for South Portland permit
of henhouses & coops
for South Portland permit-
to have both a building permit for the coop ($25 one-time charge) and
an annual permit to keep the hens ($25 per year).
The first step
is to plan your chicken coop and run. You'll need a drawing of your
lot with setbacks to the henhouse labeled, as well as elevations, plans
and finish materials of your proposed coop. Take these with you to the
South Portland Department of Planning and Development, 62 E Street to
apply for your building permit and chicken permit. It's preferable to
make an appointment first: call 767-7603. Also remember that you are
responsible for renewing your chicken permit each year!
the full text of South Portland's ordinance here
to be sure you understand the requirements. Here is a brief summary:
-Only hens allowed, no roosters.
Limit to 6 per property.
-Pets only: no commercial purposes, no slaughtering.
-Hens must be in fenced enclosure at all times, in solid henhouse at
night and in enclosed pen (or fenced yard with supervision) in daylight.
-Coops must be kept clean, dry and odor-free at all times. Coops must
be predator-proof (see below for tips)
-Henhouse: must have locking doors and windows. Opening windows need
wire of less than 1" opening. Adequate ventilation is required
(see below).They must be aesthetically pleasing (no scrap-board or -metal)
and painted nicely, and kept well-maintained. See the Coop Gallery for
some lovely examples. Henhouses must be in back yards except on corner
lots when they may be in side yards. They must be 20' from the property
line unless you have the approval of all abutters.
-Enclosed runs or pens are required. They must have wire fencing on
the walls (no standard "chicken wire") buried at least 12"
in the ground, and a roof, either solid, wire, or aviary netting.
-You must keep the coop very clean; no odors at property lines. No loud
noises. See the ordinance for requirements on feed storage, waste disposal,
etc. Basically, with sound chicken-keeping you'll be fine.
and Exposure: Selecting Your Site
Coops need access to light and air. In summer, the hens need
airflow and access to shade. In winter, as much sunshine as possible
is best; think passive solar.
The outdoor run/pen should be in a spot with good drainage, where it
will not be inundated during heavy rains. Ideally, a south facing, gently
sloped area will give the coop the advantage of the light and the drying
effects of the sun, provided it will not bake too much in the summer.
You will need to access the coop to feed, water, and clean. Proximity
to a year round water source may be convenient.
You want to protect your hens
from the elements and from predators (we do have fisher cats, coyotes,
raccoons, skunks, and hawks in addition to cats and dogs!)
Hens need a dry, draft-free house. Windows that can be opened in good
weather, with sturdy wire screening (1/2" hardware cloth) are ideal.
Build on high ground with good drainage. Wetness is extremely bad for
chickens, causing disease and making the coop smell bad. Think about
positioning: south-facing windows and run will take advantage of the
sun's drying power in wet months and solar heat in winter. In our cold
climate, many people insulate their henhouses. If you choose very cold-hardy
breeds you may be able to get along without insulation, but the water
will freeze and need refilling several times per day. Most people insulate
(you'll need to cover the interior walls so they won't eat the insulation)
and also use either a heat lamp over the waterer or a heater in it.
Heated dog bowls are easy to find but must be cleaned out often. Poultry
waterer heaters are available. Any of these can be plugged into a thermostatic
plug to come on when temps dip below 32 degrees.
Protection from predators
is more important than you might think; suburban hens have been lost
to raccoons and others. Windows and doors must be securely covered with
heavy-gauge mesh wire or screening when opened. Any opening doors/windows
(including the "chicken door" into the attached run/pen) need
locks that a toddler can't open (raccoons are very clever), or be high
enough that a raccoon can't reach it.
To keep animals from digging
under the run fencing, bury it at least 12" deep, turning the bottom
edge outward. Don't use standard "chicken wire", which raccoons
can pull apart. Welded wire fencing is a good choice and easily available
at Home Depot, Lowes, lumber yards and feed stores. Raccoons have also
been known to reach through large-guage wire and grab a chicken's head
and rip it off; many people recommend using smaller-guage wire for the
bottom of the run, such as 1/2" hardware cloth.
To keep your hens safe from
hawks, and to eliminate contact with wild birds who might carry disease,
the run must be covered by either wire, aviary netting, or a solid roof.
Solid roofs are great since they also keep the run drier: wetness is
the enemy of a healthy, odor-free coop. Inexpensive translucent panels
called SunTuf can be ordered from Hillside Lumber, and the big-box building
supply places have pretty metal roofing panels in nice colors.
When building, remember to
keep the hens safety in mind. Don't leave loose or half-pounded-in staples
that they might peck and swallow. Remove ragged wire, nails, etc.
Your hens need space to be happy and excercise. On-line you may find
smaller space requirements quoted, but these are often for commercial
birds where money -not the hens' happiness- is the prime concern. Among
pet hen owners, the consensus minimum space requirements for standard-sized
hens seem to be:
Henhouse interior floor space
(not including space for feed/water and nest boxes): 4-6 square feet per
Outdoor run space: 10-12 square feet per hen.
Roosts/Perches: Provide perches
in the henhouse, ideally 10" per hen, about 15-18" away from
the wall. In our climate, a 2x4 on its side (wide flat side up) is ideal
as it lets the hens tuck their feet underneath and keep them warm in
winter. If the 2x4 has sharp/square edges, sand them down to round them
a bit. To keep the floor clean longer, many people fashion a "droppings
board" or "pit" under the roost. That way, the night's
droppings can be cleaned up each morning rather than tracked around
the coop. A droppings board could be a plank (covered with a piece of
vinyl flooring/linoleum for easy clean-up, or with newspaper) mounted
6" or so below the roost. A droppings pit is a wire mesh-covered
box on the floor below the roost. The hens won't like to walk on the
wire, droppings will fall through and can be cleaned out regularly.
This takes up more floor space, though.
Nests: You'll need to provide
1 nest box for every 4-5 hens. If it is inside the henhouse, build a
steeply slanted roof over it to discourage perching (and pooping) there.
For standard size hens: a box 12" wide by 14" deep and at
least 14" high, with a 3" lip to keep nest materials and eggs
in and a perch out front. (A piece of burlap over the opening will discourage
perching on the lip if this becomes a problem.) Hens seem to prefer
darker, more private boxes, although some people simply use open plastic
storage baskets from Wal-mart on a shelf or on the floor. Access doors
from outside the henhouse into the nest boxes allow you to gather the
eggs without going into the hen house and getting your shoes dirty.
Feed and Water:
Local feed stores carry poulty feeders and waterers which keep
the food and water cleaner longer than plain bowls (chickens have no
qualms about pooping in thier food.) Feeders should be hung at the level
of the chickens' backs and rigged to prevent roosting on top. Waterers
can be raised to the same level on a shelf, bricks, or other pedestal.
In summer it's good to have a second waterer in the shade in the outside
run, but keep the food inside to pervent attracting mice or other pests.
This is somewhat controversial...for best year-round egg-production,
many people set a small electric light (40 watts) on a timer to come
on in the early moring and provide the ideal 14-hours of daylight hens
need to lay their best. Some people feel this disrupts the hens natural
cycles. If you choose to use a light, it can be positioned over the
waterer to help keep it from freezing. South-facing windows will also
help with light and warmth in winter (and ventilation in summer.)
Ventilation and Preventing
Ample air movement without a draft is essential. Fresh air brings in
oxygen while excess moisture, ammonia or carbon dioxide are removed
as the stale air moves out of the house. Dampness and ammonia build-up
are a sign that there is not enough ventilation. For small coops windows
or vents on one side of the house usually provide plenty of ventilation.
Well-ventilated houses must also have plenty of insulation and a good
vapor barrier. Failure to insulate or ventilate properly causes moisture
to accumulate on the walls and ceiling in cool weather. Hens can handle
cold very well if they are dry. However, cool and humid conditions can
create many health problems. Locate openings on the side away from prevailing
winds. The south or east side is usually best. For the floor, consider
using linoleum or vinyl flooring for easy cleaning. Whatever the material,
cover it with bedding. Straw/hay is OK but holds dampness. Wood shavings
(pine, not cedar which is harmful to chickens) are cheap in big bales
at the feed store. Feed stores also carry a product called "Stall
Dry" or "Sweet PDZ" which can be used under the shavings
to absorb ammonia and odor. Wire flooring (like a rabbit cage) is not
recommended as it is bad for the hens' feet and also too cold in winter.
The appearance of the henhouse and outside pen/run should be pleasing
to the neighborhood and not detract from the over-all appearance of
the surroundings. Exteriors of structures should be kept painted and
well-maintained. Weeds and trash should be removed from around all facilities.
Proper landscaping can provide screening and also help muffle sounds
from the birds. Unsightly structures are not good for the image of backyard
hens. We all fought hard for this opportunity, so let's not give the
city any reason to take it away... Take a look at the Coop
Gallery and browse the links for more ideas.
and Green Design:
Consider using sustainable and reclaimed materials, as long as they
are in good condition and aesthetically pleasing. Children's playhouses
can be easily converted into really cute henhouses, as can small sheds
or a part of an existing shed or garage.
The Portland Habitat
for Humanity Re-Store is a good resouce for new and salvaged windows,
doors, hardware, linoleum flooring, and wood. If recycling painted wood,
be aware of lead paint hazards. Chickens will peck at anything. Keep
painted items out of pecking reach, and make sure that old paint does
not flake onto the floor or soil around the coop.
Avoid using pressure treated wood. The chemicals used in treatment of
these products are likely to leach into your soil, your birds, and your
Design your coop to use the least possible material, and use materials
and construction methods that will be durable. Use screws instead of
nails so that the coop can be deconstructed if modifications or rebuilding
Think about site placement,
shade, and sunlight to decrease or eliminate using electricity.
Coops (for up to 6 hens)
more photos and details of the South Portland coop above, constructed
inside an existing garage, click here.
more photos of this awsome coop above, click here
for more photos
of the coop above, click
here, and here
photos of the coop above, click
more photos of the coop above, click
for more photos of the coop above, click
Coops (for 3 hens)
for more photos of the coop above, click
Coops (for bantam sized hens)
The "Eglu" can be ordered
with or without chickens. It's designed to be moved around the yard
to let the hens "graze". www.omelet.us.
Below are some homemade versions sometimes called "chicken tractors".
The only problem with these is that they do not seem to as provide much
are more ideas about henhouse, coops and chicken housing: