Here is a list of 8 essentials for backyard chickens that will help them stay happy & healthy so you get the best eggs possible. These essentials are all very important and if even a few are lacking you might run into some issues.
Backyard chickens can be very easy & rewarding to have. Setting them up for success will prevent sickness and in turn, relieve stress for you. There is nothing worse than a sick chicken and I say that from experience. Our first chicken we started caring for showed up on our doorstep, missing a ton of feathers and very thin. She is the Rhode Island Red pictured above. We tried to find her owner but with no luck we decided to keep her. She is happy, healthy, and thriving now and we are so thrilled!
Our next two chickens were given to us with scaly leg mites which are very contagious to other chickens. Scaly leg mites are mites that burrow under the scales on chickens feet which makes them very flaky and dry looking. We tried to use the most natural way to treat them which included warm foot soaks and coating the feet in vaseline. Fully cleaning out their coop and changing their bedding every week until their feet cleared up was crucial so more mites didn’t hatch and continue the process. Scaly leg mites was something I didn’t even know to look for when taking in chickens. I’m always learning something new about chickens all the time.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.
1. Having enough room in your run & coop.
How much sq footage does each chicken need?
For each chicken you have, they should have 3-4 sq. feet inside the coop and 10 or more sq. feet in the run, however more is better. If chickens have less space than this they are more prone to disease and sickness. They can become unhappy and start pecking at each other as well, which can lead to sores or bare areas on their backs.
2. Roosts in the coop.
A roost in a chicken coop is a bar or branch that is elevated off the ground where your chickens can sleep. You should provide at least 8 inches of space on the roosts for each chicken. In the cooler months your chickens will tend to huddle close together to keep warm even if they have plenty of space. Chickens like to be able to curl their toes around the front of the roost so make sure your roosts aren’t a flat board for them to stand on. We use a 2×4 which seems to be a good size for their feet. Using something that is too small can also be hard on their feet so shoot for at least 2” wide.
3. Nesting boxes in the coop that your chickens will like.
What size should a nesting box be?
A nesting box should be a minimum of 1 ft wide, 1 ft deep, and 1 ft tall. Chickens like to feel secure and have a little privacy when laying their eggs so having sides, and possibly a roof, on your nesting box is nice. One nesting box for every 5 chickens should be enough. If you have more available they might all have one favorite that they tend to go for.
This was one of my biggest challenges in the A frame coop we built. I wanted to provide enough roosting space for my chickens but also place a nesting box in an area that they wouldn’t poop into it at night. I built a couple different options but ended up going with a milk crate filled with hay. It is easy to remove and clean when I change the bedding in the coop. It’s also heavy enough with hay in it to stay in place and not tip over with the chickens getting in and out of it.
4. Ventilation in your chicken coop.
This is the most important one out of the 8 essentials for backyard chickens, especially in the winter. All of that pooping that chickens do during the night gives off a lot of moisture & ammonia along with their breathing and body heat. If the moisture & ammonia doesn’t have anywhere to escape it can lead to a handful of issues. From respiratory illnesses, frostbite, and overheating in the warmer months. Make sure your ventilation is at the top of the coop, above where the chickens will roost at night. You don’t want to create a draft onto the chickens, which can lead to other health issues & even death.
5. Bedding inside the coop.
There are many different types of bedding you can go with inside your coop. We have tried the deep litter method with wood shavings but ended up changing to hay. We had a handful of health issues with the chickens while trying the deep litter method which had me shoveling out all of the bedding way too often. Cleaning out hay instead of wood shavings was a better choice for us in the long run, but see which one you prefer. If you live in a warmer climate that you don’t need several inches of bedding in the coop to keep them warm, you can also use sand.
6. Predator proofing your chicken coop.
This is the second most important out of the 8 essentials for backyard chickens. Depending on where you live there will be different threats for predators. One predator can take out all of your chickens in a single swoop if they can get to them. Here in New Hampshire, we have everything from coyotes, racoons, skunk, fox, wessels, hawks, and bobcats. Keep in mind that even dogs can harm chickens if they are your own or your neighbors. Make sure there aren’t any openings or cracks in your coop & run and cover any ventilation holes with hardware cloth.
Make sure your hatches are strong enough to withstand any predators that are in your area. For our run and hatch door to the coop we use a clasp latch and for our large coop door we use a sliding latch. Remember, racoons are smart little handy animals that can open certain locks easily so using a clasp latch is your best bet.
For our run we used hardware cloth on the bottom level where animals would try to go through and for the top part we used chicken wire. Just keep in mind a lot of animals can break right through chicken wire so if that is a concern for you, be sure to use hardware cloth. To secure the bottom so animals can’t dig a hole and climb under, you can extend wire fencing. If you don’t like the look of it you can cover it up with dirt and put some grass seed over it.
Obviously feeding your chickens is going to be an essential and there are many ways you can go about it. You can give them a measured amount of food each day, or let them eat as much as they would like out of a feeder. There are many different kinds of chicken feed out there and you can learn more about them here. You can also check out my homemade fermented chicken feed post if you want to give your chickens an added boost of probiotics.
If your chickens are molting or fighting any kinds of illnesses you can add vitamins and electrolytes to their water to boost their immune system. Adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a gallon on water will keep their water free from bacteria. Chickens enjoy the taste and it will encourage them to drink more. FYI, don’t use metal water dispensers because the apple cider vinegar will corrode them over time.
Pin It For Later
Follow Me On Instagram!
Thank you for reading my 8 essentials for backyard chickens and I hope you gathered some good ideas to keep your chickens happy & healthy!
You Can Find More Blog Posts Here
Until next time,