How to Build Fixed and Mobile Chicken Pens

How to build fixed and mobile chicken pens, including size of chicken pens, using a chicken feeder and water font in the pens and a chicken-powered tiller.

| December 1996/January 1997


There is a better way to raise pullets and meat birds for the one or two months they spend in full-time eating between end of brooding and the time that cockerels and excess young hens go into the freezer and replacement laying hens go into the larger winter house. That is to construct one or more light-weight, open-bottom mobile houses to use as free-range shelters or as chicken-powered tillers.

John Vivian shares how to build fixed and mobile chicken pens for your homestead.

You can shelter chickens in anything that offers protection form the elements, is night-predator-proof, provides shelter form winter drafts and good ventilation at same time, and—most crucial—supplies shade and airflow to protect the birds from summer heat. Learn how to build fixed and mobile chicken pens.

I’ve built hen quarters into corners of barns and in sheds and shacks of several designs and vintages, and I’ve seen them kept in 50-gallon ail drums, derelict autos, hollow logs, elegant gazebos, sections of galvanized road conduit, an ancient beached lobster boat, and on the back porch of more than one mountain home.

In her later years my great-aunt Mame kept her two favorite laying hens in the old homestead’s log house during the winter. They shared the cats a nest box in the corner behind the old wood-burning range and a swinging-hatch door into the woodshed and barn and on outside. As Mame elegantly showed, eccentricities are one of the under-appreciated luxuries of age.

To keep your own layers and breeding stock content while cooped up during the winter, you’ll want to provide each 4 square feet of floor space and a good 2 square feet of above-floor roosting area.

Chicken Roosts

Chickens feel safest roosting at night on an easily gripped tree-branch substitute: a 2- to 3-inch-wide rough pole or board located a foot or more above the floor. Roosts must be firmly fastened so they won't roll when several heavy birds jump/fly up on them and rustle around to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Put in enough roost that each bird will have a good linear foot to call its own. You can use a single long roosting board or (better in cold climates, so birds can dump together) arrange shorter roosts in a rising tier, each board a foot away from the others in height and lateral distance.

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