When we moved to the homestead, the first thing we started on was sourcing heritage chickens. If we were going to have chickens and subsequently eggs, they might as well be special ones! Once the chickens were ordered we got to work building the coop.
The design. I spent a lot of time online looking at coop designs, reading forums to glean as much info on what worked for people, what did not. From that I put together a “best of the best” wish list. I sketched the idea and then my dad did the plans to scale & wrote out a materials list. He also brought a lot of tools with him that we had not yet acquired.
She is solid and built to outlast us all. You see, my dad was an underground miner for a lot of years. They just do things a certain way. He is also a bit of a perfectionist. We joke that this building was designed to be hurricane proof.
Dimensions. The coop is 8×8 and the run is 8×12. NOTE: Floor space is all that counts when estimating the size you will need, HEIGHT IS IRRELEVANT. We have eight hens and two roosters. This is about 16 square feet per bird, plus whatever outdoor space they access when the weather permits.
Features. Two windows that open (screened, predator protected), large vent/opening, pop door with ramp to the enclosed run, nesting boxes with exterior access, large door to access coop for cleaning, large door to run. Perches inside coop & run, and a dropping board for easy cleaning. Floors are covered in laminate, and we have a thick layer of sand covering the floor. The coop is raised from the ground so it is not sitting in snow or water and the floor is insulated.
The budget. First of all let me laugh and then cry a little. We went 30%++ over on my budget. At some point I lost track. I had intended on providing a material list, plans but I admit defeat here. Make sure your materials list and plans are fully developed before you start.
Predator proofing. Ryan dug a deep trench around the run and affixed a generous amount of wire mesh to the base folding it into the hole and then filled the hole with rocks before filling back in. The 1/2″ 20 gauge steel wire netting, is far more durable than he standard octagonal chicken netting. Every opening, vent, window is covered with this mesh, stapled and screwed down. This place is locked down tight.
Healthy Environment. The coop is fully insulated and is situated near the edge of our forest. This gives it some shade and a wind break. On the hottest summer days the coop was nice and cool. Now that winter is here, it is dry, completely free of drafts.
Sufficient ventilation is one of the most crucial elements of a coops design, especially important during the winter.
Free ranging? Sort of. Not exactly. We had planned on free ranging the chickens. This did not work out. We are down one hen, our dog Molly snacked on her Christmas Eve. What happened will always be a mystery. She had been great with them for months. She can’t be trusted anymore.
Nesting boxes. We built four nesting boxes, accessible from outside. So far all of the hens prefer the same box but perhaps this will change when they all start laying. We line the boxes with straw, and I sprinkle dried rose petals and lavender. There are also curtains for a little more privacy.
Electricity. We do not have electricity out at the coop. We might run cables next summer. For now, with temperatures in the -20 at night, I have an extension cord running to the coop to heat the water bucket heater. We have followed some expert advice and we do not heat the coop. The chickens are in a draft free, comfortable environment and they are happy and healthy.
What I would change:
1. The run. I would have made it double or triple the size.
2. Electricity. Frozen water is the biggest challenge we have in winter
3. Clear roofing. I would have put a few panels of clear roofing for added sunlight. We did this on another building and it is very effective.