How you build your chicken coop is one of the most important things you will do as a chicken owner. Today, I am going to break down the top things to consider when building your coop and give you key ideas to help you in designing your chicken coop.
Before we built our own coop, I spent a LOT of time doing research on how to build the best chicken coop for our hens and for our lifestyle. It resulted in us custom designing a coop with my dad and if you love our coop design and our ideas, it is now available in the shop to be downloaded so you have chicken coop plans to help to you in designing and building a great coop yourself!
Let’s dive into the top things I learned and what I suggest when you are creating your chicken coop for your chickens. Here are the things to consider as you design and choose a coop.
The Key Parts of a Chicken Coop:
There are specific parts of a chicken coop that you should know about when building or considering building your own chicken coop. You can look at plenty of chicken coop ideas but knowing the essential pieces you need is key.
- The Coop: The coop is where your flock will live. It is where your chickens will sleep, eat, and lay their eggs. It is the most essential part to having chickens.
- The Run: This is a protected area your chickens are contained for feeding, outdoor exploring, and other chicken activities every day. Even if you free range your chickens often there will be times you will want a space they are contained to for various reasons.
- Ladder or Ramp: This allows your chicken in and out of their coop. Some chicken owners opt to just have a coop on the ground, which is absolutely fine, but if your’s is raised this is essential for the chickens to comfortably and easily access their coop.
- Dust Bathing Area: Dust Bathing is an essential part of being a chicken. Your flock wants this area to socialize but mostly to protect themselves from parasites like lice and mites. They need this area throughout the whole year! Yes even in the winter.
- Door: You will need a door to close for them in and out of the coop to their run.
- Nesting Boxes: You need to have nesting boxes for your chicken coop. You should have 1 box per every 4 chickens. So we have 13 chickens and have 4 nesting boxes. You would rather have extra than too few.
- Roosting Bar: Your roosting bar is where your chickens will sleep. The bar should be at the same height as the nesting boxes. This keeps hierarchy amongst the flock so pecking is less.
- Storage Area: Whether your store things in a shed or garage nearby it doesn’t matter, but you will need quite the amount of things for your coop such as a secure place for feed, access to water, additional bedding, and more. So you will want to make sure you have a space to keep these things.
Best Tips for Predator Protection:
Considering this first and foremost is essential in designing and building a great coop. You have to protect your chickens and there are a lot of great tricks to doing so. Here are some that things we did through the process to create a coop that so far has been more or less Fort Knox against predators.
We have yet to have one issue with a predator and we live on 15 acres in Northern Michigan. We have eagles, hawks, foxes, badgers, weasels, snakes, coyotes, and bobcats. So there are MANY options that we had to consider:
- Consider an Automatic Door: We installed the Omlet Automatic Door and cannot say more good things about it. It keeps the ladies safe from predators and seals up nice and tight. An automatic door makes sure your hens return home and they know when to go in. The door makes a sound and closes slowly. This sets a routine for them that they desire and it takes the pressure off of you as an owner.
- Run your fencing underground: Throughout the whole run, we have fencing that runs at least a foot underneath the run itself. This is to prevent a predator from digging and coming underneath the fence at all. Our’s also goes straight into the concrete we poured around the fencing as well. This means it is REALLY hard for a predator to dig into the run and get to them.
- Make sure there isn’t space UNDER the coop: If your coop is raised, which is a great way to keep your hens safe, You will also have to make sure there is fencing or boards that go around to keep predators from sneaking in underneath and digging through the floor into the coop. No matter what you have to keep something around the coop itself to make sure no one is digging in to get your flock.
- Keep a roof over their run: Whether it is a neighbor cat or a hawk, when your chickens are in their run you will want a way to keep a roof or netting over them. Placing a roof is also great in places where it gets very warm or there is a lot of snow as this will keep them protected from elements as well.
- Do not allow doors from the outside: Keeping the doors from the outside minimal if any is a great idea. Doors are an easy way in for some predators because they are less secure. So keep the doors into the run either simple with plenty of strength and protection or do not have one.
Consider the Weather Where You Live When Building Your Chicken Coop:
No matter where you live you need to consider your weather when building your coop both for yourself and for your flock. Here are the things I suggest considering when you are designing and building your chicken coop:
- Electricity: Though in cold climates there is really no need to heat your coop (you can read more about that here) you will want to have electricity for a light you can turn on when caring for them in the dark potentially. If you live in a cold climate as well you will need to have a heated watering system and electricity will be needed. We run an extension cord from our house to the coop and it works just fine. Once it is warm we remove it.
- Water Access: Your hens need water a lot to make eggs and need even more during extreme temp changes. So make watering easy on yourself. Especially if it is cold where you live. Water can be a very uncomfortable activity if you aren’t thinking about how you will do this.
- Insulation: Whether you live in a very hot place or in a cold place, insulation can be so helpful to regulate the temperature in the coop for your hens. The insulation does not need to be of the quality of a home, but insulating it will keep them cozy all winter long on top of plenty of heavy bedding.
- Ventilation: this is key to keep down smells as well as protecting your chickens. In the winter particularly ventilation is key to avoiding frostbite for your chickens. Great airflow makes a lot of difference for them. In the summer and hot places, ventilation can help move hot air on windy days. You can do this with windows or with vents.
- Natural Light: In order to lay well your chickens need natural light to regulate your cycle of egg-laying. This also tells them when to go and roam and when to head to bed so make sure if your coop is large to have at least one window that will keep them connected to the natural light.
Make Your Coop Easy for Maintenance:
Keeping animals of any kind comes with maintenance and chickens are far from without maintenance. But we can keep it enjoyable if we think about the right things when designing the coop. Here are the things we thought about and have been great!
- Make it Easy to Clean: Our coop makes it super easy to clean. We bring in a wheelbarrow and can stand up inside. We can remove all bedding and bring it to the compost without an issue. We only clean 2 times a year so it is not a huge task but it is still an important one. It also is not comfortable so you want to make sure it is easy for you.
- Make Gathering Eggs Simple and Out of the Elements: 6 months out of the year for us it is very cold and not something I want to be doing in the cold so we wanted to access our eggs inside our coop. This was very important also to keep the eggs safe and less likely to bust in cold temps. Yes, that happens. So we made sure they were inside and easy to access. Which you can see in the plans.
- Have an area to store everything they need: Our coop was designed to have an area solely for the storage of food, bedding, and other things like nesting box herbs, Diametaceous Earth, ACV, and so on to keep them healthy. There is also an area to store eggs we gather every day. This makes it much more enjoyable to care for the flock.
- Have an area to isolate a bird: At some point, you will need to remove a bird from the flock and you will want a place to keep them while you tend to them. This can happen for a lot of reasons, but none the less you have to consider this when you design your coop. In the plans, we created there is plenty of space to keep a hen near the flock but separate to keep them safe.
Other Details About Our Coop:
Here are questions and things we have received about materials and other details for the coop if you are wanting to know some other things.
- Siding Material: We used leftover siding from the build of our home and my parent’s home. So it is a mix of a PVC siding and a LP siding.
- Paint Color: We painted the exterior in Pewter Green from Sherwin Williams
- Framing Materials: We used Cedar and Pine for all the framing.
- Roofing Materials: Steel Ribbed Corrugated System from Menard’s
- Windows: These simple ones from Lowe’s
- Door: This one from Lowe’s
- Inside Screen Door: We purchased this from Lowe’s
- Walls and Flooring: for the walls and floor we used plywood and sealed and painted the floor with high gloss paint we had leftover
All of these ideas were considered when we designed our chicken coop and if you want to take the guesswork out of designing your’s from scratch, my dad who is a licensed contractor created plans you can use along with a full material list to make the process that much simpler. You can head to our shop to purchase the chicken coop plans and start building the coop before your baby chicks arrive.
If you want to hear more you can listen to the podcast episode all about our Chicken Coop Design and Build process. I give plenty of these tips and more to help you figure out how best to design your chicken coop for your backyard chickens.