One of the most important considerations when choosing where to locate your chicken coop is how far it should be away from your home. People often place them too close to their house or close to their neighbor’s house, but this can lead to many problems such as unpleasant odors and flies bothering you.
As a rule of thumb, you should place your chicken coop as far away from your home as possible, but not so far that it becomes impractical to feed and water the chickens. Generally, the coop and run should be built at least 30 feet from your home.
In this article, I will give you a few essential guidelines for how far away from your home your coop should be and why.
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Why Should I Keep My Chicken Coop at Least 30 Feet Away from the House?
There are essentially four considerations when choosing how far your coop should be from your house: bad odors, flies, rats, and noise.
Keeping your chicken coop too close to your home can potentially result in unpleasant smells that you and your family won’t like. Chickens are known for pooping everywhere, so you’ll need to clean up the coop very frequently to avoid it from stinking up the area around the coop, including your home, whenever you open a window.
Every day, each chicken will produce about 3 ounces of poop. This means that if you own five chickens, their total daily output will be almost one pound of manure each day. If your chickens are confined in a relatively small area, such as a chicken coop and run, the manure can quickly build up.
Flies love it when chickens poop everywhere: they lay eggs on manure piles; their larvae feed on feces. Flies can spread diseases by landing on food and contaminating it with bacteria or even, in the case of some flies, biting you as well.
So if your coop is too close to your house, flies can be a problem, not only a potential health issue but also because flies can be a terrible nuisance. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sunny day on your porch if you are constantly bothered by flies buzzing around your head and landing on your food. No one wants annoying flies interrupting their outdoor activities.
Rats love chicken feed and food scraps. If you allow it, large families of rats will enjoy living inside or crawling in and out of the coop throughout their day as if it were a playground for them.
One thing is that rats can destroy your coop and run with their strong teeth, but their droppings are bad news as well. They may carry parasites or bacteria that can affect people’s health, especially children and immunocompromised adults, but also perfectly healthy people can get sick from rat poop.
Rats in your chicken coop are an issue that should always be dealt with, but it’s nothing compared to rats in your house. And the closer you place the coop to your house, the more likely it is that a rat will find its way into your home.
While a small flock of chickens is not constantly noisy, they can be quite loud. They cluck, cackle, and (if you have a rooster) crow. There is nothing that you can do to stop your chickens from making noises; it’s just part of having them. However, if your coop is too close to your house, the noise can be an annoyance for you and your family.
You may enjoy the sounds they make during the day (I know I do), but if they are too close to your house, it can be an annoyance in the early morning hours when you’re trying to sleep or in the evening when you are about to go to bed.
What Are Some Other Considerations When Choosing a Location for Your Chicken Coop?
Let’s say you have the space to place a coop and run at a distance of 30 or more feet from your house. How would you decide the best for your chickens?
Besides the distance from your house, there are other important factors that you should keep in mind when deciding where to place your chicken coop:
- How close is the nearest power source? If you live in a location where it gets cold in the winter, you may need a heated base to keep your chickens’ drinking water from freezing over. You could run a long extension cord, but that is unsightly and inconvenient, so you may want to place the coop closer to a power outlet.
- How far do you have to carry feed and water for your chickens? How much work will it be to carry a full bucket of water from a tank to your coop, and how often will you need to do this? Depending on how many chickens you have, this may become quite a chore. Consider how close you can place your coop or run to the water source and where you store the chicken feed.
- How safe is it to walk in the winter? When the soil freezes, the ground gets very hard and may become slippery, especially when there is snow on it and you are carrying a budget of feed pellets. And particularly if you need to get up and down a hill to reach your coop, this can turn a daily task into a bit of a risky adventure.
- How dry is the area? Chickens are somewhat messy birds, and if their run is very wet and muddy, they will be a lot dirtier than if their run was dry. Wet chicken poop will smell much more and attract more flies. Humidity is also a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, so it’s a good idea to build your coop and run in a location that stays fairly dry. Avoid areas that tend to flood or where water collects after rain.
A good rule of thumb about choosing the location for your coop is this: dry, easy access with a wheelbarrow, and some distance from the house.
What If I Only Have a Small Yard?
Lots of chicken keepers live on small plots of land, or maybe the land they have is already taken up by outbuildings or landscaping. This should not stop you from raising chickens.
It is entirely possible to place your chicken coop very close to your house, as long as you are willing to put extra effort into keeping it clean and free of flies and rats. Make sure the run and coop are rat-proof, use automatic chicken feeders, be extra diligent in never leaving food scraps around, and clean it all out a few times a week.
How close you place your coop or run to your house will depend on how willing you are to do this extra work. Just remember that the closer your chicken coop is to your home, the more work it will be to keep it clean and free of pests and bad smells.
What Can Be Done about Unpleasant Odor from the Coop?
I have mentioned bad odor issues quite a bit in this article, but the truth is that chickens generally do not smell that much. They are quite clean animals, and their poo only smells when it’s wet. Thus, the problem with coop smell is not necessarily how much a chicken poops but more about how wet it gets.
Here are a few tips that will keep your coop from smelling too much:
Use Absorbent Bedding
One thing that helps with keeping your chicken coop from smelling is having lots of absorbent bedding material such as straw or wood shavings on the floor in the coop and sometimes in wetter areas of the run. Woodshavings and hemp are both great options.
Ensure Proper Ventilation
Another important thing is having sufficient ventilation in your coop. The air must be able to circulate freely to keep humidity levels down.
Drill a few holes in the roof or high on the walls for ventilation and use solid hardware cloth to keep rats and other predators from getting in. You may also want to be able to open windows during the hottest days.
Let Your Chickens Free-range
Another way to prevent chicken poop from accumulating in only one area is to allow your chickens to range freely in your backyard. They will be able to produce free fertilizer for your yard and then spread it around naturally. This will allow you to maintain lower concentrations of ammonia, which flies find very attractive.
If the thought of chicken poop on your lawn bothers you, you can use a movable fence to keep your birds out of certain areas. Alternatively, you can take an occasional walk with a garden hose and dissolve the droppings into the ground.
Clean the Coop Often
How often you need to clean your chicken coop will depend on how many chickens you have and how big the run is, but as a general rule of thumb, you should change bedding once a week and do more throughout cleaning once a month. During your daily egg collecting, you can also inspect the coop for mud or wet bedding and scoop out droppings from their nesting boxes.
It is important to remember that keeping the coop clean is more essential than the distance from the house. While a location further from the house will offer you a bit of leeway in letting the area go a bit longer between cleanings, it is important that you keep an eye on it and get down there to clean regularly.
Many people ask, How close can a chicken coop be to my house? If you are willing to be very diligent in cleaning and maintaining the coop, you could place it as close as just as few feet from your home. If this sounds like too much work for you, then keep your chickens 30 feet or more from your house.
There is no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to pick what best works with your lifestyle, given all the factors that have been discussed here.