It’s getting more and more popular these days to have chickens in a garden or back yard and you can’t really keep them without some sort of poultry house to keep them safe and warm over night. But they aren’t the only poultry that are suitable in this context, ducks and geese are popular too and the adventurous might go for turkey, guinea fowl or even peacocks, although the last in that list are rarely kept for eating nowadays.
Basics of Poultry Houses
The sort of garden building and pen that you need depends on the type of poultry you decide to keep, the number of birds and the size of your garden. Hens need a minimum of a square foot in the hen house and a square yard in the yard for each bird. You will also need at least one nesting box for every two hens, and a poultry house designed for hens will do just as well for quails, ducks and other smaller poultry.
You will need a run, usually constructed from a wooden frame covered with chicken wire, that can be easily connected and disconnected from the poultry house so that both can be moved around easily. The reason for the mobility is that the poultry will scratch and dig at the ground, so by moving them once a fortnight or so the ground they have been pecking at will have time to recover.
Inside the poultry house you will need to have perches for the birds to sit on as well as nesting boxes. These can be simple broom handles fixed to brackets on the walls, just something for the birds to use for their natural inclination to sit above ground.
If you are keeping poultry for the eggs then you may want to construct the nest boxes on the outside of the poultry house (although ducks don’t really need nesting boxes as they’ll lay anywhere). The birds should be able to access them from the inside but then you can easily retrieve the eggs by lifting the lid from the outside.
More Complex Poultry Houses
Once you start getting to this level of complexity you might also think about having a poultry house large enough for you to stand up in as this makes it easier to clean out. If not, then you can raise a small house off the ground. You will not have to bend so low to clean it out and this has the added advantage of making predators and pests, and any damage they make trying to get in, easier to see.
If you’re making your own poultry house or converting a shed, consider lining the walls with plywood or MDF rather than leaving the wooden planks and timbers exposed. As well as keeping the poultry house warmer in winter and cooler in summer this will provide fewer places for creepy crawlies and other nasties to lurk. A decent floor, perhaps with a layer of insulation beneath it too, will also pay dividends. It will stand up better to the periodical cleaning although it should also be covered in something like straw, shredded paper or sawdust.
Ducks and geese will use very similar poultry houses but, for geese in particular, everything will need to be scaled up. A good book on poultry houses, with plans included, is a wise investment if you are thinking of making the poultry house yourself.
If you are buying a poultry house, go for one that’s about twenty per cent bigger than you need. Then if you end up with more poultry than you initially thought you would, there’ll be room for that expansion. For the more exotic poultry breeds you should consult an expert book for guidance over and above the information provided here.