By Kimberly Willis, Robert T. Ludlow

One of the oldest and most successful methods of keeping chickens is to provide them with a shelter they can retreat to at night or in bad weather and an outside enclosure that protects them from predators yet allows them access to fresh air and sunshine. The figure illustrates this type of housing.

[Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake]

Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake

Walk-in shelters allow the caretaker to feed and water the birds and collect eggs inside. The shelter area can be a partitioned-off part of a barn or garage or a stand-alone building. A smaller door for chickens usually connects to the outside enclosure. It’s a good idea to have human access to the outside enclosure also.

The best outdoor enclosures allow plenty of room for exercise. You can let your chickens out for a little free-range roaming, too, but the enclosed outside area and the shelter give you the option of confining them when that isn’t safe or desirable.

Walk-in shelters with attached runs can be as small or as large as you need them to be, and they can be built with the intention of expanding in the future as well. Most people who begin with other types of housing end up with this type, unless their space is very limited. It’s the most comfortable housing for both humans and chickens.