When you keep chickens, one thing you need to be sure of is keeping them safe from hawks, raccoon, possums, skunks and other predators. You need to let your chickens free range so that they will be healthy and happy and produce great eggs, but you need to keep them safe. In this article, we will share some ideas about building and using a portable chicken coop to accomplish these goals. Read on to learn more.
If you just have half a dozen hens or fewer, you can build a nice, mobile pasture pen so that your girls can enjoy scratching in the dirt and eating grass and bugs in the daytime. At night, you can secure them in their coop to keep them safe, but during the day, an easy to build, lightweight, mobile coop can give them lots of freedom.
You can move your mobile chicken coop around on your grass and/or you can make it just the right size to fit over your garden plots (raised bed or flush to the ground). When you place the pen over garden areas, your hens can turn your soil for you, help your compost decompose and add to it simultaneously.
The first thing you should do is determine the size of your mobile chicken pen. A good size is about ten feet long, four feet wide and three feet high. You will build a frame to fit the dimensions you have determined. This can be made of steel or aluminum pipe, PVC pipe or wood depending on your building skills and the weight you desire. Remember that a wooden frame will be heavier than pipe.
Once you have built your frame, you should cover it with a sturdy mesh. Chicken wire is really not strong enough to stand up to daily moving, so you should go for something a little more sturdy like a fairly finely meshed fencing wire or hardware cloth. Measure your frame, and be sure to get enough wire to cover the entire structure with the exception of about a third of the top. Leave this open. Later you will create a door of metal or wood that you can lift up to put your chickens into the mobile pen. This will also give your hens shelter in case of rain.
To move your mobile chicken coop around, you have a few options. If you have someone to help you, you could affix sturdy handles of the type usually used for wooden gates to both long sides of the coop. This will give you and your helper a firm grip on both sides. Otherwise, you could affix retractable wheels to one end and handles to the other so that you can simply roll the coop into position.
Move your portable chicken coop every day or two so that your hens will always have fresh grass, bugs and other treats to enjoy. Be certain to place it so that your hens will always be able to get out of the sun if they need to. Start the day by getting the coop into position, stocking it with fresh feed and water. Then you can get your girls and set them up for a safe, enjoyable, free range day.