Sometimes referred to as a chicken coop, a henhouse is a structure that is found on most farms where chickens are kept. Essentially, the henhouse provides shelter for the chickens in the event of inclement weather, as well as providing roosts where eggs can be laid. A henhouse can be an elaborate structure with a number of amenities for both the poultry and the owners, or be a simple construct that serves basic functions only.
Henhouses come in all sizes and shapes. On small farms where the main function of the hens is to provide food for the family, a henhouse is usually located in fairly close proximity to the house. The structure is often made of wood planking and chicken wire, creating both a permanent structure that offers shelter from the elements and a fenced in area where the chickens may roam freely. Along with providing shelter during bad weather and for the night, the typical henhouse also can be sealed and thus protect the hens from any predators that may be found in the general area, such as snakes, foxes, or other animals.
The henhouse found on the family farm also includes simple roosts or nests where the hens can lay eggs. In the most basic form, the roosts are filled with straw, providing a comfortable place for the hen to lay eggs. Generally, members of the family will come around during the early morning and remove the eggs from the nest, and use them for meal preparation.
A henhouse may also include feeding troughs where chicken mash is laid out daily, along with a trough that holds water for the chickens. However, it is not unusual for the chicken mash to simply be spread out on the ground surrounding the henhouse, allowing the chickens to eat while roaming around the area.
Commercial farms normally feature a henhouse design that is much more elaborate. The roosts or nests will often include a platform and funnel mechanism that allows the eggs to be collected without the need to reach under a roosting hen. Framing for the construction may be metal, brick, wood, or any desired combination. Often, the commercial henhouse is air-conditioned and provides feeding and water troughs that automatically refill as needed. Generally, a commercial henhouse will include hundreds of hens, while the family henhouse may include no more than a couple dozen hens at any given time.