Having a chicken coop to keep your chickens safe from predators and the elements is an important part of having chickens on your homestead.    Your chickens will need a safe dry and well ventilated place to roost at night or in bad weather.

Chicken coop – a building guide.

We have had a variety of coops since we first started with chickens. We have had old wooden crates converted to a basic house through to our latest chicken coop construction. We have learned much from each design and have tried to build a better chicken coop for both the chickens and us each time we have had to reconstruct. The only reoccurring theme is that we have tried to use as many recycled items as we could….more to save costs than any other noble reason.

To get some inspiration, have a look at these great chicken coop photos and advice.

chicken coop
The chickens in the new coop

Here are the things that we now consider when we are designing our chicken coop.

Safe
Is the chicken coop secure from other animals trying to get in? Here in the NE of the USA we worry about foxes, coyotes, raccoons etc. So it needs to be a design that can’t be broken into, ripped open, lifted up or turned over.  In Australia I would be also trying to keep out snakes.

Airy
Even in our cold climate, we have a well ventilated chicken coop. Chickens seem to cope extremely well in the cold (ours did great in three months of very bitter winter when it did not get above freezing). So they don’t need a coop that is centrally heated. So good ventilation without being breezy on the birds is perfect.

Chicken coop
Chickens on ice!

You don’t need it be be insulated and have central heating.  On the really cold days and nights when the thermometer reading was way below freezing we run a red heating lamp to provide a little comfort.

Dry
Damp chickens are not happy chickens…and will probably end up as sick chickens. Your coop needs to always be dry.   So it has to be up off the ground, a roof to stop rain and/or snow dripping in and a way to open it up in case it does get damp inside.   We have stopped providing drinking water in our coop unless its winter (with a water warmer) because the chickens just made a wet mess!

Roosting poles
Chickens need to be able to roost on a perch to sleep, just like all birds do at night (ok …emus don’t). Your chickens needs to have an old broom handle, tree branch or other item to settle on inside the chicken coop.  We have four feet of old curtain rod and all six adult birds are very happy.  When we get more chickens (the coop could take another dozen) we will install more perches.  However, in winter months, we use a wider perch – a piece of 2′ x 4′ lumber, so that the chickens can completely cover their feet as they rest at night.   This allows them to keep their feet warm and avoid frostbite.  Before we did this we had one girl get severe frost bite on both feet.

The new coop's roosting pole.
The new coop’s roosting pole.

Nesting boxes
Your girls will appreciate a place to lay their eggs. Some people like to build nesting boxes inside the coop. We found that having nesting boxes that have easy access for humans to collect eggs are great, however our free ranging girls like to lay in a spot in our barn rather than the nesting boxes.  Inside our coop the nesting boxes are cut down plastic buckets and these are only used if we are late in letting them out and one girl just can’t wait.  We have a nesting box for 4 chickens – so a dozen chickens share three boxes.

The plastic nesting boxes
The plastic nesting boxes

Easy to clean
We use the deep litter method –  which is just code for laying a deep pile of old hay onto the floor of the chciken coop. We clean it out every few months and find that it works great. On past coops it was quite a chore to get into the chicken coop and clean it. With our current design we made a flap on one wall so we have great access for cleaning. We also made the chicken coop tall and added two cut down doors so we can get inside both from the outside and from inside the barn in winter.

Front of the coop - see the lower flap we can open to clean it out - now its a 5 min job!
Front of the coop – see the lower flap we can open to clean it out – now its a 5 min job!

 

Chicken coops for beginners – why do it!

Building a chicken coop can be a great family affair.  We collected materials from our dump for a few months and then built the structure as a lean-to off the barn.  That way we could have a door to the inside of the barn so during winter the chickens could use the barn to roam around if they did not want to venture out into the snow.  We also have a door on the outside of the chicken coop and a window on the south side – so it gets loads of light and is easy to clean and air out.

Chicken coops for beginners
The coop framed up
Coop fininshed
Coop finished

So far this chicken coop has been perfect!   Easy for us to get into.  Easy to clean.  But most of all, the chickens seem happy to call it home!  Using recycled materials has kept our costs low as well!

Jan and Madie 'fancy up' the coop with paint.
Jen and Madie ‘fancy up’ the coop with paint.

We hope this chicken coop building guide will help you have happier and safer chickens!

Chicken coop – a building guide.

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