Choosing a chicken coop design is an important decision. This structure will house your beloved egg producers and needs to look good in your yard. What factors do you need to check off the list when deciding on a chicken coop design? After a few weeks of keeping the chicks in a brooder you will want to begin moving them to the chicken coop. Having a chicken coop design that accommodates your flocks needs and your personal style will make this an enjoyable part of your homesteading life.
There are a few features that need to be included in any chicken coop design.
Security – A sturdy structure that cannot be breached by predators. Built at least 6 inches off the ground to prohibit rodents from chewing into the coop from below. Use of half inch hardware cloth wire instead of chicken wire for covering any openings. A solid door that can be closed and latched at night is important for your flock’s safety.
Ventilation– Windows that can open, and a roof ridge vent are commonly used to provide ventilation. Good ventilation ensures that toxic ammonia fumes do not build up in the coop.
Nesting Boxes– Enough nesting boxes in a ratio of 1 for each 3 or 4 hens
Perch/ Roost Bar – Using a 2 x 4 board installed so that the chickens are sitting on the 4 inch side. Also, a thick sturdy tree branch, or other sturdy, non-slippery roost bar. Chickens that have to perch on the edge of wire often develop foot injuries such as bumble foot or crooked toes.
How Big Does the Coop Need to Be?
Now that we have the important details out of the way, what kind of chicken coop design will work best for you? With many different types and styles to choose from, it can be a big decision. Chicken Tractors, small hutches, large free standing coops, commercially built coop, or converted garden shed, are some options to consider. Also, please remember the chicken math factor that you will hear many chicken owners mention. This is a well known fact that if you can accommodate more chickens, you eventually will. The flock seems to grow without reason. No idea how this phenomenon occurs. The short answer to how big the coop needs to be is 3 to 4 square foot per bird. This is the guideline when the birds also have an enclosed run for daytime chicken behavior. If your chickens need to be confined for much longer periods of time, then the suggested space in the coop is 7 to 8 square foot per chicken.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to raise chickens so that they can free range on grass and bugs, and yet have some safety from danger, is the chicken tractor. These structures sit on the ground and may have small wheels on one end to facilitate moving it to a new spot each day. The benefits of the tractor setup include being able to free range the chickens, and not have one spot in the yard decimated by scratching and digging. The downside is many of the chicken tractors do not afford a certain level of security against some aggressive predators. In a fenced in back yard situation, the predator problem may not exist and could be the answer in many places. Some larger chicken tractors are heavier, and include a small coop at one end that can be closed off at night.
Starter Coops and Small Flock Housing
Small coops are a good start and many are available, pre-built or as a ready to assemble kit. Many people will start with one of these chicken coops for the first 3 or 4 chickens they acquire. After you add more chickens to the flock and the coop is no longer big enough, keep the smaller structure around. The smaller coop can be used for a sick bay/isolation coop. Or it can be used for a broody hen and her chicks, a chicken with a sore foot, or a time out coop for a bully chicken. We bought our small coop originally for a pet rabbit. After we moved her into our house, the coop has had plenty of use as a bantam chicken coop, a grow out coop for pullets and an isolation place for injured birds. And maybe you will have extreme self control or keep your flock small due to neighborhood restrictions. In that case, choose a beautiful sturdy coop design or build your own. The coop should last you many years.
Larger chicken coop design
As you consider moving up to a larger chicken coop design there are options to choose from. You want to give the chickens 3-4 cubic feet of space inside the coop, with the understanding that they will also have an attached run or be able to free range in an enclosed area during the day. Using this type of structure you can still find coops in many sizes. Purchasing a coop will give you a chance to look for one that compliments your home and neighborhood. If you are handy with tools, building your own coop is always an option. Make sure you leave an access door for humans to enter to clean the coop, collect eggs or check on any sick or injured chickens which may hide inside. Many people also add a pop door, a small door that allows the chickens access directly into the run.
Look at the new coop that the folks at Harper Hollow built. It was designed to house up to 24 chickens and comes equipped with a self watering system and a feeder system. I love when folks think ahead about what will make life with chickens even better. Nice job Harper Hollow.
You can use an existing building for a coop
A lot of chicken owners choose to adapt an already existing building on the property. Converting a garden shed into a chicken coop is fairly easy to do. Other options include converting a portion of the garage, or enclosing a stall in the barn. Remember to include the list of “must haves” from the beginning of this article in your renovation design.
Adding the Bling!
What extras would you want in the coop if you could have anything you wanted? What would help you care for the flock the best way? You could think about adding electricity, a water source such as a farm pump, and a fan to aid in ventilation and cooling. I think a ceiling fan would look nice but the chickens would probably try to roost on the blades when it wasn’t in use! No matter what coop you decide is right for your chickens, keeping it clean, well ventilated, serving healthy nutritious food and fresh water will get you a four star rating on your chicken palace.
Thanks to the following chicken raising friends for supplying photos of their chicken palaces for this article.