Having a safe place for your chickens is essential before bringing them home, you will want to research what kind of enclosure or coop to have in advance that is able to keep your chooks warm, happy, and safe.
A Happy Chicken = eggs!
Firstly you should check if there are rules in your area for keeping chickens – you can have chickens in a suburban backyard but usually no roosters. It pays to check with your council just to make sure.
Your chicken coop and run design will come down to a few factors:
- How many chickens will you have?
- Will they be in a run or free-range?
- Your budget
- Any predators in your area
There are lots of designs and plans, whether you want a permanent fixed structure or a movable ‘tractor’. Pinterest is a great place to get ideas as to what works for you, from fancy houses to building from recycled materials like pallets.
The run design that I decided on is assembled from PVC pipe, plastic trellis, and cable ties – you can see the plans and material list here from simplesavings.co.nz.
I highly recommend this – our chickens free-range during the day but we needed something that would keep them safe at night and while we trained our dogs to be ‘bird-proof’. It turned out fantastic for the price:
The tractor is super lightweight and easily moved around to new areas of fresh grass, especially when I need to get it out of the southerly – I just keep it fastened it down with tent pegs. All the materials for this design can be found at Mitre10 or Bunnings in one trip.
We did end up adding a tarp so that the girls had additional protection from the sun and wind.
For the coop I chose a kit-set design called ecoFLEX™ from Tradetested.co.nz (also available on Amazon here) I did a LOT of research on chicken coop structures, materials, and pros and cons of each and decided that the EcoFlex Coop was the winner for me –
- It’s made of a recycled material that will handle the New Zealand harsh weather conditions (the cheap wood types sold elsewhere seem to disintegrate and warp after only a few seasons).
- It’s resistant to insect infestations (read about mites here)
- Easy flat-pack assembly – the fact that this only took about an hour for Mr B and myself to put together was #onpoint.
- So easy to clean! You can waterblast/hose down and it doesn’t seem to absorb smells.
Now I know this is probably a pricey option for some but its perfect for us because
A) I have zero carpentry skills
B) its durability to last will make up for the price tag of $350 in no maintenance costs and easy care.
I use wood shavings as bedding and find it works nicely making it easier to pick out the dirty parts with a cat litter scoop. I do this on the weekends and then add more fresh shavings.
Once you have your run, coop, and bedding sorted, you’re almost there!
You will also need:
Chicken feed – according to the age of your hens. I didn’t bother getting a feeder as I like to sprinkle it on the ground or have them eat out of my hand. That’s the fun part!
Chicken drinker – this needs to be suspended or get a design where they can’t perch and dirty the water. Purchase one large enough for your flock size (1 chicken can drink up to 1L of water a day!)
Oyster shell or grit – you would have heard the saying ‘rarer than hen’s teeth’, and that’s because chickens don’t have any! Having grit available helps them digest what they consume in their crop, and also ensures laying hens have enough calcium for eggshell development.
Most of these products you can purchase online or at your nearest rural supply shop.
Some handy resources for supplies are:
- Chooks.co.nz – New Zealand online store selling all your essential chicken supplies, they also sell various chickens breeds and fertilized eggs.
- Trademe.co.nz – You can find livestock and mostly everything you need here under ‘Poultry’
- The Real NZ Poultry Chat – NZ Facebook group that has lots of information and support from experienced and other beginner chicken owners.
If you want to know more about what chicken keeping entails, check out this great article from the SPCA that tells you about costs, care, and upkeep. Or if you have any questions leave a comment below and I’d be happy to try answer where I can 😁
Cya next time,