If you have ever considered getting chickens, but are worried about how much they may cost your family, there are lots of DIY projects you can do to cut down your expenses and get exactly what you want. You can make your own coop, chicken tractor, waterer, and much more. Here are some tips to consider when taking on a chicken DIY project.
Chicken Coops / Tractors: What is a chicken tractor? Basically, it is a mobile coop. It allows you to move your chickens around your yard in an easy and quick fashion, allows your chickens to constantly have fresh grass and bugs, reduces your pest population and helps fertilize your yard. A chicken tractor can be a great asset to your farm if it is easily moveable. You can make any chicken coop into a chicken tractor by adding wheels and handles (wheel barrow-type handles work great). Many folks use old dog houses (or even play houses) as a starting point for chicken coops because they are enclosed and safe and all you have to do is add in a roosting bar and nesting boxes.
When building or retrofitting a structure to a chicken coop or tractor, consider spacing requirements for your chickens. They need a minimum of 2.5-3.5 square feet per bird of inside coop space plus an additional 4-5 square feet of outside fenced in run space. If you make your own chicken coop, don’t forget to add a run for them to have time outside to exhibit their natural behaviors like scratching in the dirt for bugs and taking dirt baths to rid of mites and external parasites. When designing your run, don’t forget to cover the top of the run with chicken wire or a solid roof if possible to keep aerial predators out. Also, be cautious of ground predators as you may need to add additional precautions such as chicken wire under the ground to stop them from digging under the fence to get into the chicken run. Other management aspects to consider are protection from the weather, proper ventilation (cool in the summer and warm in the winter), adequate nesting boxes (at least one per 4-5 hens and at least 12” x 14”) and adequate roosting space (minimum of 9”-10” of perch space).
Chicken Waterers: There are lots of ways to water your chickens and you can purchase inexpensive waterers from any local feed and seed store. If you’re interested in filling up waterers less and having cleaner water, you can make a waterer. One option for doing this is by using a large PVC pipe and adding drinkers to it facing down, every foot or so. Be sure one of your caps on the end of the PVC pipe waterer curves up so you don’t have to worry about water leaking out and that it is easy to open, close, and refill with water. You can supply your chickens with a large amount of water by using a waterer like this and it also keeps the water clean and free from dirt, leaves, and manure from the chickens- they like to use traditional waterers as perches and often dirty their fresh water very quickly. Be sure to mount this waterer close enough to the ground for the chickens to drink from it. The PVC pipe waterer works best if you start them out on it when they are chicks. Be sure the waterer is secured to the coop or the structure you’re putting it on, and make sure a hose from your water source will reach the waterer. You can also make various different types of waterers out of 5-gallon buckets.
If you have any questions about how to do any of these DIY chicken projects, you can contact your local Cooperative Extension Office and speak with the livestock agent or Margaret_Ross@ncsu.edu.
Margaret Ross is an eastern area extension agent specializing in poultry housed in Jones County.