You have chickens…a lot of chickens and you watch them struggle to fly into their coop. Then an idea hits you… give them a ramp! No more chickens struggling to get inside their home… they just walk up the ramp and voila! Back inside their coop.
But how do you make a chicken ramp? What should it be made from and will the chickens actually use it?
Ah, so many questions. Keep reading and you will soon be a knowledgeable chicken ramp designer! While at that don’t miss out on picking nutritious feeds for your chicken!
Get your coop off the ground
With chicken coops, it pays to have them raised off the ground. That keeps them dry and not susceptible to flooding in those times when you might get a period of heavy rain.
An elevated coop also provides your chickens with more land area in their run to scratch and play in. Additionally, by being lifted off the ground makes it difficult for pests to come in and harass the brood.
How would you feel if you had to constantly bend down to collect the eggs that your chickens lay? Your back won’t thank you for it. A raised coop eliminates the need to bend over when harvesting those freshly laid white nuggets.
When predators decide to pay your brood a visit your chickens can seek sanctuary in the elevated coop and make it harder for the attacker to wreak havoc on the birds.
When the weather is hot your brood can seek relief in the cool shade under the raised coop. Also, when it’s raining your chickens can find shelter beneath the coop.
So, there you have it. Reasons why you should have your coop off the ground. It’s not an unusual concept. In fact, if you look at most chicken coop designs, you will see that they are always raised.
But raised coops can prove a bit of a challenge for your chickens when it comes to exiting and entering the coop. The solution to this issue?
Do I Actually Need a Ramp?
Before you start handing over your cash to buy material for your coop ramp you should consider whether a ramp is necessary. How do you know if you need a chicken ramp?
It comes down to considering several factors:
- How high your coop is off the ground
- The size of the coop door
- The kind of chickens you have
When you look at these considerations you can decide if you want to provide your chickens with a ramp.
How high is your coop?
When you watch your chickens leaving and enter ring their coop, is it easy for them to come and go or are they having difficulty getting out of the coop and back into it.
Can your chickens simply jump out and into the coop as they please? Or do the cluck in a panic as they try to figure out how to get inside the coop?
If your the door to your coop is no higher than 12 inches from the ground, then you don’t have to have a ramp. If the door is higher than 12 inches then it’s time to get your chickens that ramp!
They will cluck in delight when you give them an easy way to get inside their home.
Is the door big enough?
The size of the chicken pop door is determined by the type of chicken you have. A standard chicken will only need a door 10 inches wide by 10 inches high
For smaller breeds of chickens, a 9 inch wide by 9 inch high door will be okay. The bigger chicken breeds obviously need a bigger door (don’t want to have your birds wedged in the door!). A width of 12 inches and a height of 12 inches will ensure that your chickens come and go with no problems.
Why does the size of your door make a difference as to if you need a ramp? It’s because chickens are pretty clumsy jumpers and a smaller door can make it a bit of a challenge for the bigger chickens amongst your brood. A ramp will give them an easier way to get inside the coop.
So, I decided I need a ramp…
Okay, you checked out your chicken coop and saw the poor birds struggling. You told yourself “Those guys and gals need a ramp!”
But where do you start with putting together a ramp? Is there a set angle that a ramp needs to be at?
When it comes to placing your ramp, you don’t want it too steep. An ideal angle is 45 degrees or lower. Shorter ramps can be steeper than longer ramps. But you need to make sure the material you use won’t cause your chickens to go on a slide-ride to the bottom of the ramp.
Stopping your chickens from “slip-sliding away”.
When designing your ramp there are lots of materials to choose from: plastic, wood or plywood. The width of the ramp, whatever you decide to make it out of, should be between 8 to 10 inches.
If you lean towards the plastic option then you have to make sure that it isn’t too smooth. You could paint the surface and add some gritty material into the paint so that there is more grip on the ramp.
Wood, because of it’s a naturally rough texture, is the most popular material for chicken ramps. The claws on the feet of your chicken are able to dig into the wood and make it easy for your birds to go up and down the ramp. You’ll find that they will not walk the length of the ramp preferring more to jump along it.
To prolong the life of the wood and therefore the life of your ramp, paint it with a wood sealing paint.
It’s a ladder
By adding horizontal “rungs” onto your ramp assists the chickens by making it easier for them to traverse the ramp. Each rung should be spaced around 3 to 6 inches apart.
The steepness of your ramp determines how many rungs you need to add to it. The steeper the ramp, the more rungs you will need and the closer the space between them will have to be so that the chickens feel comfortable using the ramp. For ramps between 30 to 45 degrees, your rungs should be ¾ inches by ¾ inches
Another factor to consider when it comes to the spacing out of your rungs is the breed of chicken you own. The smaller the chicken the closer you will have to position your rungs.
Additionally, if your ramp is heading more toward the steep side then it will pay to have thicker rungs.
What? We have a porch?
If you want to make life a little easier for your chickens consider installing a porch onto your chicken coop. The porch is just a piece of wood that runs along the length of the front of the coop.
It allows the chickens to have a walkway on which they can stand while before or after using the ramp and makes it more convenient for them to exit or enter the coop.
An alternative to using a porch is to use a platform. This is simply one or more horizontal pieces of wood that are placed in several locations along the ramp that your chickens can use to hop onto and off of as they ascend and descend the ramp.
Let’s get building!
Now you have your reason for building a ramp and know that you need wood, you scratch your head wondering what else you need to make a fantastic ramp that will have your chickens flapping their wings in delight.
To make your ramp, go into your tool shed and see if you have the following:
- Screws (or nails)
- Hinges (optional)
- Hooks and loops (optional)
- A drill or hammer
- Glue (for your rungs)
- A screw bit for your drill (or a screwdriver if you don’t have a drill)
- Your wood (remember that it should be between 8 to 10 inches in width. The length of the wood is determined by the steepness of your ramp. Don’t forget the builders’ adage: Measure twice, cut once!)
- Wooden slats (these will make the rungs of your ramp.)
- Paint or wooden sealant (to protect the wood and have it last longer due to exposure to the weather).
Now that you have everything you need to make your ramp it’s time to get busy!
How to build your ramp
Wonder no longer how to create a ramp for your chickens. You can put together a ramp (and ladder) for your birds with these simple steps:
- Cut your wood slats (rungs) so that they are the same width as your ramp.
- Place a generous amount of glue to the underside of your rungs and then place them along the ramp, spacing them apart at the interval you decided on (which, as you learnt, is determined by the steepness of your ramp)
- Fix your ramp to the coop using either nails or screws. Make sure that the ramp is securely fixed to the coop. (The last thing you want is for the ramp to collapse and have injured chickens! )
- Stand back and admire your workmanship.
When it comes to fixing your ramp to the coop you have several design options:
- Permanently fixed.
- Hinged. This is a great choice if you want to fold up the ramp for some reason (such as cutting the grass beneath the ramp).
- Hook and loop. If you want to completely remove the ramp from the coop.
Your ramp is in place and your chickens are cocking their heads at it in confusion wondering what it is that you just made. Time to teach them what the ramp is.
Teaching your chickens how to walk the plank
You may find that some chickens take to the ramp with no problem and others are less enthusiastic. Those who struggle to adapt to the concept will need a bit of a helping hand and encouragement.
You can physically place the chicken of the ramp to let them get used to walking on it. Another option is to place treats of chicken feed along the length of the ramp.
In the brood, there are chickens who are leaders and you may find that other chickens follow them when they use the ramp.
Don’t be frustrated if your chickens only partially use the ramp like a simple launching pad to enter or exit the coop. Some chickens may never use the ramp, preferring to stick to their old ways. That’s just the stubborn nature of chickens.
Keeping the ramp clean.
On the first day of installation, your ramp looks so shiny, new and…clean. Then, after a few days, you notice that your ramp doesn’t look so beautiful anymore. The chickens are leaving their droppings all over it as well as covering it with the dirt they have picked up from walking around in their run as well as from inside the coop.
Your ramp needs cleaning. But how often should it be cleaned and how do you clean it?
Make it part of your overall coop cleaning program. If you clean the coop daily then give the ramp a quick daily scraping using either a kitty litter scoop or paint scraper. You may be able to give the ramp a simple sweeping. It all depends on what the ramp is made from.
Once a week give the ramp a good wash down. You can use a 50 /50 white vinegar/water solution. The vinegar works wonders at cutting through the chicken droppings.
A clean coop and a clean ramp make healthy chickens.
Ramp it up
When it comes to designing a chicken coop there are reasons why you need to have it raised off the ground. The height that it’s lifted from the ground determines whether you need a ramp or not.
Lower lying coops may not necessarily require a ramp but the higher raised coops should have a ramp, ladder or steps to make it easier for your birds to exit and enter the coop.
A ramp with a rough surface makes it simpler for your chickens to walk up and down the ramp and you can make the chickens life easier still by inserting rungs along the length of the ramp.
In your regular coop maintenance program make sure that you include a weekly scrub of the ramp. Though you may find that your chickens only use the ramp minimally, cleaning the ramp reduces the possibility of your brood picking up an illness.
So there you have it. To have a ramp or not have a ramp? That is the question.
Good cluck…oops, LUCK!