The plan at the bottom of this page shows our backyard coop in suburban Central Maryland. We started with a general purpose 6'X8' utility shed situated in a fenced area between the back door and the vegetable garden. Had we built from scratch, we'd probably still be working on it, given our inexperience as builders. Doing the modifications was fun and challenging. The main features are windows, nest boxes, roosts, and access doors. The family calls it the "Cadillac Coop" because no effort was spared to make this nice home for some lucky layers.
This coop will hold 12 birds. Plenty of floor space, more than 120" of roosts, four nest boxes and an 8'x16' run that we'll put up in the spring.
One advantage of using a utility shed is that the 6' ceilings accomodate people too for tending the birds and cleaning the coop. Our overriding goal was to make this coop easy to access and clean. A smaller door within the double doors permits feeding and watering. The double doors only need to be opened for cleaning out the coop. The feeder, waterer and roosts can be quickly removed, and none of the furnishings touches the floor.
Eggs can be taken from the nest boxes through a door on the outside. The door is double-walled, like the rest of the interior, to keep the coop warmer in the winter. Friends assure us that in Maryland we can overwinter the birds without heat.
Our son's preschool has agreed to incubate the first generation of chickens at the school as a class project. We can't wait for spring to arrive to finish painting the coop and begin raising chickens!
Update: August 2009. We took ownership of 12 pullets from our local farm store after our son's school project failed to yield any chicks. They tried twice.
Here is what the run looks like before the birds ravaged the grass.
The birds are a mix of Leghorn and Rhode Island Red. Each has faithfully given us one egg a day. One bird died early on, for reasons unknown.
This summer we made our first batch of deviled eggs. What a joy! Unfortunately we took them to a summer cookout of some new friends who are strict vegetarians. I felt like a young hoodlum sneaking out to the car to sample the eggs while the vegan party raged on inside. On the aside, fresh boiled eggs are much harder to peel than the store-bought variety.