The most important thing to remember when constructing or purchasing housing for your chickens is protecting your chickens from all predators in the area. This means the coop’s sides, top and bottom must all be completely secure. If your coop will be constructed from wire, use the same wire to cover the top of the coop to protect your chickens from flying predators like hawks.
Your coop should also protect your chickens from drafts and gusts while still providing adequate ventilation. It’s best to give your chickens as much space as possible, but at a minimum you should provide 2-3 square feet for each chicken you plan to have.
The coop’s attached chicken run, will allow chickens the chance to roam and stretch their legs during the day. Chicken runs should have at least 4-5 square feet per chicken. Scratching in dirt is one component in keeping your chickens healthy, so your chicken run should be placed on dirt ground (vegetated or unvegetated), not on bricks, wood or concrete.
Providing chickens with plenty of clean water is critical. Put the water up off the ground on a few bricks so that it stays clean. A chicken without water can die in less than a day because they overheat easily. Place the water bowl in a shaded area in the summer.
High quality pellets should form the bulk of your chickens’ diet. Chicken pellets are specially formulated to provide the right blend of nutrients to keep your chickens healthy.
Your chickens’ diet should be supplemented with greens like cabbage, cauliflower leaves, spinach and dandelions. Too much lettuce can cause loose stool, so it is best to avoid offering it. Finally, their diet should be supplemented with grit to help digestion as well as a source of calcium like coarsely broken up oyster shells.
You can also give your chickens small amounts of cracked corn, hulled sunflower seeds and mealworms as a special treat.
Providing adequate housing, water and food is the first step to keeping your chickens healthy. Regular cleaning of your chicken’s habitat is another. If you notice your chickens begin to behave abnormally or sickly, however, you should consult a veterinarian for treatment. You can search the Association of Avian Veterinarians database to find one who is knowledgeable about chicken veterinary care.