Chickens need a dry, comfortable but well ventilated house to sleep in at night safe from the fox. You can either have a specially designed hen house or adapt a garden shed or outbuilding. They will want a nice dark cosy place within their house to lay their eggs, and a perch with rounded edges for them to sleep on at night. The perch needs to be the higher than the nest boxes as they naturally want to roost as high as possible.
You have a choice of either plastic or wooden housing – both have advantages and disadvantages.
You can either have your hens in a run or you can let them have the run of the garden and they will automatically return to their house at night (you don’t have to catch them every day – they will go ‘home to roost!). They will need an absolute minimum of 1.5 square metres per bird – the more space for them the better. Be very cautious when a manufacturer states a coop will house a certain amount of hens, check the measurements yourself and consider if there is enough space for your pets to spend their whole life in.
After the initial settling in period, hens will always return to their house to roost at dusk so you don’t need to worry about catching them and putting them in. If you go to the hen house at dusk, all your hens should have returned from the run or garden and be on their perches.
You will need to line the base of the house with shavings or similar so that you can easily clean them out, and put shavings or straw in the nest box.