Designing a Chicken Coop for Happy & Safe Hens

by Charlotte Walker
chicken coop design

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 planning the chicken coop design and getting it built.

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.

chicken coop design

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.

chicken coop design

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.

chicken coop design

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.

chicken coop design

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 the forest. This location provides shade and a wind break. On the hottest summer days the coop is nice and cool. In the winter the coop is dry and draft free.

Sufficient ventilation is one of the most crucial elements of a coops design, especially important during the winter.

chicken coop design

The vent on the left is covered in plastic, we never got the cover for it built but this side of the coop is sheltered and the chickens seem to love the spot in front of the vent best.

chicken coop design

The gang on their perches inside the coop. We have two tiered perches,  both 8FT long, giving them lots of room/space

Free ranging?

Sort of. Not exactly. We had planned on free ranging the chickens. This did not work out. We’ve had some fatalities, and unfortunately one of the predators was our beloved dog Molly.  She can’t be trusted around the chickens anymore (She licks her lips whenever she sees them).

We can’t always be watching the coop and started to see signs of stalking in the bush around the coop. There is an abundance of wild life lurking around, coyotes & bobcats and now Molly!  We’ve since built them a chicken tunnel that leads to the fenced pasture where they can roam safely.
chicken coop design

We have cleared the brush around to woods to deter predators and we have put up a make shift fence to help keep the flock safe

Nesting boxes

The coop has four nesting boxes, accessible from outside. Oddly enough the hens all like to use the same box. The nesting boxes are lined with fresh straw and  are covered by privacy curtains because hens like privacy when they are laying eggs.

chicken coop design

The nesting box is accessible from outside.

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.

chicken coop design

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.

The homesteaders Handbook: Raising Chickens

If you are just getting started with chickens you might want to take a look at our e-book ‘The homesteaders Handbook: Raising Chickens’. It covers: breed selection, shelter, hatching chicks, keeping hens and roosters, feed and everything in-between.

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5 comments

pobept January 28, 2016 - 7:10 am

Great coop
Happy gardening

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Donna August 17, 2016 - 6:26 pm

Love the Coop. When you mentioned putting clear roof panels. Are you referring to the run or the coop?

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Charlotte Walker August 17, 2016 - 11:47 pm

Hi Donna, We have metal roofing on both the coop and the attached run. I would have put a strip of clear roofing down the middle of the coop if I could do it again. Just to give them some more sunlight in the winter. The roof in the run provides much needed shade in the summer so I would not put any of the clear plastic there.

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Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead March 26, 2017 - 8:48 am

WWhat a gorgeous, secure and well built coop! I am so impressed with your building skills. We always seems to be building witwith repurposed wood and left over odd and ends around our Small House Homestead. Our coop complex is secure but definitely not so pretty!! This is our second coop building go-round so we learned a few tricks during our first build. This time we did use clear roofing panels and are happy we did. We built under a large oak tree so that we have ample shade. And we built our two stand along off the ground coops within the fences in garden area with three different runs to access via gates. This has been the best decsion we have made. I wish it was a larger area but it is what it is and works. We have 8 hens and that is just right for our 5 acres and our time and energy att age 67 and 72. I lookforward to reading more. Your log home is gorgeous too….Our biggest challenges here are homesteading while aging!! Donna at the Small House Big Sky Homestead, SW Michigan.

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Walkerland March 26, 2017 - 10:10 am

Hello Donna, I will be honest, I love this coop and it will surely last forever but I had not expected it to be quite so fancy. I should have known to expect this when my dad offered to help my husband build it. My dad was an underground miner for most of his life and as a result he has a certain standard that he builds everything to. One way of describing his methods would be “hurricane proof” (haha). I do wish the coop was mobile so that I could move around the property. I love your idea of having different runs for the hens to access. I am trying to achieve a secure tunnel that leads to the fenced pasture. My first attempt at the tunnel was a bit of a disaster. It broke open and one the chickens got attacked by our dog Molly. I then had to kill the poor hen to end her suffering. Terrible day and a good lesson in doing things the right way! This spring I will try again, this time with help from my husband that is better at carpentry!

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