Saturday, April 16, 2011

Building Chicken Coops

Building chicken coops is something anyone can do if they have access to materials and a few tools. There are just a few design considerations to think about for building chicken coops, and the rest is just common sense.

One of the first considerations for building chicken coops is space. Most chicken coops have a run, or fenced in area, in front of or around the coop that allows the chickens to spend the better part of their day outside where they have access to grass, worms, and bugs. Chickens at large commercial farms rarely have this kind of outdoor exposure, which is what makes your chicken’s health and eggs so much better. So, when building chicken coops, chose a place in your yard that has enough room for both a chicken coop and a run.

You may also want to consider mobile chicken coops, which are basically small coops on wheels that have a small run area built in. When thinking about building these mobile coops, remember that weight is going to be a factor since you will have to provide the force necessary to move it. Adding wheels to one side like a wheelbarrow will also go a long way in making your coop mobile.

Other considerations when building chicken coops is protection. The main purpose of a coop is to protect your chickens from predators. It needs to be fenced in on all sides including the top. If you plan to let your chickens out of the coop during the day, you will need to remember to shut the door at night to keep them safe from animals like raccoons or even neighborhood cats. So, plan on building a coop that can be shut at night that predators can’t get into.

Of course, you’ll also want to consider the space for your chickens. A general rule of thumb is having at least 3-4 square feet of space per chicken inside the coop. I have three chickens, and the floor of the coop is 3’ by 5’, which is more than enough space for all of them. You chickens will also need a nesting area, which is just a small boxed in area where they feel safe to lay eggs. This only needs to be a 15” by 15” area, and two or three chickens can share the same place. They will generally lay their eggs at different times (although I’ve seen my chickens pile in on top of each other, which is entertaining to watch).

Chickens sleep by roosting, which means they find a high perch to rest on. In many case this is just a 1-1/2” wooden rod or a two-by-four on its side. It should be between one and three feet off the ground, and about a foot away from walls so that the chickens can balance on it easily. One three-foot rod can easily accommodate four sleeping chickens.

Lastly, your chicken coop should have a supply of food and fresh water. These can be containers that you leave out, but make sure you plan for where they will be when planning on building chicken coops.

Taking all of that into account, you should be able to sketch out the floor plan for a coop. The materials for building chicken coops can be as easy as some two-by-fours and plywood that you have laying around or can get easily from a hardware store. Since plywood comes in 4’ by 8’ sheets, try to keep the dimension of any side less than that while building chicken coops. By that I mean don’t plan to build a 5’ by 5’ floor plan because one sheet of plywood won’t fit. Make it 4’ by 6’ instead, for example.

When building chicken coops, your coop doesn’t need to be high off the ground, but it should at least be resting on two-by-fours laying on their sides to keep the floor from resting on the moist ground. A simple roof is to slope the roof from one side of the coop down to the other.

Consider including small holes for ventilation, or a window covered by Plexiglas or chicken wire. Keep the window cutout and use it to cover the wire in the winter to keep cold air out of the keep.

All of that should be more than enough to plan and execute a simple chicken coop. Building chicken coops doesn’t have to be an exact science or a work of art. It just needs to be functional to keep your chickens safe and comfortable.