Chickens can be a fun and valuable addition to any country homestead, but keeping chickens safe and comfortable requires a coop. Whether you're planning to get started with chickens this spring or looking to grow your flock, this post will help you make sure you know what it takes to build the perfect home for your birds.
Why Do Chickens Need a Coop?
A chicken coop is more than just a quaint yard decoration. Specifically, a chicken coop provides:
- Shelter from inclement weather.
- Protection from predators and nest raiders like raccoons, hawks, rats, and snakes.
- Comfort and privacy for nesting or roosting hens to improve their productivity.
- Dedicated space for the flock to eat and drink so their diet can be monitored.
- Easier options for caring for the flock, studying behavior, and collecting eggs.
What Makes a Good Chicken Coop?
A good chicken coop is more than just a simple building. There are many different coop styles, sizes, and designs, but all provide:
- Perches and nesting boxes for the birds.
- An outdoor run to gives chickens a safe space to explore.
- Secure fencing to keep the flock safe from predators.
- Proper ventilation.
- Adequate light.
- An easy means of cleaning up droppings.
A good coop will also be appropriately sized for the number of chickens in the flock. Some coops are permanent structures, while smaller flocks may benefit from a mobile design so that they can be moved between different positions to protect the ground and give chickens more stimulation. Since there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all chicken coop, it's important to build a coop that will best suit your individual birds. And if you've like some more ideas on how to outfit your coop, we recommend checking out homesteader Amelia Quinn's awesome guide, which offers a lot more detail than we have space for here.
How Do I Build a Chicken Coop?
Although ready-made coops and pre-fab coop kits are widely available, anyone with some basic carpentry or handyman experience can build a suitable chicken coop. Simple coops could be built in a single weekend!
But whether you opt to follow someone else's design plan or come up with your own, here are several things to keep in mind:
Choose a good location. A chicken coop should be placed in a level area, ideally with access to shade. Placing the coop near a well-traveled area, such as closer to the house, will also discourage predators. Avoid areas with poor drainage, because wet or muddy ground can cause problems for chickens. Similarly, avoid areas that are prone to high winds, which can chill chickens in the winter.
Provide enough space. Chickens need about 2-3 square feet of space per bird inside the coop’s house, plus at least 4-5 square feet in an outdoor run area. Keep in mind that larger or more aggressive breeds may require more space, and larger coops can help reduce aggression and squabbling.
Use rot-resistant lumber. Avoid pressure-treated lumber, as it may contain toxic chemicals that could harm the chickens. Cedar and redwood are better options.
Build the frame first. Outline where the fence will be situated, and consider pouring a concrete foundation underneath the coop’s building to make cleaning droppings faster and easier.
Elevate the enclosure. Raising the coop’s house a foot or two above the ground will help protect roosting chickens from predators and will make it easier to clean beneath the coop -- particularly if your coop design includes a grated floor. Give birds access to the structure with a gentle ramp that includes treads to prevent birds from slipping as they go in and out.
Provide windows. Chickens need natural light to thrive, and a good coop will have ample windows or a skylight. Ideally, the windows can be opened to provide ventilation as needed, with additional vents placed near the coop’s roof to assist with temperature control in the hottest months.
Provide proper chicken furniture. A well-designed coop will include plenty of perches as well as properly sized roosting boxes for hens.
Use proper fencing. Bury part of the fencing material to help protect chickens from digging predators, and include a gate that can be securely latched.
Don't be afraid to get creative with your coop, either! A suitable coop can be made by repurposing children's playhouses or doghouses, for instance. Whether you recycle existing materials or design something from the groun up, with a little advance planning, you can build the perfect coop to keep your flock safe and comfortable for years to come.
When you're ready to expand your flock, be sure to stop by our Giddings store, where new chicks are arriving weekly. But hurry! They go fast! And don't forget to stock up on chicken feed and all the supplies you need to keep your birds happy and healthy while you're here!