of Maryland Extension

Housing Your Small Flock

Once you decide what type, purpose, and age of birds you are going to raise, you must then decide how to house your avian companions. Housing should provide protection from the elements, predators, injury, and theft. There are several different housing options to choose from that come in almost any shape and size. Many existing buildings can easily be converted to accommodate poultry if you choose not to construct a new facility. A good housing structure should have the following features as suggested by Plamondon (2003):

  • Provide reliable shelter.
  • Have adequate ventilation.
  • Remain in place during bad weather.
  • Be easy to build out of readily available materials.
  • Have low maintenance cost
  • Support changing needs as the size of your flock changes.
  • Protect poultry from predators.

Before beginning construction on your poultry housing, you must first decide where to construct your enclosure. APHIS (2007) suggests when selecting a location to house poultry, choose an area that allows easy access as a caretaker, but restrict visitors from the area. An easy way to restrict visitors is to install a "barrier fence" around the housing area of the birds. Also, consider selecting an area that is high ground so that the location will not flood.

Coop designs vary greatly. The best design for you is dependant on the number of birds in your flock, type of birds, how much money you want to spend.  Basically, the best coop is one that works best for you and your flock. The number one feature of the coop that is most important is height. If the coop is tall enough for you to stand in, you will be more likely to clean it as often as needed. If you prefer low coop (less cost, ease on heating in cold climate), have it designed so that you can easily access the inside to make cleaning easier.  Make sure to include both a people door and/or a chicken door. The door(s) should have a latch to keep out predators and unwanted visitors.   

References:
APHIS-USDA. 2007. Backyard Biosecurity: Keeping Your Birds Healthy. www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/poultryreg/index.php. Accessed May 2008.
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