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Can Chickens Survive Without a Coop?

Raising chickens can be a very rewarding pursuit. But buying and installing a coop can be a significant expense. So, will your chickens be able to survive if you don’t have one? 

Chickens can survive without a coop, but the backyard need to be set up properly. Chickens need to have some form of shelter, to protect them from extreme temperatures. A fence is also required to keep predators out. Finally, give them plenty of food and water.

To make sure that your chickens are healthy, you’ll need to consider the environment that you are raising them in. Keep reading to learn more about how you can keep chickens safe without a coop.

Hey chicken buddies: Quick heads-up before going further! I've put together a list of stuff I use and love for my flock. If you're curious about what keeps my hens happy, click here to find out.

✅ Reviewed by Experts: This article has been vetted by a professional for accuracy. Learn more about our editorial policy.

Protecting Your Chickens From Extreme Temperatures

You’ll need to have some kind of shelter if you want to keep chickens. This will need to be insulated against the rain and cold. You’ll also need to include a laying box, where they can bed down for the night.

One of the main functions of a chicken coop is providing some shelter to the chickens. This gives them a place to shelter in rough weather. There are a few ideas for shelters that you can use. These include:

  • Converting an old shed. This is the easiest option; all you need to do is add the laying box.
  • Your porch. If your porch has a cover, you can put the laying boxes there. However, you might need to install a windbreak.
  • Bench seat. If you are looking for a unique idea, consider using a bench seat. You can cover over the top and sides with plywood. This will block any wind and rain.

Almost any structure can be a good shelter for chickens. Wherever you choose, you’ll need to make sure that there is a laying box. As the name suggests, this is the place where you want the hens to lay their eggs (you can do it yourself, or find a cheap option on Amazon). It is also a place for them to sleep during the night (like many other animals, chickens don’t really like being outside in the dark).

The next thing that you need to consider is the size of the shelter. You need it to be large enough to accommodate all your chickens. As a general rule, you’ll need to give them four square meters of space each. But the more space, the better. 

Can Chickens Survive Winter Without a Coop?

Chickens can survive cold weather without a coop. The key is to have a well-insulated shelter area. You can also put Vaseline on their combs, to stop them from getting frostbite.

While having some shelter is a good place to start, it isn’t the endpoint. You’ll need to make sure that it is built to withstand harsh winter conditions. If not handled properly, cold weather can be fatal to a chicken. 

The good news is that there are some ways to take care of them. These are:

  • Providing more insulation in the shelter. This means adding in a little more hay.
  • Add a perch. This will get your chickens off the freezing ground. Without this, their body temperature will rapidly drop.
  • Keep out the damp. If the insulation is wet, you’ll need to remove and replace it. If possible, try to block out any cold wind.

Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you are checking in with them more frequently. It can help to rub some Vaseline on their combs (check the price on Amazon). This will stop them from getting frostbite. Generally, you will find the chickens spending more time in their shelter during the winter. 

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Keeping Your Chickens Safe From Predators

The best way to protect backyard chickens is by building a strong fence from chicken wire. It will need to be at least six feet high, to stop predators from jumping over it. Put a few feet under the dirt, to stop predators from digging under it.

Without a coop, the chickens will be left unprotected. This can make them vulnerable to predators. Anything from foxes to dogs and cats can pose a threat. But this doesn’t necessarily that you need a coop to keep them out. You can find more details about what chickens are afraid of in this article.

The best solution is to build a strong fence. Not only will this keep the predators out, but it will also keep the chickens in. Chicken wire is the best choice (you’ll get the best price here).

How much space your chickens will need depends on you. You’ll need a minimum of one square meter per bird. But the bigger, the better. One of the benefits of avoiding a coop is being able to offer your chickens more space to move about and explore.

Just using chicken wire isn’t enough to keep predators out. There is a chance that they can jump over a low-lying fence. As a minimum, you should aim to build something that is at least six feet high. Sometimes, they can try to dig under the fence. To stop this, you can bury some wire under the ground.

This should be enough to deter most predators, especially if you already have a strong backyard fence. But if you are still nervous about protecting your chickens, you can take things one step further. You can run an electrical current through the fence. A low voltage is unlikely to hurt the chickens, but it might be enough to spook a predator.

Finally, you’ll need to make sure that regularly inspect the fence. Sometimes, chicken wire can come loose, causing sharp wires to poke out. This has the potential to scratch your chickens. The good news is that this is very easy to fix. All you need is a pair of pliers to put the wire back into the right place.

Providing Food and Water to the Chickens

You will need to regularly provide food and water to the chickens. They’ll need at least 120 grams of pellets and a pint of water each day.

The good news about not using a coop is giving your chickens more space to forage. They will be able to eat grass and worms. These provide nutrients are a key part of a healthy diet. However, you still need to give them food and water.

How much food and water you will need to provide will depend on the number of chickens you have. These are some general guidelines:

  • Most fully-grown chickens will need a pint of water per day. But this has the potential to change seasonally. During the summer, they might drink a little more.
  • Most chickens will eat around 120 grams of pellets each day. But, during the winter months, this can increase.

The good news is that this aspect of caring for your chickens is fairly easy. You will need to have some food and water containers. For a small flock, one of each should be OK. But if you have a bigger flock, you might need to add some more. As a rule of thumb, aim for one feeder for every 16 birds. As long as you keep these topped up, your chickens should be healthy.

It can also be helpful to consider the type of feeder you are getting. If possible, aim for metal over plastic. They might cost a little more, but they will be very durable (that kind of feeder is great).

You’ll need to pay particularly close attention to the water container during the winter months. If it gets cold enough, the water will freeze and your chickens won’t have anything to drink. If this is the case, you might need to make a water heater.

Final Thoughts

Buying a chicken coop can be a big expense, they can cost hundreds of dollars. If you don’t have one, you don’t need to worry. As long as you have some form of shelter, you will be able to keep chickens.

This shelter can be anything from an old shipping container to a shed. From there, you’ll just need to build a fence and give them food and water.

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