Chicken Coop Tour & Top Design Tips
Chickens are a great addition to the homestead. They are easy to keep, supply you with eggs and, depending on how many you have, do not require a lot of space.
We got our first flock of Rhode Island Reds shortly after moving onto our farm in 2013. Since then we have not gone without having a flock of laying hens, which is usually about 20 chickens.
This year before we moved our new flock of chicks from the barn out into the coop, we did some remodeling and upgrades to our coop.
I thought I would give you a tour of our chicken coop and share with you my top chicken coop design tips, so that you can learn from our mistakes and build your coop better the first time.
Here are my top 6 chicken coop design tips:
1. Have enough space for your chickens, the more space the better.
Having large enough indoor and outdoor spaces for your chickens will help keep them happy and healthy. During our chicken coop remodel, we did not change the size of our coop because we found our 9 ft by 9 ft coop to be large enough for 20 chickens. However, our chickens spend most of their day outside in the run, which we did significantly enlarge.
Prior to the upgrades, our chicken run was 9 ft by 16 ft, which with 20 chickens was about 7ft per chicken. The run was built off the back of our coop and was in the trees.
Our new chicken run is built off of the front of our chicken coop. It is about 4000 square feet, which with 20 chickens is 200 square feet per chicken. I know, this is a bit over the top large, but we had the space and wanted to give the chickens as much room as possible. About ¾ of the chicken run is an open grassed area, and the remaining ¼ is forested.
The reason we made a larger chicken run is because we found that our original run often was smelly and muddy. We did add sand to the run to try and help improve the smell and mud, however we thought a larger area would be the best solution to the problem.
The more space you can give your chickens the better, from my experience. A larger run gives chickens room to move around and things to peck at. More space gives them more vegetation and bugs to eat, which keeps them busy and feed.
I recommend having a treed area be a part of your chicken run, if that is an option for you. I find that our chickens really enjoy getting into the brush and having the cover.
2. Ventilation is essential
Having proper ventilation in your chicken coop is necessary to keep your chickens, and you healthy.
The reason good ventilation is important for chickens, more than other livestock, is because chickens have a comparatively high respiration rate. This means that chickens breath more frequently than most farm animals, and therefore use more oxygen and release more carbon dioxide, heat and moisture. (Storey’s guide to raising chickens, book)
Also, chicken manure releases moisture and ammonia which need to be ventilated from the coop. Ammonia gas is what you smell if a chicken coop is not kept clean or has little ventilation and is unhealthy for you and your chickens to breath.
Because of these things, when chickens are kept in a coop there needs to be a way for the ammonia, carbon dioxide, heat and moisture to leave the coop, which is why ventilation is so important.
In our chicken coop, one wall is almost completely open in the summer however we have been closing it up during the winter. To improve our ventilation, we are going to add a vent at the back of our coop to get a cross breeze in the summer. In the winter we will keep the vent open to increase air flow but will close the windows so that there isn’t a cold draft.
When designing your chicken coop be sure to have vents and/or opening windows on opposite sides of your coop, so that you get a cross breeze. Place the vents high on the walls, since hot air rises and to keep your chickens from getting too cold in the winter months. It is best to put your vents in line with the direction of the wind flow in your area.
3. Make sure you can reach all areas of your coop
When designing your chicken coop, it is important for you to be able to reach all corners of the coop, so you can clean it out and can reach a chicken if need be.
Many chicken coops are designed with a door that opens up for you to reach in and clean them out. This is how our chicken coop was originally, but it was so deep we could not reach the back of the coop.
I recommend designing your coop so that you can actually walk into the coop, which makes it easier for cleaning.
Our chicken coop used to have two levels. Each level was a few feet high and to clean it out we had to reach in with a long stick, which was a pain. When remodeling our coop we tore out the middle floor and made it just one big open room. Now we can walk right into the coop which is so much better for cleaning and catching chickens.
4. Have your nest boxes off the ground
If your nest boxes are on the same level as your coop floor you may run into some issues like we have.
In our original coop design the nest boxes were the same height as the floor. Because of this our chickens could stand beside the nest boxes and eat the eggs, which was a big problem. Every day at least one egg would be eaten, even after trying different methods of stopping them, like putting golf balls in the nests.
Also, when the floor and nest boxes were the same height the chickens could easily stand beside the nest boxes and poop in them, which made the nest boxes get dirty pretty fast.
I recommend having the nest boxes at least high enough off the coop floor, so that the chickens cannot peck into the nests or poop in them when standing on the coop floor.
5. Build the roosts higher than the nest boxes
Another consideration when designing your chicken coop is the roosts. Roosts are important to have, because chickens like to roost while they sleep. Roosts are meant to mimic trees that wild chickens would sleep in.
When designing your coop, you want to make sure your roosts are higher than your nest boxes. Chickens will roost on the highest place possible in your coop, therefore if your nest boxes are higher than the roosts your chickens will roost there and poop in your boxes.
Although we have never had a problem with this, since are roosts have always been higher than our nest boxes, it is something we kept in mind when putting new roosts into our coop.
When building a coop, it is recommended to put your roosts at least 2 feet off the floor, and 8 inches out from the wall. However, when our chickens are young we have a roost that is 1 foot off the floor. As they grow they can reach our higher roosts that are about 3 and 4 feet off the ground.
As well, we find that our chickens will roost on low tree branches outside, which is another great reason to have some trees in your run.
6. Elevate your watering system
A watering system is an essential part of your chicken coop design. There are a variety of different styles of waterers, such as water troughs, bowls, watering nipples, bell waterers, and many homemade options.
Whatever system you choose, make sure that the waterer is elevated, either by hanging it or attaching it to a fence or wall. The reason for this is so that the chickens do not kick dirt into the water and poop in it as much, and so they do not knock the water over.
We used to use small chicken watering containers that sat on the ground or on a block of wood (in above photo). We did not like this system because they got pretty dirty, the chickens would knock them over all the time, they ran out of water quickly, and the chickens would roost on them.
We upgraded our watering system to a 2-gallon (8 Litre) bell waterer, that we hang from the ceiling of our coop. Now the water stays quite clean, the chickens can’t tip it over, and it holds a few days worth of water. I would definitely recommend the bell waterer, and am planning on buying a second one for our coop.
These are a few of the things that I wish we had known before building our first coop. I hope that you have learned something that will help you in building an efficient coop that both you and your chickens will love.
If you are looking for a good resource on raising chickens, I highly recommend the book: Story’s Guide to Raising Chickens. My husband gave me this book for a birthday present last year, and I have learned so much from it. This book can teach you pretty well everything you need to know about raising chickens, from choosing the right breed to culling and processing your chickens.
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Hey, I’m Maggie. I hope you will join me and my family in getting back to the land. Here you will learn about making things yourself, cooking homegrown food, and beginning a homesteading journey.