Designing a chicken coop is one of the hardest things for brand new chicken keepers to figure out. There are so many elements to take into consideration! We have to think about pests, how to manage food, waste, and how to deal with predators attempting to gain entry. The best chicken coop design will have all of these elements in place to make for happy chickens!
Learning how to create the best chicken coop design will make for happy chickens. (And we all know that happy chickens lay more eggs! And more eggs makes for a very happy chicken keeper!)
There are ten things to keep in mind when creating a coop that is functional and easy to maintain.
Moveable or Stationary
One of the first things a flock owner needs to decide is whether they are going to have a movable tractor coop or a stationary coop and run. Both have advantages, so making this decision first gets you going in the right direction.
Number and Kind of Chickens Determines Size
Next, a plan for how many and what type of chickens will live in your coop is necessary. The standard size bird requires 3-4 square feet of interior space and 4 square feet in the outdoor run. Bantams require less room, and breeds like Jersey Giants or Brahmas require more.
If you decide to use the chicken tractor coop method, your flock will spend their entire time within the coop, so they require at least 5 square feet per bird.
As we talked about in: Are You Making these Chicken Keeping Mistakes? blog post, having enough room for your flock aids in health and overall well-being. So if you have the funds making the coop more substantial than needed is not only a plus for your chickens but may mean down the road you can add to your flock. Always a fun idea!
Location, Location, Location
Now that you have the size and type of coop you want, there are a few factors to deciding where to place the coop in your backyard or farm.
First, you want to place the coop as close as you can to your home as a safety precaution for your flock. Predators tend to shy away from human activity and so the closer your coop is in proximity to the house, the safer your flock will be.
Shade and sunlight are also factors to take into consideration, especially in climates that have extreme hot or cold challenges for your chickens.
South facing coop enables the sun to warm up the coop during the winter. A variety of pine and leaf trees around the area gives shade during the summer and protection from the cold winds in the winter.
A convenient water source is another necessary factor when deciding the placement of the coop. You don’t want to be hauling buckets of water every day.
And lastly, make sure the area is not too low as to have water pooling in the area after a rain or snow melting. It needs to have adequate drainage.
Many of us have drawn out our coop plans on a napkin, no less!
But if you aren’t sure what kind of coop you want, there are so many great free coop designs available as well as paid designs.
There also chicken coop kits available that provide not only the design and instructions, but also all the supplies needed to build your coop. Easy peasy!
There are a plethora of materials you can use for your chicken coop, everything from pallets and other recycled materials to brand new supplies from the lumber yard.
One thing to keep in mind is to check that none of the lumber is treated with chemicals or covered in lead paint. Your chickens peck at everything so safety first.
Keeping your flock safe from predators is a biggie, and there are several things you can do to not only deter predators.
A raised coop not only gives your chickens protection from the elements and flying predators, but raising it 8-12 inches also inhibits predators from digging under to break into the coop. Wooden legs or cement blocks both work for lifting the coop off the ground. If you have a cement floor raising your coop is not necessary.
Using hardware cloth, carabiner or spring-loaded eye hook latches, and having a wood floor all are barriers for predators.
Other ways to predator-proof are explained in detail here: 24 Features on a Predator-Proof Chicken Coop.
Nesting and Roosting
Nesting boxes can be constructed out of several different sturdy materials such as baskets, wooden boxes, large plastic bowls, and metal boxes. Place them 2-3 feet above the floor and not directly under the roosts.
They should be at least 12-14 inches in diameter and one box for every three to four hens. Fill them with straw or pine shavings. Adding curtains over the openings allows hens to feel more secure when laying.
Roosts made out of 2 x 4s allow for healthier chickens. Placing the four-inch side to face up gives the chickens a stable place for their feet and to keep them warm under their bodies when they sleep.
The rule of thumb is eight to ten inches of roost per chicken, and you want to place the roosts two to four feet in the air. If you put them higher than four feet, some type of steps would be necessary for them to access the roost.
Cleaning and Gathering
Keeping the coop clean starts with what materials you use and easy access into the coop.
Doors to your coop should be large enough for you to enter easily and to carry waste out. Make sure your door is not located inside the run but outside of the fencing, so you don’t collect poo on your shoes as you’re cleaning or gathering eggs.
Linoleum over the wooden floor makes for an easier time cleaning up your deep litter and sterilizing the coop when needed.
Choosing to have outside access to gathering eggs is very popular with flock owners. The nesting boxes jutting out of the side of the coop allows owners to gather eggs by raising a lid and not having to step inside the coop daily.
Ventilation holes are vital for the health of your flock. You can gain ventilation with windows in your coop, side sliding windows work best and must be able to be locked tightly during the night.
Several round holes drilled around the top of the coop should be placed well above where the chickens roost, so they are not in the draft coming in. Then add rectangular holes in the roof. This ventilation allows steam to escape during the winter and let air in during the summer.
Make sure all ventilation holes are covered with ¼ inch hardware mesh cloth and have doors or closures that you can pull over them when inclement weather happens.
Now you have a coop all designed and built, and the last few items that are needed are feeders, waterers, and boredom busters.
In your run, add a dust bath and stumps and branches for them to climb on.
There are ten things to keep in mind when creating the best coop design.
Do you have other ideas to make a coop fabulous? We’d love to hear!