A chicken coop consists of a hen house with roosts and nesting boxes and a run area. Coops come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from lumber cut fresh from the mill or from scraps found in the back of the garage. Knowing what you have to work with and understanding your chickens' housing needs will make designing your own chicken coop a lot easier.
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Count your chickens to determine the overall size of the coop. Large chickens like brahmas need 10 square feet of outside run space and 2 square feet of inside space per chicken. Laying hens like Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns need about 8 square feet of run space and 1.5 to 2 square feet of hen house space per chicken. Bantam breeds need 4 square feet of run space and 1 square foot of inside space per chicken. Multiply the number of chickens you own by the appropriate space requirements. The result is the minimum area required to provide your chickens healthy living conditions with sufficient space to exercise outside and room to nest and roost inside.
Sketch the footprint of the coop to scale with a pencil on the graph paper. This footprint only represents the overall floor and run space of the coop. Take into account where the coop will be located and design a coop that will fit in your selected location and still be large enough for all of your chickens. Squares and rectangles are relatively simple to create, but a chicken coop can also be a hexagon or L-shaped or something more creative; therefore, also take into account the builder's skill level when designing the overall configuration of the coop.
Add height to your design. Walk-in coops are easier to clean but need to be tall enough for your tallest chicken wrangler to stand up inside. Shorter coops are easier to move but can make reaching chickens or feed challenging. Additionally, the hen house must be tall enough for a roost to be placed about 3 feet above the ground but still allow at least 14 inches above the roost for the chickens.
Add a roof to your chicken coop. A solid roof on the hen house area will keep the indoor living space clean and dry. Either a solid or a wire roof on the run area will keep out predators and keep the chickens inside the run. A solid roof will protect your chickens form rain and sun. Choose which style of roof will cover the hen house and run area and add these details to your design.
Add walls, ventilation and a floor to the hen house. The walls of the hen house are solid for security. Small openings that resemble windows but are covered with hardware cloth will provide ventilation. The floor can be solid or wire. A solid floor needs to be covered with litter such as pine shavings to catch waste. Waste falls through a wire floor to the area below the hen house. If you choose a wire floor, make sure the area under the hen house is accessible for cleaning.
Add a roost to the hen house that is 3 feet above the floor of the hen house but at least 14 inches from the roof. The roost is a 1.5 to 2-inch thick piece of wood or tree branch that run the runs the width of the hen house and is where the chickens sleep at night.
Add nesting boxes either to the inside of the hen house or attached to the outside but with access from the inside. You will need one nesting box for every three or four chickens. Design the nesting box to be about 1.5 times the size of the chickens. Make sure you can readily access the nesting boxes by adding a roof that lifts up to boxes that are on the outside of the house or by placing the nesting boxes near a door if they are inside the house.
Add one or more doors to the hen house. The chickens need a door to access the run area from the hen house and you need access to the hen house for egg gathering and cleaning.
Add wire walls and access to the run area. Smaller wire mesh like 1-inch hardware cloth will keep chickens in and predators out. Add a door in the run area so you can clean the run and place food and water inside every day. A large run area may need additional supports for attaching the hardware cloth and supporting the roof.
Add locks to all doors that lead to outside the chicken coop to prevent clever predators from opening the doors and feasting on you chickens.
Add a barrier around the base of the coop to prevent predators from digging under the coop. A good barrier is a 6-inch wide piece of hardware cloth buried in the ground around the base of the coop to prevent digging.
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