Back to basics

The standard hen house. This one is from Feel Good UK:

The standard hen house. This one is from Feel Good UK: - Credit: Archant

Terry Beebe re-states some key points about the choice of hen house – and also takes a detailed look at roofing issues

A typical ark

A typical ark - Credit: Archant

There are some key factors to consider in choosing the correct housing for your birds. It has to provide a suitable and healthy environment while providing enough space for the type and size of breed.

It is very important that the housing is waterproof, rat and fox proof but still offers adequate ventilation while, at the same time, providing easy access.

Wooden house basics

A hen house on legs offers more protection. This one is from Rushton Pet & Poultry Housing Ltd: www.

A hen house on legs offers more protection. This one is from Rushton Pet & Poultry Housing Ltd: - Credit: Archant

The construction is generally tongue and groove boards built on a frame, the popular designs being the ark, and standard unit on legs, large static housing and housing with built-in runs.

The standard ark

These triangular shaped, or even oblong houses normally sit directly on the ground, although some are on a frame. Being quite low, access can be a little more difficult. The roofing is generally tight fitting boarding although they are available with other standard roofing materials.

Onduline roofing

Onduline roofing - Credit: Archant

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Standing on legs

This type of raised housing has become very popular. It helps to avoid damp and also makes them less accessible to rodents. They are also a lot easier too for egg collection and cleaning.

Plastic housing

Plastic houses generally come with a detachable run. Being lighter, they are very easy to move and clean. They tend to be easier to control red mite as they can be washed out and the mites have fewer places to hide. Some housing is made using recycled plastic.

Larger housing

Larger coops are normally quite heavy and, unless mounted on skids, are not easy to move. You can buy a custom-built unit which will have be designed for a certain number of birds or you can convert an existing building.

A guide to roofing

There are several different ways to roof a poultry house. These include onduline, steel, felt and jointed board. Some have slight advantages in terms of ease of fitting, durability and waterproof qualities.


This has become very popular. It is extremely tough, lightweight, corrugated roofing. It is made using boarding of recycled cellulose fibres which are saturated with bitumen under intense pressure and heat.

It is easy to cut and is very adaptable. Several colours are available, but the black appears to be the most popular. The panels are corrugated so can easily be overlapped to create a good solid seal. They have excellent colour retention properties and enhanced UV resistance.


Roofing felt is inexpensive has been used with success for many years. It will give good service but needs to be fitted correctly and securely. It is always better to fit an underlay as felt can wrinkle when wet and, as it ages, will dry and crack. It can offer a hiding place for red mite if it is not well maintained and treated.


Steel sheets will of course be very long lasting and look attractive. It is advised that they are lined with a felt-type material to prevent drips and condensation as they can ‘sweat’ in winter. They are reasonably easy to fit but cutting is obviously more labour-intensive. They will work out more expensive.

Jointed board roofing

This is roofing the old-fashioned way. If it is used without a covering it needs to be treated and the joints must be good, tight and solid. A waterproof treatment is essential to help to keep the wood in good condition. The treatment will need to be repeated maybe once a year.