Inside

• Perches should be higher than the entrance to nest boxes to prevent your chickens from roosting in the nest boxes. Allow at least 8” of perch space per bird for large fowl, slightly less for bantams. Thickness is important too, ideally it should be a minimum of 2” wide for large fowl (slightly narrower for smaller breeds), and have rounded-off corners on its top edges. Perches that are too narrow cause the birds discomfort. If more than one perch is fitted, make sure they are all at the same height and not too close to the wall. For heavy breeds like Brahmas, lower the height of perches to help prevent damage to the legs and feet as the birds jump down.

Housing perch

Getting the perch right is vital; edges should be rounded on the top and the width and height right for the birds you keep. Make sure they are all the same height to avoid bullying.

• Nest boxes
Allow one nest box for every 3-4 birds. These must be 12” square and 8-10” deep for large fowl (slightly smaller for bantams), and positioned lower than the perches. Sometimes boxes are attached to the outside of the house, to maximise interior space, but they should always be at the darker end of the roosting compartment.

Covering the entrance with some sort of ‘curtain’ can help keep the interior of the nest box dark if you can’t position it out of direct sunlight.

Make sure nest boxes are lower than perches, to avoid your birds roosting in them, soiling them with overnight droppings.

• Flooring
Wooden floors can hold moisture, so it’s vital that bedding is changed regularly to ensure that the floor doesn’t become damp. Chickens are very prone to respiratory diesases and the damp atmosphere, coupled with a buildup of ammonia fumes, that can occur inside a wet house provide a perfect environment for disease. 

droppings tray housing

Using a droppings tray can help minimise moisture in the house, providing an easy and quick way to collect and remove overnight droppings before they have a chance to cause problems.

Joints
• The number of joints in a house made from tongue and grooved boards offers a perfect hiding place to parasites such as red mite, who will take cover in these crevices during the day, coming out at night to feed on the roosting birds. To some extent this risk can be reduced by either caulking the joints with a suitable sealer, or puffing diatomaceaous earth into all the gaps. This kills and deters mites by physically slicing them open, and has the added benefit of not being a chemical treatment, so there’s no chance of the mites building up immunity.

Outside

• Pop hole
This is the entrance the chickens use to get into the house. Most modern designs slide up and down in channels, although some are hinged. Making sure the pop hole is shut and locked at night is vital in helping to prevent attacks from predators such as foxes and badgers. You can buy battery-powered systems which automatically open and close the pop holes at set times, which is great if you work long hours or want to come home late. If you keep large breeds, make sure the pop hole has enough headroom for them.

•Roofing
Roofing materials often perish over time and will need to be replaced. Roofing felt loses its flexibility and becomes brittle when exposed to sunlight, and once a small tear appears it doesn’t take much for the wind to get under it and rip the whole thing off. A modern roofing choice such as Onduline has the benefit of offering extra ventilation, with its corrugated form, but again, this will eventually degrade after time and will need to be replaced.

See here for plastic housing

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