Chicken Housing: Chicken Coop Designs
Table Of Contents:
Automatic Chicken Door Openers 101
6 Things Every Chicken Coop Needs
Nesting Box Design and Bedding
3 Easy Steps To Build Chicken Nesting Boxes
Chicken Roosting Bars: Everything You Need to Know
An Easy 3×7 Coop for Beginners
8 Awesome Coop Ideas
Does Your Coop Need Heat In Winter?
Automatic Chicken Door Openers
A Great Option for Letting Backyard Chickens Out in the
Morning & Keeping Them Safe at Night
By Gail Damerow
An automatic door is indispensable if you’re not always there to let your backyard chickens out in the morning and close them in at night to secure them from predators. Some people are handy enough to make their own automatic chicken doors, and you can find all manner of instructions on the internet — some ingenious, some flaky, and some downright dangerous. Not everyone has the skill, or the time, to tinker. Luckily, skillful designers now offer ready-built doors that work right out of the box.
Once you decide to install an automatic chicken door, some of the things to consider are: its size, its source of power, and how it’s triggered to open and close. Regarding size, consider both the pophole size and the overall frame size. A 12-inch wide by 15-inch high pophole is ideal for most chickens, guineas, ducks, and lighter breeds of turkeys and geese. A smaller opening is suitable for bantam chickens and lighter-breed chickens or ducks, while a larger size is needed for heavier geese and turkeys. Our 11-inch wide popholes work fine for Royal Palm turkeys and Bourbon Red hens, but when our Bourbon tom matured he had to be coaxed into squeezing through the pophole.
The overall frame size may not be important for a full-size henhouse, but can be a significant issue for a narrow coop or one with low overhead. Be sure to know the frame dimensions before purchasing your door.
Some automatic chicken doors are designed to be plugged into a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you opt for a plug-in model, install the outlet either outside the birds’ living area or at ceiling height to prevent birds from landing on and possibly dislodging the plug. You’ll need to ensure that the electrical cables are long enough to reach the outlet. Protect the cables from curious birds by enclosing them in a wall-mount snap-cover wiring conduit.
Plug-in doors use an adapter that converts 120-volt AC household current to 12-volt DC current. This feature allows the same door to be battery operated. If you are off grid, or your coop has no electricity and you’re tempted to (unsafely!) run extension cords from your house to your coop, a battery is the better option. Like a wall plug, the battery should be located outside the birds’ living area or up on a small shelf near the ceiling where birds can’t roost on top of it.
You might choose to use a rechargeable battery, or you might opt for a solar charger. Some of the door manufacturers offer a solar battery charger as an option, which is ideal for off-grid use or for pastured birds in portable housing. Automatic chicken doors are triggered by either a daylight sensor or a timer. A daylight sensor automatically opens the door at dawn and closes it at dusk. The sensor must receive light during the day— deally on a west facing wall (toward the setting sun) — and be in the dark at night. A security lamp or back porch light, or even a light shining through the coop window at night, can cause the sensor to think it’s daytime.
Opening and closing times can be slightly adjusted by placing the sensor where it gets more sun — so the door opens a little earlier and closes a little later—or more shade—so the door opens a little later and closes a little earlier. Some doors have a mechanism that allows additional adjustment.
If this adjustment is not enough for your situation, most automatic chicken doors have a timer option that lets you program what times you want the door to open and close. A disadvantage to using a timed evening closing is that you have to constantly reset the time as daylight hours lengthen or shorten throughout the year. On the other hand, the ability to delay opening with a timer is handy if you have chicken predators lurking at dawn waiting for the door to open, or you want to keep your birds in until they finish laying. Ducks are especially notorious for hiding their eggs if not confined during their morning laying hours.
6 Basics for Chicken Coop Design
Details to Remember When Designing or Remodeling Your Coop
By Erin Phillips
When thinking about basic chicken coop design, you need to consider six main things. Whether you plan to construct a high-end, designer chicken coop or something basic, you’ll need to keep your birds safe from predators. You must give them enough room inside the coop. You’ll need to provide a place for the hens to lay their eggs and for all the birds to roost at night. The chickens must be protected from cool winds and precipitation, but you also need to allow for ventilation in the coop. Finally, you have to be able to keep it all clean. Let’s look at each of these pieces of basic chicken coop design a little more closely.
1. Protection from Predators
Just about every predator out there likes to eat chickens: coyotes, fox, raccoons, opossums, hawks. One of your biggest and most important tasks as a chicken keeper will be to keep your birds safe from predators. Before you even get birds, consider the predators that live in your area. Keep that in mind as you put together your chicken coop design.
The materials for constructing your coop should be sturdy. If you are purchasing a pre-made coop, inspect all the parts and don’t buy anything that’s flimsy. Instead of chicken wire, use hardware cloth for your runs and window openings. Hardware cloth is stronger than chicken wire and when held in place with heavy-duty wire staples provides good resistance to the most determined creatures. Every opening should be covered, even small spots up by the ceiling; any opening is a possible entrance for a predator.
Additionally, you can run hardware cloth around the perimeter to prevent digging. Personally, we ran it almost two feet around the whole perimeter to make a skirt. To do this, cut a piece of hardware cloth the length of the side of the coop and about three feet wide. Using a 2 x 4, bend it into an “L” with a short side (less than a foot) and a long side (less than two feet). Staple the shorter side to the bottom of the coop and the long side lay on the ground. We lined ours with landscape cloth to prevent weeds then used timbers to create a rock bed around the edge of the coop. Any digging predator would have to dig more than two feet to get into our coop.
When picking a lock for your door, get one that even a raccoon can’t open. We’ve had good luck with gate latches. My husband rigged ours so we can open them from the inside with a wire in case the door swings shut while we’re inside.
Part of predator-proofing your coop is making sure you lock the door too! A great lock will do you no good if you don’t shut the doors. Think about how you will keep a regular schedule to get your girls locked up and who will do it for you when you’re not home. You may consider an automatic chicken coop door, which can be built at home or purchased pre-constructed.
If your birds are going to free-range, predator protection goes to a new level. For this, it’s good to always be thinking, “What may try to get my birds in this situation and how can I prevent it?” Don’t assume that predators only lurk at night; we have seen firsthand that especially brazen coyotes have come into our yard during the day.
2. Square Footage
You may be wondering: How much room do chickens need? The answer to that question depends on how much time your birds will be inside. If they will graze outside, they’ll require less room in the coop (two to three square feet per bird) but if they’ll be cooped up all the time, you need to provide a lot more room per bird (three to four times the room). Overcrowding can lead to negative behavior and health problems so make sure you have the square footage to support the number of birds you intend to get.
3. Nesting Boxes
Your hens will need a comfortable spot to lay their eggs in the coop. This can be as basic as a bucket filled with straw. Our neighbors’ 10 chickens all share one five-gallon bucket filled with straw. Sometimes two chickens stuff themselves in it at the same time! We generally aim for about five birds per nesting box in our coop. It is funny though; they will have their favorites. When we collect eggs, some nests will have 10 eggs in them and some will have two. The nesting box should be about a foot square and have plenty of soft bedding in the bottom to protect the eggs from getting crushed, especially if you have multiple birds using the same nest. For ease of collection, it is tremendously helpful for your nesting boxes to be accessible from the outside of the coop. My husband built ours in a fairly traditional design with a heavy hinged door on top. We used to have a coop where you had to hold the nesting box lid open while you collected the eggs, which was surprisingly difficult if you were also holding a heavy basket of eggs. Consider the angle of your door so that it can rest in an open state, leaning against the coop, instead of being held open by you. You’ll appreciate this small detail every time you collect eggs.
When you are thinking about what does a chicken coop need, roosts are certainly one of the essentials. Chickens have an instinct to perch up high at night. Before they were domesticated, they perched high up in trees at night. One of my neighbors tells a story about how his birds long ago got locked out of the coop for some reason one evening and, desperate to get up high, they perched in the trees nearby. From that night on, they always went up into the trees at night. Though this is a fun story, it is certainly safer for your chickens to be inside a locked coop (raccoons can climb those trees, too).
Inside your coop, you’ll need to provide at least one square foot of perch for each chicken. In cool climates and winter, they’ll use less because they all scoot together for warmth but in summer they’ll need the space to stay cool. We have tried round roosting bars (think reclaimed tree limbs) and 2 x 4’s on their narrow sides and other scrap wood about that size. Whatever you use, make sure it is sturdy enough to support the weight of all the birds that will sit on it at once. Secure it so it won’t spin when weight is applied because chickens move a fair amount and will knock each other off if the roosts are moving around a lot. Each roost should be just wide enough for them to wrap their feet around it. We’ve tried two styles: “stadium seating” and straight across. The girls seem to prefer stadium seating; we assume this is because it allows for the hierarchy that is so important in a flock.
5. Wind Protection/Ventilation
Your coop will need to keep your birds protected from precipitation, and more importantly during the winter, from the wind. Interestingly, though, it must also provide adequate ventilation to prevent moisture buildup that can lead to disease. Birds produce a lot of humidity and moisture with their body heat and their waste. We left the top few feet of our henhouse open, covering it with hardware cloth. This allows for a lot of airflow but it is mostly above the chickens so they aren’t getting directly hit with big gusts of wind. When it gets very cold (-15°F or lower), we staple heavy plastic up over most of this to provide further protection, but otherwise, it remains open all year round. Another option might be to reuse some old windows, which could be easily opened or closed. If you do this, make sure to line the inside with hardware cloth so even when the window is “open” it is still predator-proof.
6. How You Will Clean It
Finally, all chicken coops require regular cleaning. Learning how to clean a chicken coop is part of every chicken keeper’s initiation into raising birds. When thinking up your chicken coop design, consider how you will get inside to clean. Do you want it to be tall enough for you to walk inside? If it’s small, will the roof come off to let you scoop out the dirty bedding? Make cleaning a part of your design and you’ll be thankful as long as you keep chickens!
Chicken Coop Design: Endless Possibilities
Whatever the chicken coop design you have dreamed, make sure to consider these six elements and your chickens will have a safe and healthy home. The details from here are what will make your coop fun and personal. Will you add nesting box curtains? A chicken swing could be fun! You could choose a theme … the possibilities are endless.
Top 10 Chicken Nesting Boxes
Tips on Nest Box Design and the Best Bedding for Chickens
By Joy E. Cressler
Finding ways to cut costs on the farm by making or designating items for poultry farming can boost the family budget—or at least not tap it for new items. As more people turn to raising chickens for eggs or meat, most of them want to save money in keeping with their desire for self-sustaining living. One option is to upcycle materials from around the farm into chicken nest-ing boxes.
Purpose of Chicken Nesting Boxes
The basic purpose of chicken nesting boxes is to encourage hens to lay their eggs in a clean cubicle in relative peace and privacy. A properly built nest assures that eggs are kept in a good environment for collection or hatching. Chickens are not particular about where they lay their eggs; however, a suitable nest box in which to lay eggs can make things flow more smoothly around the farm. No one wants to hunt for eggs, except perhaps at Easter!
Nest box construction can be pretty basic or more elaborate, depending on your creativity, available materials and finances. The best materials from which to make chicken nests are those that are easy to clean and sterilize. For example, metal and plastic can be sanitized, bleached and scrubbed. In addition, these materials don’t absorb chicken feces or the product you use to clean them. Conversely, wooden boxes are convenient and easy to fabricate, but a little more tricky to clean.
How Many Hens Per Nesting Box?
Most chicken experts recommend an average of one nesting space per five birds. Others say no more than one nest per 3-4 birds, which is more in keeping with the Five Freedoms guidance that promotes proper animal welfare. On the other end of the scale, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advises a ratio of one nesting box to seven hens. Overall, the minimum standards suggest not over-burdening chicken nesting boxes.
Chicken nesting boxes can be lined with wood shavings, sawdust or even shredded paper. You can also use grass clippings as long as your lawn wasn’t chemically treated. Many commercial supply houses, farm and feed stores offer rubber mats that fit in the bottom of chicken nesting boxes. They cost about $5 each but are likely to last a long time and are easy to clean.
Many experts discourage poultry enthusiasts from using hay, as it can become moldy and detrimental to the chicken’s health. But any nest liner can fall into that category. Straw and hay can be used if nests are cleaned often, about every 4-6 weeks.One word of interest: Chickens often rotate, even from day to day. A fairly thick nest lining seems to please the hens more than sparsely furnished nests.
How to Keep Other Hens & Predators Out
Nests should be designed or placed within the chicken house so they can be accessed easily for egg gathering and periodic cleaning. Poultry experts advise chicken keepers not to let chickens lay eggs outside on the ground. There is a thin coating on eggs when they are laid that helps protect the egg against bacteria, should the hen decide it’s time to sit on them to hatch. This thin layer is detectable by predators and eggs laid on the ground will not be safe.
Inside the chicken house, other hens will be less interested in soiling nests if the nests are placed in the darkest parts of the building away from the flock activity outside. A piece of burlap over the front of the nest is also an effective barrier. Discourage your chickens from doing anything but laying eggs in their chicken nests by shooing them out when you notice they’re loitering.
Ideas for Making Chicken Nesting Boxes
Look around your property, you may be surprised by what you have laying about that would make an ideal and inexpensive nesting box. Nests need not be expensive and can often be provided for free or at minimal cost. Providing a nest doesn’t have to involve carpentry skills or even the time to build nests from scratch.
Following are a few suggestions for providing chicken nests. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but should get the thoughts flowing:
1. Covered or uncovered cat litter boxes
2. An open-topped ceramic cask or vat pushed on its side
3. Whiskey and wine barrels or 55-gallon drums cut in half and stood on edge
4. 5-gallon buckets obtained from restaurants or other sources
5. Shallow plastic trash cans, sufficiently large enough for comfort
6. Plastic milk and soda crates
7. Wooden crates of suitable sizes (may be difficult to clean)
8. An inexpensive plastic salad bowl from a dollar store with one side cut out.
9. Pet carriers (can often be picked up at flea markets and yard sales)
10. Anything else where chickens can gain easy access, be safe and clean.
Making a Homemade Chicken Nesting Box
Chickens are most comfortable with a nest size that easily accommodates and generally conforms to their own body size. The dimensions of a chicken nest don’t have to be exact, but a good rule of thumb is that it’s better for a nest to be too large than too small.
General Guidelines For Making a Homemade Nest Box
• Should be about a foot deep, wide and tall for standard breeds and 10” high by 12” wide and 10” deep for bantams. Larger standard breeds like New Hampshires and Jersey Black Giants need nests that are 12” wide by 14” high by 12” deep.
• Have an opening about a foot high in front for hens to enter.
• Have a wooden lip about 4 inches high across the bottom front to keep litter in place.
• Have a steep-pitched roof, as much as a 45-degree angle, so chickens don’t sit on top and soil the nest during the night
• Can be made of many types of scrap or new lumber and plywood. Go to construction sites or lumber yard and ask for materials they are throwing away.
• Can have a piece of burlap over the front entrance to protect hens and give them privacy and darkness, especially if they go broody.
• Should be secured about 3-4 feet off the ground to discourage predators from gaining access to the nest.
Some chicken owners choose to provide ladders to the nests, but predators will also use this and render the nests unsafe. Instead, let hens fly up to nearby roosts and amble into their nests on perches you install in front of nest entrances.
3 Easy Steps To Build Chicken Nesting Boxes
1. Obtain a balsa wood basket or similar type to modify. A half-bushel basket works well for a standard-sized chicken nest.
2. Cut three six-inch pieces of wire. Mark and drill a 4-inch-high piece of wood to go across the front entrance to retain straw. Make sure the wood is long enough to cover the front of the basket along the bottom. Also drill corresponding holes in the basket. Secure with the pieces of wire, making sure to tuck the ends of wire carefully beneath to protect chickens from getting cut.
3. Fill with straw and place in obscure place in henhouse where hens are invited to lay their eggs in privacy and security.
Everything You Need To Know About
CHICKEN ROOSTING BARS
What Does a Chicken Coop Need?
A Good Roosting Bar, Of Course!
By Lisa Steele
One of the most common questions I get asked on my Facebook page (Fresh Eggs Daily) is how wide chicken roosting bars should be and how high off the ground they should be positioned. So here’s everything you need to know about chicken roosting bars.
Why Do They Need Them
Chickens prefer to be up high off the ground when they sleep. They are sound sleepers and this keeps them safer from the clutches of predators at night. Chickens take their pecking order very seriously and those highest in the pecking order will grab the highest perches, leaving the lower (and therefore more vulnerable) spots to those lower in the flock order. Sleeping on the ground or floor of the coop also leaves them more susceptible to pathogens, bacteria and external parasites such as mites and lice, so you want your hens to perch on roosts at night. Dust baths for chickens are also a way that hens ward off chicken mites and other pests.
You can use sturdy branches, ladders or boards for your chicken roosting bars. If you use boards, check for splinters and sand if necessary. A 2×4 with the 4” side facing up makes a wonderful roost. You can round the edges a bit if you wish for greater comfort. Plastic or metal pipes should be avoided since they are too slippery for the chickens to get a good grip. Metal also will get cold in the winter and could cause frostbitten feet.
Location In The Coop
Here’s an interesting fact about chickens: Chickens poop while they sleep, so you will want to place your roosts somewhere that it will be easy to scoop, shovel or rake the droppings and soiled litter out of the coop. Also, feeders and waterers (if you leave them in the coop overnight) should not be placed under the roosts, nor should the nesting boxes.
Chicken roosting bars should be at least 2 inches wide and preferably 4 inches wide. Chickens don’t wrap their feet around a perch like wild birds do. They actually prefer to sleep flat-footed. This has an added benefit of keeping their feet protected from frostbite in the winter from below using the roost as protection and using their body as protection from above. Also, this protects their feet from mice or rats who will often nibble on chicken toes while they are sleeping.
Chicken roosting bars can be as low as a foot off the ground or as high as a foot or so from the ceiling. However, if you are going to make the roost much higher than two feet, staggering several roosts like stairs at varying heights will make it easier for the chickens to get up and down from the roost without injuring themselves. Bumblefoot (a staph infection of the foot and leg) is often caused by hard landings off a roost. Leave about 15” headroom between the roosts to prevent those on the higher roosts from pooping on those roosting below them.
When raising chickens for eggs, your roosts need to be higher than your chicken nesting boxes or your hens will be tempted to roost in or on the nesting boxes, looking for the highest perch available.
Allow for at least 8 inches of roosting bar per hen. Of course more is better, but you will find that especially in the winter, all your chickens will snuggle together for warmth. They also use each other for balance, so you will rarely see them roosting any way but side by side in a row, although in the heat of the summer they will appreciate having room to spread out.
Using these guidelines for chicken roosting bars, you should be able to create a nice roosting area for your hens to sleep peaceably at night…and that means you’ll sleep better as well.
Follow Lisa Steele here — Blog: http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fresheggsdaily and https://www.facebook.com/duckeggs daily; Twitter: https://twitter.com/fresheggsdaily; Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fresheggsdaily.
Free Chicken Coop Plan
An Easy 3×7 Coop
By Jeremy Chartier
Many first-time backyard chicken keepers intend to build their own coop, but the first and most frustrating question usually is: what does a chicken coop need? Information paralysis usually ensues, but in reality, your chickens really don’t need much to thrive. Most people go overboard, give up, or give in to temptation entirely and buy one of those outrageously expensive designer chicken coops. I’d like to offer my personal design as an easy free chicken coop plan alternative.
The Back Story Behind My Free Chicken Coop Plan
Before I began blogging about chickens, I built and sold simple 3’x7′ backyard chicken coops to folks all over New England and New York. My design slowly evolved into a well-rehearsed pattern, becoming a balancing act between form, function and economy. While keeping the balance, I was unwilling to bend on a few points.
- It had to be predator proof;
- Provide ample protection from the elements;
- Withstand a 250 lb. guy walking on the roof;
- Fit in an 8′ pickup truck bed;
- Have durable roofing that must survive at least an hour long 75mph wind (for delivery);
- Be built with the least amount of wasted scrap material and time;
- Have no exposed fasteners for chickens or humans to catch themselves on, and
- Be easy to clean.
It’s a demanding list if you think about it, but my free chicken coop plan incorporates all that along with provisions for ventilation, removable perch space, accommodations for a 12” deep bedding pack, nesting space and a way to add electricity without the customer having to modify the coop themselves. This coop works as a full-time coop for up to 6 birds, at most 12 with a daily run or free range. The rule of thumb is 1 nest box per 8 to 10 hens, so the 2 nests I included were enough for the maximum of 12. Most of my customers keep their feed and water outside the coop since they usually include a run or let the chickens free range during the day.
I sold these coops under the name The Red Coop Company, so don’t be confused by these old free chicken coop plan instructions, and disregard the old chicken door method as well as the roof measurements.
Building the Base
In the interest of longevity, I use 2×6 pressure treated timbers as main runners to build the base of the coop. To start, cut two 2×6 runners 7′ long. I cut a bevel on both ends of the runners to make my life easier when moving it into its final destination since a 90 degree cut digs in every time I try to move it around. If you’re building your coop in place, you can skip that step. I highly suggest setting piers with patio block for the runners to sit on to keep the wood from being directly exposed to the ground, especially if you opt to use regular pine instead of pressure treated.
Next, cut five 2×3 pine studs 32 7/8” long for floor joists. Spaced equally, five joists will give you 21” on center which is more than enough for me to walk on while building. If you want to upgrade these to 2×4’s or use pressure treated 2×4’s, it will add to the longevity of the frame, but also add to the weight which may be an issue if you plan to move it later. To assemble the base, use 3” deck screws or 3” ribbed air nails. Consider pre-drilling for your screws since the 2×3’s may split on the ends.
Finally, cut a mid-grade 1/2” sheet of plywood to 3′ by 7′ to serve as your floor. Be selective when buying this sheet of plywood and find a sheet with minimal imperfections. When you’re thinking about how to clean a chicken coop, you’ll be thankful for a solid floor with no missing chunks. Now is a good time to consider painting the floor or adding linoleum if that’s your preference. I don’t suggest using a pressure treated sheet for the floor unless you intend to cover it with something like linoleum. You don’t want to overly expose your backyard chickens to pressure treating chemicals.
Once you’ve cut your floor as square as possible, screw it to your base frame using 1 1/4” decking screws. Start by screwing an edge along one base runner, then square the rest of the frame to the sheet of plywood. If there is plywood overhanging the frame when you’re done screwing it down completely, use a router or saw to remove the excess since it will cause you issues later.
Building The Frame
Next, follow the cut sheet and pre-cut your studs, rafters and front support. I use a pneumatic finish nailer to toe-nail these boards in place, but you can do the same with regular finish nails or screws. The whole frame will be very unstable until you add your siding, so be patient. When toe-nailing these boards in do not install them as if you were building a house wall, but instead, have the long surface facing out. Installing your studs in this fashion gives you a wider surface to screw your siding to and reduces the nooks and crannies you need to clean out later.
Note that the back studs, back rafter plate and rafters are 2×3’s, but the front studs are 2×4’s and the front rafter support is 2×6. This is an important design issue since the front of the coop is a wide-open 7′ span and it requires proper support. The front 2×4 studs also give me the needed mounting surface for the hinges I use to support the front doors, which is critical. I use the 3” ribbed air nails to secure the rafters to both front and rear plates, but you can use a 3” deck screw. Just like the base, I suggest pre-drilling your screws to minimize splitting of your rafters. When attaching the rafters to the back wall top plate, use a scrap of 1/2” plywood to space your rafters 1/2” higher on the back plate. Having your rafters sit 1/2” higher than the back plate allows your roof to sit flush.
I use 3/8” texture one-eleven (or T111) which is effectively plywood with a clapboard appearance. This makes cutting and attaching my siding an easy affair, but note that up to this point the frame is unstable and not square, so be sure to cut your siding as square and accurately as possible since you will be relying on it to square up the frame. There is a 1/2” overlap with most T111 which gives it a more seamless look, so mind which side has the overlap or underlay side. From the edge of the frame to the center of the middle stud is 42”, which is the length you should cut the panel that will underlay, but be sure to add 1/2” to the overlapping panel since its edge will be 1/2” past center to close the overlap. Both these back panels will be 37” tall, and be sure your grooves are running vertical, not horizontal when you go to cut them. I suggest squaring to the rear rafter plate first, then squaring along one end to bring the wobbly framework into square with the siding. An alternative to cutting your rear side panels to length would be to mount them as 4′ wide sheets and then cut off the excess with a saw or router and bit, however, you will be slightly more challenged with properly squaring the frame. I fasten the panels with a pneumatic crown staple, but a short deck screw will work fine, if not better.
The sides are slightly more complex, but not hard if you take your time. I cut them from 1 sheet of T111 by first cutting my sheet to a 36” width, having the underlay edge on the waste piece. This new clean edge will be the edge that faces the door. Using the smooth back of the sheet, measure 47 1/8” (or 47.125”) toward the center of the sheet from the end of the sheet. Using a square, then measure in 1 1/2” at the end of each line you just made (toward the center of the sheet) and make a line. This line is the top of the 2×6 at the front of the coop. On the overlap side, measure 37” from the end of the sheet and use a straight edge to connect that point to the end of the 1 1/2” line you just made. Now you have your pattern drawn out and you can cut them out as carefully and straight as you can. Align your new side sheets first with the 2×6 and the front 2×4 stud when fastening, then bring the frame into alignment by continuing to align the sheet to the bottom and back wall. Again, I attach these panels with pneumatic staples, but short deck screws will work just fine.
These doors are simple but effective. Make four 42” long 2×3 studs with 45-degree ends, four 46 1/2” 2×3 studs with 45-degree ends and two studs 37 1/4” with 90-degree ends. Assemble them as pictured by toe-nailing them together with finish nails or pre-drill and screw together with long deck screws. Cut two T111 panels to 42” by 46 1/2” with the panel lines following the 46 1/2” edge.
The easiest way to make the windows is with a router and panel bit. A panel bit is a cutter that you can plunge (drill) into a sheet of wood and then cut an opening with the side of the bit. Panel bits allow you to cut a window opening that is flush to the studs in the wall and make your life easier, but you can alternatively drill the four corners and then cut the opening out with a saw, which I’ve done before, but the end result looks cleaner with a router and panel bit.
Temporarily attach the door panels with a screw in each corner and use your panel bit to open the hole for your window. Remove your panel and cover the window area with 1/2” hardware wire. Do not use chicken wire because wire is to keep chickens in, not chicken predators out. Staple the hardware wire in place and put the door panel back on the frame. Screw the panel in place with short deck screws. Hang your new doors, install bolt latches inside the frame to secure the door you don’t plan on opening often, and then add an exterior latch to close the other door. Do this before you add a roof.
Cut a 1/2” plywood sheet to 89 1/2” by 44”. Temporarily screw 2×6 scraps to the underside of the roof and rest them against the doors you just installed. Center your roof and screw it down using 1” to 1 1/2” deck screws, securing it well to the rafters. Trim the back and side edges with 1/2” drywall cap, secured with staples.
This size roof should use 1 regular bundle of typical 3 tab shingles if you use a guard course on the bottom but none on the sides. I preferred to use a pneumatic stapler with T50 3/4” staples to secure shingles because a regular roofing nail will protrude and leave a sharp point for either you or your birds to injure yourselves on. Shingle the roof like any other roof, cut the excess off the top edge of the roof and cap it with a 6” wide drip edge.
I found that the metal corner edging used for drop ceilings makes a perfect trim for these coops. Home improvement stores sell it in 10-foot lengths, so cut them to size with tin snips and attach them to the coop with liquid nails, finish nails or crown staples. Pop 2 holes near the windows on the sides of the coops and install a round soffit vent on either side so you have a spot to pass an electrical cord through. Take the scrap 1′ by 7′ plywood piece from cutting the floor and use it as a kick board to keep shavings in the coop.
The Finished Chicken Coop (Fan Submitted – 10/16)
I make two plywood plates to cradle a 2×3 perch and attach them to the side panels. I usually attach nesting boxes to the door that swings out without unlatching the inner locks. If you want a small chicken door, install a 12” steel service door like the ones sold at home improvement stores meant to install in sheet rock for a plumbing access door. Consider adding smaller 6” doors for your chicken nesting boxes. For the winter months, either staple painter’s plastic drop cloth over your windows or cut 2 panels of thin Plexiglass and secure them with turnbuckles for the winter.
Have fun with this free chicken coop plan and happy building.
8 Awesome Chicken Coop Ideas
It’s fun showing off those special coops, and why not?
The work put into them is amazing.
From the most sophisticated to the simple and practical.
Coop Idea #1: Converted Trailer
Padraic McGuire and Brooke Snyder • Oregon
From The Designers: This is is our interpretation of the tiny house movement, modified to accommodate chickens rather than people. The rig is completely mobile, as it is built on the stripped frame of an old travel trailer, so it can be transported to different spots on or off our property. It also became part of Brooke’s art installation at our local university, which is what brought about her custom screen-printed wallpaper. Right now it is the home of six hens and one rooster and it is parked at the Green Springs Inn (our family business) outside of Ashland, Oregon, with more chickens on the way.
Coop Idea #2: A Playhouse
Daniel T. Contelmo • New York
From The Designer: This is a shot of our coop in May. A long time ago, this was our playhouse that was originally painted in pink, purple, teal and blue. Last August, my parents purchased chickens and repainted the house black forest green to match our home. As you can see from these photos, including the one of our Buff Orpingtons, it’s quite relaxing to be in the backyard.
Coop Idea #3: A Dog House
Mary Ann Borges • California
From The Designer: I used an old dog house and repurposed it into a very handy chicken coop. I first made the run, which is 5-feet wide and 4-feet deep. I placed ¾-inch plywood on top of the run and cut out an opening, so when I placed the coop (dog house) on top of the run, the hens would have access to the coop. In the coop, there is a roosting pole and an old wooden crate that is divided in two that will be the nesting box. On the outside of the coop, I have my feeder attached that runs down to the coop made out of 3-inch PVC pipe (pictured, bottom right). I made a door that you pull down so that the feeder top is hidden. The top is a cap made out of PVC. I used red roofing material that I purchased at Lowe’s. The red of the roof blends in well with the rest of the coop. I am so proud of how the old dog house turned out!
Coop Idea #4: Rosie’s Palace
Jessica Thurnau Pfund • Illinois
From The Designer: We think our coop is the coolest because we built it ourselves. The lumber was all provided by our neighbor whose dog killed our sweet Silkie, Rosie, hence the name Rosie’s Palace, named by my 4-year-old daughter. The cupola was done by my husband who used vents and built around it. The rooster weather vane tops it off nicely. The coop is very large and many people has said that they wouldn’t mind living in it. The coop inside holds two nesting boxes and was hand-painted to match the exterior run. The run holds a tri-level perch, a small set of stairs my 9-year-old son made, an old Dutch chair, electricity and is sand-based for easy clean up. The view the chickens get each day is a 1-acre pond with gazebo and beach. We aim to please for our feathered friends!
Coop Idea #5: A Tree House
Laurie Field • New Hampshire
From The Designer: The coop is our children’s repurposed tree house. I had the design in my head but couldn’t possibly have done the job without my husband Dan’s carpentry skills. The majority of the coop was built with materials we had around our home, other than the hinges, wire and solar motion lights. After we cut the 8-foot legs on it down to 2 feet, we used scrap wood for doors and repairs, shingles and left over paint from the house, and a few old barn windows. The broken-down picket fence that was piled in the backyard for the last five years came to life in a crooked arrangement. I even pulled the nails and reused them to mount the fencing. The inside is original, the way the kids left it. We put in a corner roost with a dropping board underneath, below that is a broody coop for new arrivals. Two nesting boxes and the front window opens for extra ventilation. The coop has a 5-by-7-by-6-foot living space and the run is 9 feet with an additional 5 feet under the coop. Our coop is whimsical and fun!
Coop Idea #6: Coop De Ville
Darryl Lane • North Carolina
From The Designer: What makes this coop “cool” without a doubt is its color scheme. It makes it fun for the kids and anyone that sees it in person smiles. This chicken coop is mobile and self-sustainable. It has an automatic watering system that keeps the water sanitary and only needs to be refilled a couple times a week. It also has an automatic feeder that needs to be refilled every few days. The Coop De Ville houses eight to 10 chickens and has two nesting boxes. Anyone can move the chicken coop in seconds. By lifting the handles attached to the wheels, it lifts the entire coop inches off the ground, allowing for full mobility.
Coop Idea #7: A Haunted Coop
Ann Lero • Kansas
From The Designer: I built my own version of a coop I saw a picture of online. It was called a haunted coop. The walls and windows are crooked to give it a haunted feeling. All the materials used to make the coop are recycled, except the wood screws, hinges and door handle. The lumber came from an old hog barn I helped take down. I took a walk through a nearby wooded area and gathered vine to use in the window, steps and porch of the coop. I also decided to make a swing out of the vine to hang on the porch of the coop. With the left over lumber, I then built a small out house that is actually a feeder!
Coop Idea #8: A Garden Coop
Hugh Reece • Georgia
From The Designer: After getting ideas from as many sources as pos-sible, this is the arrangement I designed and built for my two Buff Orpingtons to enjoy. Complete with leaded glass window for ventilation and removable trays for ease of cleaning in the laying boxes.
The Pros & Cons Of Coop Heating:
Do Chickens Need Heat in Winter?
What Does a Chicken Coop Need in Winter?
By Jeremy Chartier
Recently, I’ve been writing about safely heating backyard chicken coops and addressing the question: Do chickens need heat in winter? In New England, we get buried under heaps of snow and experience temperatures in the negatives. During these times, my mind becomes pre-occupied with staying warm.
But these posts often stir up a debate: To heat or not to heat a chicken coop? Here are some facts to consider when deciding for yourself.
Why You Don’t Have To Heat A Coop
Chickens are amazing animals, and can survive some pretty harsh environments. If birds have a place to perch without a breeze, they can keep warm in cold environments. When a chicken perches for the night it puffs its feathers and looks quite comical. This puffing creates an air gap between the skin and feathers, which serves as an insulating barrier. To protect their feet and legs, birds usually fluff enough to encompass their legs and to guard against frostbite. They tuck their head under a wing. Also, if you have a well-insulated coop and a fair number of birds, then they will keep the coop warm with body heat all on their own.
Why You Should Heat
Just like us, a chicken’s body prioritizes its functions. High on the list are functions like circulating blood, breathing and other life-critical purposes. Guess what is last on that list … making eggs. When a bird’s needs are met, production is rampant, but when faced with conditions like extreme cold, you’ll have an answer to the why have my chickens stopped laying. Bottom line: Cold weather can cause a drastic reduction in egg production.
The poultry industry got some real flack a few years ago when the public heard about the industry’s method of force-molting chickens through reduced light duration and removing all nutrients. Basically, you stop the water and hold the feed and the bird’s body goes into chaos. This chaos starts with an immediate halt in egg production, the beginning of feather molting and a long path to regeneration (as short as a month, if properly managed).
When the temperatures drop, water freezes, not excluding your water dispenser. If your water freezes (some people prevent this by using a heated chicken waterer,) your flock goes without water. If your birds go without water, they will also go off their feed since they need moisture to eat. If they stop eating and drinking, they stop laying. If this happens in the beginning of winter, odds are your birds won’t lay again until spring.
When eggs are laid, the shell and protective bloom keep bacteria and other organisms out. This keeps eggs safe to eat, but if they freeze, they crack. A cracked egg will become contaminated, so these eggs are inedible. It’s a shame to waste eggs, so keep your coop above freezing.
Even during the day in New England, we’ve seen long stretches where the temps have been bitter cold for days on end. This brings up another issue known as frostbite. Frostbite is a result of overexposure to cold temperatures, and it commonly claims toes, wattles and combs. Frostbite is a painful thing to endure, and it’s a pain that lingers.
Do you have an old hen in the flock? When a chicken’s body puts more effort into keeping warm, it tends to exasperate existing issues and hasten the death of weak birds. Sick birds will take longer to recoup when they have to fight the cold, so keeping the coop warm will help weak birds survive a harsh winter.
What I Do
The answer to the question “do chickens need heat in winter?” is a complicated one, but here’s what I do. I try to keep my coops above freezing, but my birds can free range at will. On cold days they refuse to range, preferring to stay inside, which should tell you something. Unless you’re brooding chicks, you don’t need to keep a coop toasty warm, but I do suggest keeping your coop around 40° F. So if you want your birds to produce through the winter (in cold climates specifically), keep your coop’s temperature within your chicken’s comfort zone for best results and happy hens.
Now is the time to be thinking about winter preparations, making sure your coops are secure, parasite free and any structural damages repaired.
About The Author
Jeremy Chartier started his foray into the world of farming at the age of 12, and has never looked back. Growing up in rural Northeast Connecticut, Jeremy was raised on a small homestead with tractors, trucks and farm animals being part of everyday life.
Jeremy spent his early years exhibiting goats and chickens in 4-H, along with shadowing his father while building barns and chicken coops, fixing tractors, and creating cool contraptions out of scrap metal or spare parts. Experience being a great teacher, Jeremy learned the skills of a self-reliant farmer such as welding, mechanical repair, fabrication, fence and gate installation, hydraulic systems, how to operate common farm tools and a myriad of other useful things. Needless to say, he’s been driving a tractor since he could reach the pedals.
Since his interest in livestock began at a young age, Jeremy enrolled in an Agricultural Education high school program in lieu of the usual scholastic route. Being exposed to agricultural mechanics, natural resource management, livestock and plant science classes, he had the opportunity to learn a broad scope of useful things. As part of this high school program, Jeremy raised chickens and turkeys for his supervised agricultural experience project, and was active in the FFA youth organization.
Jeremy continued his agricultural-centric education through the Ratcliffe Hicks School Of Agriculture at the University Of Connecticut, graduating with an associates degree in Animal Science, while being an active member of the UConn Poultry Science Club. Jeremy later joined a program run by the University Of Maine to be trained as a Poultry Service Provider, so he could offer basic poultry diagnostic and troubleshooting guidance to fellow poultry farmers and backyard enthusiasts.
Jeremy is also a 4-H poultry showmanship judge, volunteer Fire Fighter and avid entrepreneur.
Jeremy is now happily focused on helping the backyard chicken keepers and rural homesteaders of the world through his work with Countryside, and through his own website Henclass.com.