For centuries, chicken coups have been a staple of working farms throughout the world, dating back at least as far as the Roman Empire and most likely even further. Society’s shift from hunter/gatherers to established societies meant that all types of animals needed to be domesticated in order to provide a reliable supply of food. Chickens were kept and bred in an effort to obtain a consistent supply of eggs and poultry meat, and the coups were designed as the buildings that would house and protect the stock of chickens.
Amusingly, opinions are divided over how chicken coups actually benefit the chickens themselves. Some believe that chickens can withstand many types of climates and weather conditions, and therefore they should be housed to simulate an open-air environment with a minimum of confinement. This is referred to as the “fresh-air school” of chicken breeding, and requires a lot of ventilation and openings in the chicken houses, even during winter. The other perspective is the total reverse, where the thinking is that chickens are very prone to illnesses brought on by exposure to the elements, and therefore the coups need to be constructed to provide a controlled environment. As you can imagine, these opposing views have created noticeable differences in construction methods. Fresh-air chicken housing usually feature a defined outer structure with large permanent openings, with only chicken wire separating the chickens from the outdoors. Controlled-environment coups may initially look similar, but are distinguished by numerous doors and hatches that can be variously opened and closed to provide ventilation or to protect the chickens from the elements.
The methods used to raise chickens have changed over the centuries, moving from independent, family-focused chicken breeding to commercial chicken breeding operations serving large populations; purpose-built chicken coups have evolved along with the specific purpose and methods of breeding.
Family-focused chicken coups are usually smaller than a garden shed, housing perhaps three or four chickens. Larger chicken coups on a local working farm may involve a larger building with anywhere from ten to a hundred chickens or more. Large-scale commercial egg-laying operations use specialized chicken coups that house hundreds and even thousands of chickens. These coups, called battery cages, contain all the hardware necessary for optimizing egg-laying performance, and create a controlled (if somewhat cramped) environment for the chickens inside.
We may fail to realize exactly how ubiquitous Chicken Coups truly are; considering the millions upon millions of eggs eaten globally on a daily basis, it is staggering to consider how large this industry has become. As modern societies embrace the idea of healthier eating, many individuals are taking up the practice of raising their own chickens in order to ensure the healthiness of the eggs produced. This practice is even occurring in urban areas, with city dwellers using a part of their backyards to raise the chickens. Regardless of the location or size, chicken coups will continue to be the key to protecting and raising our chickens.
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