When I first started trying to figure out how to build a chicken coop I was a little overwhelmed. Dimensions and positions and wire gauges. How the heck can you fit 9 chickens in 3 nesting boxes?! I drew up plans. I drew more plans. Ultimately what happened is I just got out there and started building it and worked on design as I built it. I did do research on requirements for a good coop.
– It has to be safe. If your worried about predators (like I am) then you need to take extra precautions to protect your fluffy butts.Consider building the coop raised off the ground. This will prevent predators from digging into the coop. If your design is built on the ground, bury 1/4″ hardware cloth below the coop floor before building.Use 1/4″ hardware cloth on all coop openings. This is the hardest material for predators to claw through.Use double motion locks such as safety gate hooks. Single motion locks are very easy for raccoons (and other wise guys) to open.
-It has to be dry. I invested in the coop roof above all other materials. I went with a galvalume metal roof. It had to be special ordered. Its a bit thicker than whats available on the home improvement store shelves. We live in a heavily wooded area and I was concerned about tree limbs. Originally I wanted the clear corrugated roofing, but I read many reviews stating that they cracked, leaked and broke easily when branches landed on them. Here is what I bought.
-It has to have ventilation. The more ventilation the better! Proper ventilation reduces ammonia build up which is a major cause of respiratory irritation for chickens. Also make plans on how to close off those ventilation windows during inclement weather. It could be as simple as a tarp as long as it gets the job done.
-It has to have light. Chickens need light to produce eggs. Natural light cycles also promote healthy sleep habits which is important for over all health. Sun light also kills bacteria.
-It has to have room. A coop needs to supply a minimum of square 3′ of floor space per chicken. I have 5. I need a minimum of 15’of floor space. But I read over and over to build it bigger than you think you need it because chickens are addictive and they end up multiplying. Also, the more space they have the less squabbles there will be. They chickens has room to mine their own business. My coop has 32′ of floor space. I hate squabbling. Those are the Have to’s of chicken coops. Thats it. Chickens will lay eggs whether they have a nesting box or not. They can sleep on the floor. I’m not saying thats the BEST for them, its just not required.
-It should have a roost. Look, my chickens still huddle in the corner of the coop on the floor. Is it going to kill them? No, but it’s not whats best for them. Roosting, basically, keeps them from sleeping in poop. Chickens poop a lot. Even when they are sleeping. On a roost, the chicken’s poop will fall to the floor, and they stay out of it. Simple.
-It should have nesting boxes. Nesting boxes provide a secluded, reserved spot for laying eggs. If you train your chicken to not sleep in the boxes, the eggs will stay clean. Having a nesting box also keeps eggs from getting broken which prevents chickens from eating eggs (which is a whole nother problem you’ll have to solve). If you really want to give your girls the best, add curtains to the front of the boxes. This gives them extra privacy. Yes, chickens appreciate privacy when laying. The size of the nesting box depends on the size of the bird. Also, chickens share nests. Thats why you can get 9 chickens into 3 nesting boxes. 3 chickens per nest.
-It should have an attached run. Unless you are free ranging your birds, you really should have a run. The run gives them space to scratch, sun bathe and take dust bathes. It also gives them fresh air and access to bugs. It gets them “out of the house” so they aren’t “all cooped up”. I would say that even if you are free ranging, you should have a run. Sometimes the chickens need to stay safe and confined. Please keep in mind that most predators can tear through chicken wire. Chicken wire is made to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out.
-Food and water? I don’t keep food in the coop or the run during the night. I feed my girls fermented feed in a dish, twice a day. They eat every crumb which keeps the mice from being tempted to visit. I keep water in both the run and the coop. I made drinking jars with watering nipples. They were made properly so they don’t leak and the chickens can’t knock them over or spill them. The jars are also closed containers so the water stays clean. Your chickens should always have access to water. No discussion on that.
Here are a few things I learned on how to make your coop the most functional. Build the coop tall enough to stand in. Don’t build it so you will be hunched over. You will be in there a lot. Take care of yourself. If you are building it off the ground, make it waist heigh so that you aren’t hunched over when your cleaning it out. Have access doors that allow you to reach every part of the coop. My coop has a door on 3 of the 4 walls for easy cleaning. Use Laminate to cover the floor of the coop. This makes cleaning easy. This is the best investment I made in the coop after the roofing. Screen the coop with bug screen as well as hardware cloth. I know that sounds crazy but mosquitoes and flys can make you chickens ill. I’ve even read of a story where a flock were killed over night by biting flies. You can get screening for next to nothing. I suggest aluminum screening to prevent tearing. You can buy it here. One last tip, the human entrances and exits need to open into the coop/pen as opposed to opening outward. Having the doors open inwards will help prevent the chickens from escaping.
Here are a few photos of my chicken coop set up. The lack of poop and dust shows that this is before the chickens moved in. It is not perfect. I find myself improving it often. What does your set up look like?