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From: Poultry-keeping – Footsteps 95

Practical advice on all aspects of poultry-keeping, including nutrition, health and business development.

To download the pdf of this article click here (PDF 256 KB)

By Mwaka Chibinga 

Housing village chickens at night will protect them from rain and the cold, from predators and from theft. Also, housed birds are easier to catch to inspect for signs of illness or injury, or to vaccinate them against diseases. 

Types of housing 

Adult birds and growers are often provided with elevated night housing. Chicken houses built close to the ground are suitable for hens with young chicks that cannot enter an elevated house. It may be necessary to dig a drain around such a house or to raise the floor, so that it will stay dry during the rainy season. A house about 4m long, 1m wide and 1.5m high can hold 8 to 10 adult birds if they are kept enclosed all day, or about 20 for overnight housing. The house can be completely covered with wooden slats or be partly open with netting or woven bamboo. 

Constructing a chicken house 

A house can be built cheaply using local materials such as tree and bush branches or reeds and thatch grass. The size of the house will depend on how many birds the farmer has (or plans to have) and if they are to be kept in the house overnight or for longer periods. If too many birds are kept together they may start to peck each other, leading to injury and diseases. 

Some simple rules for building a chicken house:

A raised chicken house made from local materials. Illustration: Amy Levene

A raised chicken house made from local materials

A simple mobile chicken house. Illustration: Agromisa Foundation and CTA

A simple mobile chicken house

Systematic, regular movement of chicken houses and chicken runs helps prevent worm infections and allows the ground to recover from pecking and scratching. The house shown here has a floor of wire netting and is suitable for hens with young chicks. Illustration: Agromisa Foundation and CTA

Systematic, regular movement of chicken houses and chicken runs helps prevent worm infections and allows the ground to recover from pecking and scratching. The house shown here has a floor of wire netting and is suitable for hens with young chicks.

Constructing a chicken house. Illustration: Agromisa Foundation and CTA


Providing perches for roosting will minimise the contact between the birds and their droppings, and therefore help to prevent diseases. The perches can be made from bamboo or straight tree branches (remove the bark first – see ‘Constructing a chicken house’ below). They should be about 3cm in diameter. Each adult chicken requires about 20cm of perch space. If more than one perch is needed, the perches should be about 50cm apart and at the same level. If they are at different levels the birds will fight to reach the highest perch when they come in to roost in the evening, causing unnecessary stress. 

Spacing perches. Illustration: Amy Levene


Providing clean nests in safe places means more eggs can be collected. In addition, a hen will hatch more chicks if her nest is clean, dry and safe. 

Some tips on nests:

Nests. Illustration: Amy Levene

Chicken house hygiene 

Cleaning the chicken house helps to prevent and control diseases, especially external parasites such as fleas and mites. The following procedures should be adopted:

Mwaka Chibinga is Project Officer for the poultry project at Brethren in Christ Church, Zambia. This article has been compiled by Helen Gaw from the manual he produced, Practical village chicken production. Visit to download a free copy. If you would like a copy of this manual, please email Illustrations have been copied from or inspired by the Agrodok Small-scale Chicken Production (see Resources, page 13). 

Resources used in Practical Village Chicken Production: Improving village chicken production, ACIAR (2009) (download free at; Small-scale Chicken Production and Keeping Village Poultry (see Resources, page 13); Improving the Performance of Local Chickens, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Almadu Bello University, Zaria: Extension Bulletin No.92 Poultry series No 6; Commercial Production of Village Chicken (2004) by Martha Musukwa, University of Zambia. 

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